Out in the campo we are always on the alert for dogs and, as we got out of the car, we heard lots of yipping and barking….and running towards us was a passel of puppies falling over one another in their eagerness to lick us to death. A scruffy but enthusiastic lot, they wouldn’t leave my shoelaces alone….a little hard to paint with five puppies fighting over one shoelace.
Linda and I were both drawn to the calvario and not the capilla. It’s hard to resist a jacaranda in full bloom.
The puppies and this very old capilla and calvario were part of a most unusual place on the road to Celaya named La Santa Cruz del Puerto de Calderón. In this context, puerto means mountain pass. Bet you can’t find it on the first try, but then you can do as we did and detour at the winery, Viñedo de San Miguel; drive through what has got to be the longest one-street community in Mexico, Calderón; and, maybe, find the capilla and community, La Santa Cruz del Puerto de Calderón, on the second or third pass by. When we found it on the second pass, it was across a four-lane freeway with no access and we had to backtrack again.
This very small spot of the map has historical significance in the early history of the conquest of this area. About a kilometer east of the pass toward San Miguel is an old bridge across the Arroyo de los Frailes where two Franciscan friars were killed by the Chichimecas in 1528….frailes is Spanish for friars. Later near the same arroyo in 1531, a legendary battle took place between the Spaniards with their Christianized Otomi and Chichimeca allies and the barbarian Chichimecas. According to legend, the battle raged for weeks and on the night of September 29th, a cross appeared in the sky. Both sides considered it a sign and the barbarian Chichimecas converted. I use the word barbarian because an old name for this tiny dot on the map is Puerto de Bárbaros or mountain pass of the barbarians.
The newly converted indigenous made a sacred cross out of stone to represent this significant event and, eventually, the cross was housed in the small capilla of La Santa Cruz del Puerto de Calderon. This cross (stolen in 2000 by unknown persons) and many like it throughout the Bajio region of Mexico are part of the community of the sacred cross.
The original stone cross was 1.5 meters high on a wooden base and covered with a thin veneer of wood. The symbols commonly found on sacred crosses include some from the passion of Christ and some of indigenous origin such as a bloody dagger, the sacred heart of Jesus, a pair of hands and feet, two human figures dressed as concheros (dancers), the sun and moon on each arm of the cross, a white dove, the letters INRI with a crown above. The most important image is the head of Christ in the center of the cross. The sacred cross is commonly covered with a wispy fabric looped over and around the arms of the cross.
Calderón: population 730; elevation 1890 meters; dwellings 221; GPS 100.799167, 20.806944
Santa Cruz del Puerto de Calderón: population 3; elevation 1950 meters; dwellings 1; GPS 100.797222, 20.824722
For more information about Santa Cruz del Puerto de Calderón, I refer you to a publication on the internet by Phyllis M. Correa, Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro, El Mito de Origen de Los Otomies de Rio Laja en el Estado de Guanajuato. I am slowly translating it and will add information to other posts as I work my way through it.