Posts Tagged ‘Mexican church cathedral’



Originally Published the Week of Mar. 26, 2022 in Western Outdoor Publications

         Living in Baja, visitors often ask me some suggestions of where they can “see the real Mexico.”  They’re not interested in finding out where to go zip-lining or the cheapest place to buy a hammock or sarape.

         They want the genuine article.  The real deal.  Something not “touristy.”

         I tell them to head to church.  Preferably on a Sunday or a Saturday afternoon.

         After a momentary quizzical look, I explain that they’ll see a part of Mexico…a part of the community…a lot of history and a lot of culture if they make a visit to the local church.

         Every city or large town has a Catholic church. 

         Since the earliest days of the conquistadores and missionaries, you can pretty much find a Catholic Church somewhere in the area.  To this day, Mexico remains largely a Catholic country and the church is still the center of life…even if not everyone goes to church all the time. 

         Nevertheless, the church is still central to so much that goes on in a Mexican community.  Obviously, it’s a spiritual and religious center.

         Architecturally, it’s usually in the center of town or in a town square, park or pavilion area.

         Socially, it often remains the place where life’s milestones still take place.  Start to finish…baptism…confirmations…quincineras (sweet 16 presentations)…weddings…more baptisms…and funerals.

         So, I tell folks to head to the local church. 

         Outside, there are often street vendors in the larger cities.  It can be a hub of activity.

         Our own cathedral in La Paz is in the town square and adjacent to the town park.  There are often musicians playing.  Families picnicking.  Impromptu karaoke and bingo games.  Old men playing chess or checkers.

         Stand outside. 

         If it’s an old church, take in the architecture.  Admire the craftsmanship.  Many of these churches weren’t made with modern cranes, bulldozers and electric tools. 

         Old-fashioned human labor with hand tools.  Sweat equity for credits in heaven.  Pride in details that were meant to last for decades or centuries.

         Handmade brick and quarried stone transported maybe from many miles away with carts, wagons and mules.  In some cases, the very wooden beams inside the structure as well as the window glass was transported from Spain, not to mention statues and religious artifacts and furniture.

         The bells may have come from some faraway forge as well.  Most likely yes.

         If there’s an old cemetery nearby, well worth it to trace the history of the former priests, padres and parishioners.  It was a hard life. 

         You’ll often see short life spans.  Children and babies who died early.  Many deaths close in date could indicate a communal epidemic like measles, smallpox, dysentery or a simple flu.

         Step inside.  Remove your hat.  There might be a Mass or other event taking place.  Even if not, remember it’s still a house of worship.  Be respectful. 

         If nothing is happening, wander and gaze.  Statues, the alter, the stained glass, the wooden pews, paintings and artwork may date back decades or centuries.  They may have travelled thousands of miles to find their forever homes in this church.

         The craftsmen are long gone, but their work remains.  It’s better than any museum. 

         Imagine today, we go to Home Depot.  Get our materials.  Build a bookshelf for your home.   Never in a million years would we expect it to last for decades.  Not like these old artisans. 

         I’ve been in old Mexican churches where the walls and ceilings are still covered with the dark soot of a century or more of burning votive candles. 

         A close examination of the area around the alter shows inset graves of the old padres who once serviced their community.  The tiles show their names.

         It’s a testament to their dedication and commitment that many of them travelled from Spain or other places in Mexico to find their final resting place in the arid hard-scrabble frontier of Baja.

         If there are services taking place, many times, there can be multiple events transpiring since often, there’s only one priest or padre.  In some instances, the priest is a travel-priest doing services from town-to-town to tend to his parishioners.

         But, if you’re visiting, that’s where you’ll see the culture.

         I once came for Mass.  It was followed by a baptism.  Followed by a wedding.  Followed by a first communion of 8 and 9 year-old-kids in their little white shirts and puffy dresses.

         The whole gamut.  Proud families.  Happy couples.  Nervous youngsters.  Big days in life.  Big days in the community.  The circle of life.  The cycle of life.

         All in one place.  Just follow the sound of the bells!

That’s my story!




Jonathan Roldan has been writing the Baja Column in Western Outdoor News since 2004.  Along with his wife and fishing buddy, Jilly, they own and run the Tailhunter International Fishing Fleet in La Paz, Baja, Mexico  www.tailhunter.com.


They also run their Tailhunter Restaurant Bar on the famous La Paz malecon waterfront.  If you’d like to contact him directly, his e-mail is: jonathan@tailhunter.com


Or drop by the restaurant to say hi.  It’s right on the La Paz waterfront!





Jonathan Roldan’s
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Mexico Office: Tailhunter International, 755 Paseo Obregon, La Paz, Baja Sur, Mexico



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