Adventures in the Campo….
….or, perhaps, I should title this “The Good Adventures of Lorie and Linda”. We are in unanimous agreement that our adventures are always good even if somewhat unplanned and serendipitous. We are often asked, “How to do you find these capillas?” Following are details from last Friday’s adventure in the campo (countryside).
I have a photo of a charming old capilla with an elaborate facade that is located, supposedly, in a community by the name of San Francisco Xavier. Well, there is no community nearby with that name, but there is one with the name of San Francisco Javier de Los Tovares. So this past Friday we headed off on the road to Rodriguez, which is for us unfamiliar territory and an area that warrants exploration, looking for this particular old capilla.
First, to the community of La Talega where there is indeed a large capilla but it is modern (we prefer painting old capillas) and, to our surprise, we happened on a bi-monthly market in progress in the town square. Linda bought some enameled tinware. Not to be detoured from our quest….after zigging and zagging along unmarked roads, we did find the small community of San Francisco Javier de Los Tovares and this unusual blue capilla, but not the one we were looking for.
The road was blocked to further exploration and no one seemed to recognize the photo of the capilla for which we were searching so we happily set off exploring other communities nearby. In the rocky hilltop community of Moral de Puerto de Sosa, we did find an old capilla sandwiched next to a very new church. While the capilla was old, it was not that compelling to paint.
I had with me a photo of an intriguing pink capilla in tiny Cabrera which led us in another direction and we almost drove past what looked to be the remains of a hacienda when something pink flashed in the surrounding gray of the rock buildings. We had found our painting spot for the day….a well-maintained old capilla that looked to have been part of a hacienda and right next to two trojes. Trojes is the word used in this part of Mexico for grain storage buildings. We find them in many places usually associated with ex-haciendas….some only ruins and others in good repair. They are essentially all of the same construction…tall buildings with high domed ceilings with a long and narrow rectangular footprint. Linda captured the scene well. I will spare you my painting.
There is another type of antique grain storage building found in the drier climates of the Mexican high plateau….cone-shaped, adobe block, grain silos primarily from the 1800’s. A good example is to be found at the ex-hacienda Jaral de Berrio painted here from my photo.
Ready for a little history on the role of grain storage in the creation of wealth??? While anyone could grow corn in this part of Mexico in the colonial era, not everyone could get the best price.
In an analysis of land ownership and economic activity around Leon, Guanajuato, (near San Miguel) between 1700 and 1860, D. A. Brading¹ writes that land ownership was a mix of large and smaller haciendas as well as small communities and privately owned ranchos. Corn was the most common crop as it did not require irrigation.
Some years there were substantial harvests and other not. Of course, the price of corn went up when the harvests were poor. To take advantage of this cycle of good and bad harvests, the wealthy stored their harvests of grain during good years…thus the trojes and conical silos….and only sold when there was a bad harvest and the prices were high. The small holders who did not have access to storage facilities and/or could not afford to build them were forced to sell, usually locally, and directly following each harvest, whether the harvest was good or bad.
Most of the very old trojes and conical silos are to be found near ex-haciendas….the old conical silos in the central part of Mexico. However, there was a brief period of time from 1961 to 1999 when the federal government built these conical silos in various parts of Mexico to facilitate access to storage for the small rural farmer. Unfortunately, the design is only appropriate for areas with a dry climate and many of these conical silos of more recent construction have had to be repurposed.
¹D. A. Brading, Haciendas and Ranchos in the Mexican Bajio, Leon 1700-1860 (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1978).
La Talega: Population, 431; dwellings, 149; elevation, 2090 meters; Longitud (dec): -100.683333, Latitud (dec): 20.990556
San Francisco Javier de Los Tovares: Population, 77; dwellings, 29; elevation, 2028 meters; Longitud (dec): -100.660556, Latitud (dec): 20.987222
Moral de Puerto de Sosa: Population, 135; dwellings, 41; elevation, 2143 meters; Longitud (dec): -100.677778, Latitud (dec): 20.998611
Cabrera: Population, 84; dwellings, 23; elevation, 2042 meters; Longitud (dec): -100.667778, Latitud (dec): 20.977500
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