Soul of the Garden

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Images of Mexico and Mexican Sacred Architecture

La Parroquia in San Miguel de Allende.

 

This page is dedicated to my partner, Victor, who introduced me to the great colonial cities of  Mexico. Over our years together we have explored Oaxaca, Morelia, Patzcuaro, Queretaro, San Miguel de Allende, and Guanajuato. These pictures, mostly culled from our most recent visit, are my tribute to the beautiful and gracious country of  Mexico.

Pictures of Mexico, Mexican Architecture, Mexican Churches, Colonial Mexico

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Morelia

Morelia, the state capital of Michoacan,  has a graceful and refined centro or downtown - the broad streets and elegant architecture feel almost Parisian, though the city  has a very Mexican soul. It is no surprise to hear it referred to as the "Aristocrat of the colonial cities." Morelia  has made great strides in recent years in beautifying the centro and limiting the usual crowd of side walk vendors, the result is a lovely and comfortable athmosphere that some of the other colonial towns should emulate. Not to be missed sights include the famous Mercado de Dulces or candy market; a majestic cathedral; the mural filled Palacio de Gobierno; an impressive aqueduct, the Santuario de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe; the Templo de las Rosas; and the Casa de Artesanias, a museum-like shopping experience for lovers of Mexican crafts and folk art. Of course, the greatest pleasure in visiting any of the colonial cities of Mexico comes from simply wandering around and exploring this city of grand courtyards and shaded plazas.

 

The cathedral at night.

 

The cathedral as seen from the doorway of the Palacio de Gobierno (the seat of the state government.)

 

The interior courtyard of the Palacio de Gobierno - the arcades and stariways are filled with dramatic murals.

 

A detail from one of the stairwells in the Palacio.

 

A detail of one of the cathedral bell towers.

 

The cathedral gates.

 

A detail from the cathedral facade.

 

 

 

The cathedral's interior spaces reflect a stately classicism.

 

A view the main plaza from the historic Hotel de la Soledad.

 

A sunset view of  Morelia.

 

The evening light illuminating the beautiful stone facades of Morelia's main street, Avenida Francisco Madero.

 

A lively street arcade with sidewalk restaurants.

 

The beauty is always in the details.

 

And more details...

 

Morelia's colonial era aqueduct.

 

Speaking of details, this is the incredible interior of El Santuario de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, a 17th century church with a lavish Art Nouveau meets High Baroque interior.

 

A view of El Santuario's dome.

 

This is the window of a "cell" where nuns and novices could talk to their families and visitors in Templo de las Rosas. This church has spectacular baroque altars. The nuns would attend church, but they had to sit behind elaborate metal screens.

 

Morelia Links:

Morelia on the Matrix

Tour by Mexico - Morelia

 

Cuitzeo

 

Cuitzeo is a small town located on the shores of the Lago de Cuitzeo, a large lake. It is home to several impressive churches and a 16th Century convent, Santa Marķa Magdalena Cuitzeo. It is about 30 - 40 minutes north of Morelia's centro.

 

Convento Santa Maria Magdalena Cuitzeo.

A close-up view.

 

A visitor framed by the convento's doorway.

 

Cuitzeo Link:

Exploring Colonial Mexico - Cuitzeo

 

Patzcuaro

 

Patzcuaro is a charming small city located in the wooded mountains to the west of Morelia. Once the capital of Michoacan, Patzcuaro today is a popular tourist destination and a good base for exploring the many villages and archeological sites that dot the shores of Lake Patzcuaro. Where Morelia is elegant, Patzcuaro is rustic -an oversized village that stills retains a rural feel. Its charm has attracted a bit too much attention though and the narrow city streets can be difficult to navigate with a car, my advice is to ditch your car as soon as possible and explore the town on foot. Hopefully, Patzcuaro will learn a few lessons from Morelia and will start to limit access to the centro for both cars and vendors.

 

A view of patzcuaro  from the balcony of the Hotel Mansion Iturbe.

 

The main plaza of Patzcuaro is one of the most beautiful public spaces in Mexico. I love walking around it in the early morning when the light begins to spill in over the surrounding hillsides.

 

A wider view of the plaza.

 

A street arcade facing the plaza.

 

The detail on this church tower really impressed me, the flattened ornamentation is unique. This building is now the town library and sits on the "little plaza."

 

A St. Francis statue in the courtyard of the Hotel Mansion Iturbe.

 

A peanut vendor taking a break.

 

In a side chapel of the Basilica de Nuestra Senora de la Salud (Our Lady of Health.)

 

A statue in the main sanctuary of the basilica.

 

A facade detail on the church that is now the town library.

 

Patzcuaro Links

 

Surf Mexico: Patzcuaro

Mexperience: Patzcuaro

 

Day Trips from Patzcuaro

 

The 'yacatas' or pyramid/platforms of Ihuatzio on the shores of Lake Patzcuaro.

 

A wider view of the yacatas.

 

The town of Ihuatzio with lake Patzcuaro in the background.

 

In the atrio of the Ihuatzio church.

 

A street scene in Ihuatzio. This is very typical of Michoacan where the tradition is to paint the lower part of the buildings red and the rest white.

 

A detail from the impressive yacatas of Tzintzuntzan.

 

The semi-circular yacatas of Tzintzuntzan.

 

A carved archway from the colonial church at Tzintzuntzan.

 

The ceiling and altar of the small adobe church in Tupataro, a village to the east of Patzcuaro. A folk art Sistine Chapel! Not to be missed!

 

Looking out of the church atrio towards the pristine little plaza of Tupataro.

 

A mannequin in the little museum of the Tupataro chapel. (No that is not Michael Stipe!)

 

A mask purchased in the village of  Tocuaro on the shores of Lake Patzcuaro.

 

Queretaro

Queretaro is a large historic city with a beautifully maintained colonial centro. It is just an hour's drive away from San Miguel de Allende and should be on the itinerary of the legions of Americans who visit San Miguel. There are great restaurants and museums, spectacular churches, stately hotels, and an aqueduct that looks like something from Roman times. The administrators of the city have put a great deal of effort into restoring the centro and it shows - the streets are immaculate and several have been closed to traffic to accomodate pedestrians. The centro is compact and makes a great destination for either a day trip or a weekend. Be sure to follow the tourist route that is marked by metal discs embedded in the stone sidewalks.

 

A plaza in Queretaro's historic centro.

 

The courtyard of the Museo de Arte, a 17th century Augustinian monastery converted into a museum. One of the most impressive baroque courtyards I have seen in Mexico.

 

Sculptural detail from the museo.

 

The painted ceiling of the courtyard's stairwell.

 

Another painting detail.

 

The spectacular Moorish interior of  La Casa de la Marquesa, a five star hotel in the centro. Well worth popping your head in for the view!

 

A shadow on the streets.

 

This sculptural relief shows a Spanish knight beheading a Moorish warrior. That seems to be an Aztec or native warrior behind the Spaniard, I guess he was supposed to be taking notes.

 

 

In the museo of the former convent of Santa Rosa de Viterbo.

 

Santa Roso de Viterbo with its bizarre buttresses.

 

A view of the dome and buttresses.

 

The dome and Baroque altars of Convento Santa Clara.

 

The dome of Santa Rosa de Viterbo.

 

The aqueduct - just a short drive from the centro or a long stroll.

 

Queretaro Links

Tour by Mexico: Queretaro

The Cultured Traveler: Queretaro

 

San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel de Allende is very well known to American tourists and has a large ex-patriot population of both Americans and Canadians. Its popularity with them and with the legions of Mexicans who visit here is very well deserved, it is a truly  lovely city. But don't be mistaken into thinking this isn't the "real" Mexico, it is Mexican through and through. There are many great sights, but my favorite thing to do in San Miguel is simply to wander around and let the vibrant colors of this town and its leisurely pace get under my skin.  If you go, give yourself time to just sit in the jardin or stroll the hilly streets... you may find yourself wondering how you might join the many others who have decided to stay.

 

San Miguel is a city of colors... this is one of my favorites.

 

Arcades, lanterns, niches with statues, and a dove (well, technically,  a pigeon.)

 

Again.

 

There are a series of these niches scattered throughout town.

 

Another  variation.

 

More colors...

 

...and more.

 

Victor waiting for his morning coffee and looking annoyed at the slow service on the plaza.

 

A side-street view.

 

Lanterns on a little plaza.

 

The outdoor wash basins - maybe the loveliest laundry-mat in the world.

 

A window above the wash basins...

 

The basins close-up...

 

And in the evening light...

 

...closer still.

 

Kids scampering up a narrow alley-way.

 

Coming home from the market in the morning.

 

A similar  view in the evening.

 

A typical scene along the streets.

 

Shadows.

 

More shadows.

 

Statuary at our Bed and Breakfast, Casa Granada.

 

More statuary at Casa Granada.

 

And more.

 

Above a fireplace in Casa Granada.

 

Morning light on a former convento.

 

I love the plant motif on this temple.

 

Coming into town in the morning.

 

San Miguel de Allende Links

Portal San Miguel

All About San Miguel de Allende

 

Guanajuato

Guanajuato is an amazing labyrinth of a town that is squeezed into a steep mountain canyon. Once the source of a huge percentage of the world's silver, Guanajuato is one of the colonial jewels of Mexico and visitors should plan on spending at least several days to take in the sights. Let yourself get lost among the countless narrow streets and alleys (an easy task!) Guanajuato is a state capital and a university town and as a result it has a lively cultural scene and some wonderful traditions such as the Estudiantinas where you are led through the narrow alley-ways and tiny plazas of the city by groups of serenading students. The main plaza or jardin here is one of the best public spaces on the continent and the market (designed by Gustav Eiffel) is not to be missed. While the city is working to beautify its centro with impressive new stone paving and other improvements, the alleys are beginning to become covered with graffiti - they need to declare war on the vandals if they are going to preserve the charm of this town.

 

A little boy being "presented" to his family's church.

 

Guanajuato at night showing the heart of the city.

 

La Valenciana, one of the baoque masterpieces of Mexico. It sits directly on top of a silver mine with the same name.

 

A detail from the wall surrounding La Valenciana.

 

A statue in a small side chapel within La Valenciana.

 

A pedestrian street in the centro.

 

An older gentleman waiting for his wife and her twin sister (my interpretation) in the main plaza or jardin.

 

Another view of the jardin.

 

In the Alhondiga, a granary that was the site of the first Mexican victory during their revolution. The mural depicts the severed head of the revolutionary hero Hidalgo which was displayed on the corner of the building when the Spanish re-took the city.

 

A colorful doorway.

 

Votives in one of the many churches.

 

One of the colorful alley-ways.

 

A typical scene.

 

More colors.

 

A little plaza filled with activity and color.

 

A typical alley-way view.

 

Guanajuato Links

 

Tour by Mexico: Guanajuato

Adventure Travel: Guanajuato

Guanajuato: "The Best Website in the City"

 

 

Dolores Hidalgo

Dolores Hidalgo is a small city between San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato. It is often called the birthplace of  the Mexican Revolution because Miguel Hidalgo's  famous "Grito" or cry for Independence was issued from the church pictured below. The church has a beautiful facade and the interior is currently being restored. Today, the town is noted for the production of Talavera, glazed earthenware. Dolores is also famous for it's ice-cream that comes in many flavors including a few truly bizarre ones... shrimp ice-cream anyone?

 

In the famous parish church.

 

The church tower and some talavera tiles. (Dolores is in the state of Guanajuato.)

 

The church towers and facade.

 

A wider view.

 

Inside the church.

 

Dolores Hidalgo Links:

Dolores Hidalgo - A Beautiful Colonial City

Dolores Hidalgo - Cradle of Independence

 

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