Digging for bits of history is sort of like digging for truffles …you have to develop a nose for the sources. I have, sitting here next to me, a master’s thesis by a San Miguel restoration architect titled Ruta de Capillas en Allende, GTO: Conservatión de 13 Monumentos.1 Nine of the capillas in this thesis we have painted previously; however, there are four capillas, unknown to us, described in great architectural detail with bits of local history….so off we go….another steeplechase.
These ranchos and their capillas are in a part of the countryside that we are all too familiar with from getting lost in the maze of roads several times. With GPS help this time, we found La Vivienda de Arriba or “the house above” on the first try. This community, an ejido, was named “the house above” because early on there was one lone house on the highest point of land. The community considers itself an indigenous community by tradition.
Another find for history’s truffle diggers is the Census of Indigenous Communities in the State of Guanajuato. These documents include recorded oral histories, hand-drawn maps, and chronologies of community events. For example, in 1955, there was a huge flood that inundated the fields and the entire harvest in this community was lost. The people had nothing to eat except what could be scavenged from the wild. Electricity only came in 1988 and the first school in 1990. For a community so close to San Miguel (about 30 minutes), it has been isolated until fairly recently.
The date of settlement for this community is unknown but inscriptions on the interior of the Capilla de Señor Ecce Homo date it as being completed in 1790 or 1799. Ecce Homo means ¨behold the man¨ and refers to the words uttered by Pontius Pilate when he presented Jesus, crowned with thorns, to the crowd before his crucifixion.
The design of this capilla is simple and traditional with a plastered façade and stone side walls, one bell tower, a walled atrium and one calvario. A single, but charming, carved cantera angel is inset over the door and above the cupola is a statue of God the Father (Dios Padre). See “What is a Capilla?” for more information on capillas.
Painting from an angle outside the atrium wall, I had some trouble getting the gate and the façade of the capilla visually parallel….not quite right, but almost.
As we often do on these outing, we decided to check out another community for the next week. This community didn’t show up on GPS (too small) so without our electronic guide we had to drive around for a while, but we are never lost for very long.
1Olga Adriana Hernandez Flores (1998). Ruta de Capillas en Allende, GTO: Conservation de 13 Monumentos (Unpublished master’s thesis). Universidad de Guanajuato, Guanajuato, Mexico.
La Vivienda de Arriba: 100° 52’ 03”de longitud; 20° 57’ 08” de latitude; elevation, 1,880 meters; population, 123; dwellings, 30.