Concert at Atotonilco

Trip Start Apr 15, 2009
Trip End Jun 17, 2009

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Where I stayed
La Lejona

Flag of Mexico  , Central Mexico and Gulf Coast,
Friday, August 6, 2010

Before you start reading, click here HYPERLINK "", then click on the arrow next to “preview all songs,” and the music will begin to play.

Father Felipe would surely sentence us all to 3 days of self-flagellation.  This 18th-century soldier for Catholic Christianity, Father Felipe Neri Alfaro visited nearby hot springs and was appalled by the behavior of the bathers.  Under the guise of “taking the waters” for their health, people were apparently also partying and having a general good time doing what comes naturally.  In response to this repulsive behavior, Father Alfaro ordered that a penitario, a place for people to come and do penance, be built.  In 1740, he began construction on an amazing church, the Sanctuary of Jesus the Nazarene in Atotonilco.

Now, 270 years later, in this very church, we were enjoying a wonderfully sensuous evening.  First, we were enthralled by the visual feast of the church itself.  The interior of the church, at least the main nave and the Calvary Chapel that we visited, is covered in a jumble of scenes from the life of Christ.  The paintings focus on the crucifixion and seem to have the spilling of blood as the real underlying theme.  They are recognized as one of the world’s best examples of the intersection (or collision) of Catholic Christianity with the pagan religion of the local indigenous people. 

You can read more about this UNESCO World Heritage site at 

Seated in the magnificent Calvary Chapel, photo above, we were bathed in beautiful sounds as the St. Petersburg String Quartet played Beethoven and Shostakovich.  You are listening to them now.  Our good fortune was due to the generosity of Kahren and Michael Arbitman, friends from Winter Park.  First, the Arbitmans generously sponsored the evening’s performance, and then, they were kind enough to invite us to join them.  As guests of the sponsors, we had prime seats, about ten feet from the performers.  From this vantage point, we could easily see the visual cues between the musicians and feel the passion with which they played.  It was almost as if we were on stage with them; a very intense experience!    Barbara and I are very grateful to Kahren and Michael for including us in such a special evening.  

The Santuario Atotonilco also played an important role in the Mexican War of Independence, and is part of one of San Miguel’s most colorful religious ceremonies.  I’ll tell you these stories in another post.  Meanwhile, for more photos of the church, see

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