In the Iglesia de la Santisima Trinidadin, Tepoztlan, there is more silence than I’ve heard anywhere else thus far on this journey. Nearly 500 years of silence has accumulated in here, and it feels, actually, quite sacred. I am no longer religious, but I was raised as a Catholic girl, so Jesus and Mary are old buddies. There they are, in familiar poses, albeit a bloodier Jesus than I remember, and Mary is wearing real lace. There are also mannequins of dead people, including babies, in glass coffins along the outer walls. I’m not sure I quite understand their significance, but they’re just as quiet as everything else in here. Growing up with church as a weekly locale means I’m comfortable in places like this, although no church I ever attended had this much power to its energy. There, I’m getting metaphysical, but it’s the only way I can describe it. It feels good to be in here. It calms a weary traveller down.
Ironically, every sound in this quiet church is amplified many times over; someone coughs and it hurts the ears. No secrets can be told in here, that’s for sure. Especially with all these figures listening.
Of course, my attention naturally goes to the amount of hard work that went into building a church like this. The dome must be at least three stories high, and is covered in beautiful, rich frescoes. And the convent side of it, turned into a museum now, is also decorated with ochre motifs that look like the crown of thorns, with numerous faces of kings with beards, and many repetitions of the word “Maria” as well. There are photographs in the museum of a younger Tepoztlan, taken only a hundred years ago. The church is included in most vistas, naturally, along with the mountains that look like they could be dwellings for fairies or other other-worldly creatures.
(It is called a pueblo magico, after all. And there’s an Aztec pyramid up there, too, in the mountains, that I keep meaning to visit. More on that when it happens.)
As always, it is somewhat hard for me to fully appreciate such richness in a church when the vast majority of the people around it live with very little in the way of creature comforts. This one is gilded, but not as excessively as some of the Rococo churches I saw in Spain, and certainly not as ornate as those in Italy or France or many other places that Catholicism has had a lengthy stronghold.
Still, I must admit that while many horrible things have been done in the name of religion, what it always brings to the believers, is hope. And hope, no matter who you are or what your circumstances, is always a good thing. It’s what we have most in common with each other, I think: we all want for better days, either in the here and now, or once we’re gone. And it takes a moment of quiet and reflection to get in touch with those voices within that are asking to be heard. And whether you get this from going to a church or a garden, a bookstore or a pyramid, it comes down to the same thing: location, location, location.
My hope is that we all find a peaceful place in which to reflect, and pause, if only for a moment. (Even if, just outside the walls, there is a firecracker going off every few minutes.) Hasta pronto.