I Have A Theory…*

23rd Sept. 2016

The interior of the Ex Convento de la Soledad This has been building during our stay in Mexico and has come to head over the last couple of days. All of the towns that we have visited have had a large number of churches – far more than comparably sized towns in the UK. One of original (Spanish) objectives for Cholula (a couple of days ago) was to have 365 churches. Today, like many of our days wandering round Mexican towns and cities, we kept stumbling across churches. Furthermore, while the churches (like their host towns) can be a little ramshackle, the architecture and detail in the design is stunning – and as for the interiors, they can be jaw-dropping.

Some of this clearly comes from them being Catholic churches – I don’t profess to understand the rationale for this – but I can’t help but be impressed by the end result. The other factor, I think, behind the number of churches is that, by and large, Mexicans haven’t redeveloped the (historic) town centres – the colonial buildings just seem to have been left in-situ. So, we have a large number of churches, architecturally detailed – statues, towers, bells – and gilded and ornate on the inside. This has to have cost a lot of money. My theory, therefore, is that much must have been funded by New World gold and not all of it made its way back across the Atlantic to Spain (or fell into the hands of pirates). Mexico must have been a rich place at one point.

Oaxaca BasilicaThe Ex Convento de la Soledad is a case in point, it is somewhat out of town, 4 or 5 blocks west of the Zocalo. We were just having a late afternoon wander and we stumbled across it. The architecture of the building and the statues on the façade were sufficient to capture our attention. And then we went inside. Oh, my goodness. The gold leaf, the alter with the illuminated statue of the Virgin – even the chandeliers are held up by statues of flying angels (See lead photo). Who thought of all this stuff?

The Ex Convento de la Soledad And this is by no means the most famous church in town – that honour belongs to the Santo Domingo which dominates a plaza to the north of the Zocalo and is so large it is hard to do it justice in a photograph. This is where we started the day admiring the outside and inside and in particular, marvelling at the detail of the carvings and paintings on the ceiling – there are so many photos that I could choose from.

Olly at the fountainAfter that, by way of contrast, we had a good mooch around town both in some of the smaller streets and in the park which was ringed by food vendors and market stalls. Whilst we were quite tempted by some of the taco stalls, the bowls of fried bugs that seem to be a local delicacy were a step too far for us! However, our wandering provided many photo opportunities – of the buildings, the street art and of the locals. Olly was pleased to make a couple of appearances – and he drew many curious looks from the locals!

Under a cloudLunch was another hit. We went back to the Zocalo but unlike last night, went to one of the upper floor restaurants – to find it empty and we were able to have our pick of tables on the balcony overlooking the square. We were going to have just a light lunch but when the waitress brought the specials board over for us, we got tempted and led astray. Salmon Tacos for me and a (ginormous) pork filled bread roll with sauce for Janet. Nobody was in any hurry and it was fascinating just watching the goings on in the square – there was a band playing for a while; people were chatting; the shoe shiner was doing a brisk trade and the street vendors were out in force.

One of the Locals

Street ArtWe were both feeling that for the last few days it had all been at a million miles per hour – long bus journeys, new cities to get to see and day trips on top of all of that, so it was great just to go at a slower pace for a little while. The afternoon was all about catching up with our blog and photos along with all the other admin that just needs doing – including sorting out our final few days in Mexico and transfer in to Guatemala.

Oaxaca (pronounced wah-ha-kaa) had one final treat for us as we were heading out at sunset for some dusk photography before moving on for supper. Whilst, surprisingly, neither the Basilica nor Santo Domingo were very well illuminated, we arrived at the theatre just as they switched on the external lights, and I was able to take this picture (handheld, on the small Sony, using the multi-shot twilight setting). What a great end to the day.


[*… also that Brontosauruses are thin at one end, much, much thicker in the middle and thin again at the other end. Ann Elk (Miss)]

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