TONANTZINTLA, ACATEPEC, TEHUILOYOCAN - TONGUE TWISTERS WITH EXCEPTIONAL CHURCHES
Religion is a fascinating subject in Mexico. Not only do the monumental buildings dating back to prehispanic times and the number of pilgrims visiting the Basilica de Guadalupe bear witness to the profound faith of the Mexicans but also the effort with which the fiestas of the patron saints are organized and celebrated and how much money is spent on them proves that religion is still of utmost importance in the everyday life of Mexican people.
The small village churches of Santa María Tonantzintla and San Francisco Acatepec, both part of the municipality of San Andrés Cholula (near Puebla), are further examples of the devoutness and desire for religious sacrifice. The church of Acatepec is outstanding due to its unique Talavera ceramic facade while the inside of the church of Tonantzintla was covered with extraordinary stucco work by anonymous artists.
A very impressive aspect of the churches, apart from their beauty and the energy spent on their construction, is that they show a perfect artistic realization of local religious beliefs. In the baroque church of Tonantzintla many serious researchers observe a representation of the paradise of the prehispanic god Tlaloc rather than a Christian heaven while a few anthropologists even see in its art a manifestation induced by hallocinogenic drugs like poisonous mushrooms and others.
Is Tonantzintla therefore the testimony of a kind of syncretism, the blending of pagan prehispanic and catholic religious ideas? But what about the mural in the so-called "House of signs" in the neighboring town of San Luis Tehuiloyocan? There the visitor is surprised by monkeys with erect penises standing on an altar. A well-known Mexican scientist, Dr. Terán Bonilla, is certain that in this private house dating back to the 18th century black masses were performed by a group of Satanists.
Although Tonantzintla and Acatepec are meanwhile better known they are still not visited during long round trips due to lack of time. But it is definitely worthwhile to schedule half a day for a visit of the surroundings of Cholula and Puebla, including a visit to the churches and the strange "house of the signs" that hasn´t been detected by international tourism, yet. A good guide can detect and explain what otherwise might remain undetected and misunderstood. Perhaps you also want to enjoy the rural and appealing atmosphere of the villages by taking a walk along the corn fields from Tonantzintla to Tehiloyocan.
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