Monday, June 17, 2019

What's Behind The Wall? - TzinTzunTzan

 We took a drive to another small town near Pátzcuaro, TzinTzunTzan.  The town is typically small, many indigenous people with their stands selling artisan works, and Mexican pottery.  There is a ruin as you enter the town.  It has a museum, theater, and the ruins.  The only thing is, you have to pay to use your camera.  It's not expensive, but it's the idea.  60 pesos to enter and 45 pesos to use a camera.  They have senior and teacher rates at half price but the guy wouldn't accept our IDs.   Mexico now has a senior ID called INSEN and we just haven't gotten ours.  That's what we will do when we get home next week.  He then offered two for one and we should have taken it but this is a government installation maintained by INAH (National Institute of Archeology and History).  We left and headed to the town.

This is the scenic route that you will find typically here in this area.  The roads are in very good condition and I wouldn't hesitate to rv around here.  

I had taken the time to check online for things to do in TzinTzunTzan but only came up with the ruins.  I was bored with knick-knacks and wanted something more.  We asked where the church was and we were directed to this giant wall.  My first thought, boy those religious folk really knew how to take advantage of the locals.  Here I am at the entrance knowing I would find a church inside.

I wasn't expecting this.  

Atrio de los Olivos (The Olive Tree Atrium) is an ex-Franciscan convent located in the heart of TzinTzunTzan here in Michoacan.   It was founded by the Franciscan Friar Jacobo Daciano in the early 16th century (1525).  You can only imagine what he found upon his arrival.   He started with just a small one-room house made out of adobe and thatched roof and over the next 30 years the convent or monastery was built.   Embedded in the walls are Purepecha petroglyphs carved out of basalt.  The convent was adopted by a group called Adopte Una Obra de Arte (Adopt A Work of Art) and reconstruction or remodeling was started in 2002.  Truly amazing how the grounds and structures have been so well-preserved over the years.

The Purapecha natives who inhabited this area of Michoacan were slowly converted to Christianity and boys 12 to 15 were recruited for a year to see if they were able to convert to the life of a monk.  As most orders in the day, the monks were dedicated to prayer, work, and silence.   The walls are covered in original murals and trim decorated with figures of angels, demons, flowers, and plants.  I’m sure they were enthusiastic to pick up a brush and paint, how else could you maintain silence for such long periods? 

Olive trees were planted here in the 16th century and some still survive today.  The atrium is dotted with trunks as well as the constantly sprouting offshoots.  Incredible.  You can see just how big the trees were.

A funny thing happened.  As we toured the convent, we saw a door open leading to the church.  We ducked inside and found a beautiful hand-painted ceiling.  We walked around the pews and all of a sudden this old woman who had a holy card stand in the church, starting yelling at us to leave saying we had no right come through the door.  She had left the door open when she left to go to the bathroom.  I reported her only because she shook her finger at me.  NOBODY shakes their finger at me.  

As you approach the convent there is an open altar.  Jacobo Daciano said mass on this altar.  Hard to wrap your head around history sometimes.  I doubt my blog will be around in 200 years 😎

The first thing you see as you walk in are murals.  Some of them are dated and go back to 1603.  

The hallways around the courtyard are filled with murals and religious motifs.  It is an art museum in itself.

This is the dining room where the monks had their meals while a lector would speak to them about the glorification of God and how to be a good monk.  No more comments.

At the entrance to the dining room are the washing areas.  Water ran down into bowls that had a drain to the edge where the gray water would run into buckets.  There is a square on the bottom left.  This is one of the 42 Purepecha basalt carvings that are embedded throughout the convent.

The interior hallways are a labyrinth of dormitories and small rooms.   We had the opportunity to peek into one of them that was empty.   

Imagine living in such small quarters with just one window, dark at night maybe with just a candle. Fun but a bit creepy.

There are some informational plaques in both Spanish and English but it doesn't tell much of the history online.  I asked the girl that manages the front desk if there was a guide because we would like to return.  There isn't.   I want to learn more about this place and we still have a few days.  I am trying to reach someone at the city offices in the town that could guide me to someone.  That would be worth paying for.

And this is how we end our days here on the ranch!