We painted in the welcome shade of some old mesquites with only the bellow of burros and movement of passing cows to disturb a perfect day on the cusp of summer. May is the hottest month here in San Miguel. From this ruin of a capilla, we had a view across plowed fields to a blue finger of Presa Allende (reservoir). If you look closely at my painting you can see the sliver of water in the distance.
The ruins we paint come with little or no history…not even a name. The nearby community of Tlaxcalilla became an ejido in 1936 meaning that this land was once part of a hacienda and the abandonment of this particular capilla could date from that time.
The interior, still visible in places, was finely painted in a style seen in haciendas and a few other capillas from the turn of the last century. Very little remains of the atrium wall; however, the calvario with a soft pink, delicately carved cross is still standing.
Linda and I are taking a course in Spanish on the history of the state of Guanajuato and the Bajío region. I read a paper1 written by the teacher specifically about this area although reading may not quite describe how I make my way through a paper written in Spanish. It’s like saying you are running when you are really walking….
The author writes about the role the Camino Real played in the colonization of this area of Mexico. Once silver was discovered in Zacatecas in 1546, it became a priority for the Spanish government to safely transport the silver from the mining areas to Mexico City along part of the Camino Real that became known as the Camino de la Plata. Settlement of this region, including San Miguel de Allende, proceeded rapidly. Forts were built along the Camino de la Plata for the protection of the silver caravans and land grants were made all along the route which encouraged the settlement of this entire area from the mid-1500’s on. There are many haciendas between San Miguel de Allende and San Felipe which date from this period. This road continued to be used until the railroad arrived in this part of Mexico in 1888.
I mention this history to give you, our readers, an idea of the antiquity of some of the haciendas near San Miguel and the ranches and communities we explore that were part of these haciendas.
To the left is a map dated 1580 from the Biblioteca de La Real Academia de Historia en Madrid that shows San Miguel de Allende and San Felipe. The details of the map are fascinating….wild animals, cattle killed by the Chichimecas, dead Spaniards….these were dangerous times. I know you can’t see the details clearly on this small version but click on this “link“ if you are interested.
Tlaxcalilla: population 225; elevation 1875 meters; dwellings 47; GPS 100 50” 38” 20 53’ 17”
© 2017 Lorie Topinka
1Miguel Santos Salinas Ramos. (2014). El camino real de tierra adentro y la colonización en la jurisdicción de las villas de San Miguel y San Felipe en el siglo XVI. Legajos, número 3, julio-septiembre, paginas 45-71.