A friend, Ian Carter, recently shared his many photos of capillas with us. Experts that we now are, we recognized all but one from having painted more than sixty. That one puzzled us for a while, but the mystery was solved when Linda recognized it while driving by a few days ago. Because we sit in front of each capilla for two plus hours observing and painting, we can instantly recognize a capilla that we have painted….well, usually.
A year or so ago we had painted this small capilla on private property in La Cieneguita, but only glanced at the larger church making a mental note to go back and paint it someday. Until our memories were jogged by Ian’s photo, it was forgotten. After all, there are over 300 capillas just in the municipality (county) of San Miguel de Allende and we have now expanded our painting forays to the municipalities of Dolores Hidalgo and San Felipe.
Iglesia El Señor de La Salud was built-in 1901 and has been beautifully maintained to this day. We were both intrigued by the view through the gate to the atrium and painted from different angles and with different palettes–mine a limited palette of one blue, one red and three yellows.
The real attraction was inside…a cross that is part of the folk-religious community (some translate it as cult) of Santa Cruz del Puerto de Calderon. A brief introduction for now (more later)….during a battle between the Spaniards with their Otomi allies and the Chichimecas in 1531 near San Miguel de Allende, a cross appeared in the night sky. The Chichimecas took it as a sign and surrendered and converted. Since that time replicas of this cross have been important in the religious observances in many Otomi communities in the greater Bajio area of Mexico. Many of the celebrations in San Miguel de Allende with conchero dancers and xuchiles are part of the Santa Cruz del Puerto de Calderon folk-religion.
The name La Cieneguita comes from la ciénaga, the Spanish word for marsh, swamp or bog. According to an oral history, the community name was derived from a nearby spring. La Cieneguita, not more than four or five kilometers northwest of San Miguel de Allende, has preserved its indigenous Otomi origins in its customs and traditions; however, there are few community members who still speak Otomi.
The craft of basket weaving is alive and well in La Cieneguita and one can buy hand-woven baskets of all sizes and in a variety of traditional designs. These are made from carrizo, the Spanish vernacular name for plants found in a carrizal or reed field. Near San Miguel de Allende, carrizo refers specifically to Arundo donax, a species of flowering plant belonging to the family of grasses (Poaceae) and looks a lot like giant bamboo.
La Cieneguita began as a large hacienda where horses and cattle were raised as well as corn and bean. In the early 1960’s, as part of the land reform movement, most of the hacienda land was appropriated and ejidos formed; La Cieneguita being one. Today the land use in and around La Cieneguita is a mix of communally owned land, or ejidos, and private property. Just about all Sanmiguelenses know artist, Anado McLauchlin, and historian, Richard Schultz, who live in artistic splendor on their private compound in La Cieneguita.
La Cieneguita: population, 1241; dwellings, 254; elevation, 1873 meters; GPS, 100° 47’ 28” longitude; 20° 56’ 59” latitude