Well, we did see an intriguing abandoned capilla along the shoreline of the Ignacio Allende Presa last week but were reluctant to even try to drive in Linda’s car along the muddy and possibly too soft shoreline. This week with the high clearance and big tires on Rick’s truck we thought we could drive to it but, alas, all the approach roads were fenced with barbed wire or gated and locked so we backtracked to this placid summer scene of water, boats, and lazy dog
One of the old wooden boats attracted both of us….most of the fishermen are using newer fiberglass boats and a few of the wooden boats have been left to decay in place. This one is clearly no longer fit for fishing but still good for painting.
Flores de Begoña is one of the many communities relocated when the Ignacio Allende Dam was completed in January 1969. Would you believe that in the middle of Mexico at over 6000 feet one can find a thriving fishing community with 50 members forming an official Union of Fishermen? This relatively new (relocated) community is about 15 minutes out of San Miguel adjacent to Pantoja where the majority of local bricks are made. The fishermen use 100-meter nets to catch charales (genus Chirostoma), a small fish only 6 to 12 centimeters long. On a slow day, a local fisherman might only net 25 kilos of charales but during the rainy season catch as much as 400 kilos in one day. The charales are dried and sold to a client from Yuriria, Guanajuato. One can find Mexican recipes using charales on the internet where they are referred to as dried smelt.
In Flores de Begoña they fish for tilapia and catfish as well. Quoting a recent Atencion article dated October 20, 2017, “On October 10, the State Secretariat of Agricultural and Rural Development released 60,000 fish in the waters of the Allende Dam: 50,000 tilapias and 10,000 catfish. They will be ready for fishing in four months. The Secretariat also announced that 20 more wooden boats would be replaced with fiberglass boats.”
A point of interest that I can´t resist adding…almost everyone in the communities of Flores de Begoña and Pantoja has the last name Valdez. For example, Estaban Valdez, a noted ceramic folk artist, lived in Pantoja. A few years ago I made a watercolor collage of his work as a homage to his art.
But wait our day wasn’t over…after we finished painting the boats and the presa we still had the energy and enthusiasm to search for other capillas abandoned when the dam was completed and the presa flooded. Our search took us to the west side of the presa and down some rugged roads (thanks Rick!) where we spotted the tell-tale bell tower of an abandoned capilla near Agustín González and almost hidden from view by trees and cacti. Intricate and fanciful angelic musicians carved from cantera decorate the bell tower. The substantial vertical cantera stones making up the door frame have an expertly carved and charming floral motif which I have not seen before (possibly added later than the original construction). In the interior, now a smelly home to bats, are colorful and extensive Mexican folk art paintings still in reasonable condition. I estimate the age of this capilla to be around 1800 give or take 20 years based on same bell tower carvings on a capilla in Rancho Viejo with a date of 1798. It was most likely abandoned fifty years ago. Based on their condition, the interior paintings are of a later date than the original construction but still old.
Flores de Begoña: Population, 605; Dwellings, 126; Elevation, 1845 meters; Longitud (dec): -100.793889, Latitud (dec): 20.871111
Pantoja: Population, 381, Dwellings, 85; Elevation, 1848 meters; Longitud (dec): -100.789167, Latitud (dec): 20.874167
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