Before I had gone to Chiapas I spent a week staying with my friends Mariel, Miguel, and Rafael in Querétaro, which is the largest city in the Bajío. The Bajío is an old colonial part of Mexico north of Mexico City, renowned by the Spanish for its silver mines. Mariel was a great host and made sure that I saw as much of the region as possible, and it has a lot to offer.
Over the years many of the Bajío’s riches went to the Catholic Church, leaving a legacy of Mexican church architecture. Every city, large or small, has a multitude of churches, and each has its own architectural style. Baroque and Chirriguresque (also known as “Mexican Baroque”) dominate, but there are neo-gothic churches, rococo facades, churches that reminded me of candy stores, and more. La Parroquia in San Miguel de Allende reminded me of the Sagrada Família in Barcelona (even though I have never been to Barcelona).
I’m not Catholic by any stretch of the word, but the diversity of architecture I encountered was very impressive to me. Some of these pictures I took in Chiapas, but they only go to show that Mexico is a very diverse country. Ever state has unique cultural attributes, which foreigners often fail to see in Mexico.
The Catholics are not the only religion to have built temples in El Bajío. The Toltec people built many temples, one of which I visited in Querétaro.
The ruined structure on top of the pyramid is not original Toltec. In the 1800’s the owners of the land El Cerrito is on built their hacienda on top of the pyramid.
For science fiction fans, Kubrick and Clarke taught in 2001: A Space Odyssey that for some people mere rocks can be great churches. El Bajío has one of the largest monoliths in the world, La Peña de Bernal. On our way to Bernal Mariel’s friend who accompanied us told me that the monolith closely resembles the monolith in Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and when we got to Bernal I had to agree.
The colors on the rock face were much more varied than they seem at a distance.