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Drought In Mexico Leaves River Levels Low Enough To Reveal Abandoned 450-Year-Old Church

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In 2015, a severe drought hit southern Mexico and caused the water level in the Nezahualcoyotl reservoir to drop 82 feet. As the water levels receded, a forgotten piece of history was revealed.

Located in the southern Mexican state of Chipas, the Nezahualcoyotl reservoir was created by a dam that was built in 1966. It has become a common place for fisherman since then.

But in its waters, the reservoir also hid a beautiful piece of Chipas’ history. The drought revealed the ruins of a colonial-era church. It’s over 450 years old!


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The Temple of Santiago was built in 1564 by a group of monks lead by Friar Bartolome de la Casas, a Dominican missionary.

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Carlos Navarete, an architect who worked on a study of the temple with Mexican authorities, told Associated Press that it was built in anticipation of becoming a population center, but that never happened.

He said, “It probably never even had a dedicated priest, only receiving visits from those from Tecpatan (a nearby city).”



Based on the design features, Navarete thinks that it was constructed by the same builder as the monastery of Tecpatan. They have architectural similarities he couldn’t ignore.

But it was ultimately abandoned due to a plague that overcame the area from 1773 to 1776.

The Temple of Santiago is 183 feet long and 42 feet wide. The walls are 30 feet tall with a bell tower that is 48 feet tall. The water level of the Nezahualcoyotl reservoir normally sits almost 100 feet above the church.

With the church partly revealed, local fishermen took curious spectators on tours in their boats.


But 2015 was not the first time the waters showcased this haunting reminder of the past. In 2002, water levels dropped so much so that people were able to walk up to it.

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Leonel Mendoza remembers, “The people celebrated. They came to eat, to hang out, to do business. I sold them fried fish. They did processions around the church.”


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In 2002, wood from the chorus loft and roof beams were identified as well as a large room where remains of victims of the plague were kept.

While the Temple of Santiago isn’t always visible, locals can now tell the stories of one of Chipas’ secret gems.

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Kayla has been a staff writer for The Western Journal since 2018.
Kayla Kunkel began writing for The Western Journal in 2018.
Birthplace
Tennessee
Honors/Awards
Lifetime Member of the Girl Scouts
Location
Arizona
Languages Spoken
English
Topics of Expertise
News, Crime, Lifestyle & Human Interest




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