06 September 2009

San Rafael de Cerro Gordo

I am working on a story about old grain storage structures in Mexico that are called "trojes" (TROH-heys) and my friend Benjamín who writes the excellent blog "El Bable" suggested that I go to Cerro Gordo and look at the troje of the old hacienda behind the church of San Rafael. The little town of Cerro Gordo is actually part of the municipality of Salamanca and is not far from the big Pemex refinery located there. It is also situated along a very important irrigation canal named “El Canal de Riego “Ing. Antonio Coria Maldonado”. This canal is 72 miles long and it comes from a reservoir in the highlands above Acámbaro and passes through many agricultural towns of the Bajío region including Jaral del Progreso, Cortazar, Villagrán, Salamanca, Irapuato, Pueblo Nuevo and Huanímaro. It delivers a great volume of water that is destined for agricultural needs during the spring and summer. It is easy to see why the Bajío region is considered the "Breadbasket of Mexico" when you travel along the route of this canal through all of the towns and villages and witness the tightly grown fields of corn, sorghum, and other crops. It is so green and inviting and reminiscent of "plenty" that it seems to me like the middle of Illinois. The only things missing are the giant blue A.O. Smith grain and silage silos and the big red barns. The irrigation canal was constructed around 1950 and you can see a picture of it being constructed below. Originally it was called "El Canal Alto de Salamanca" but it was soon renamed after Señor Antonio Coria Maldonado who was a hydraulic engineer and a professor of hydraulic engineering and was one of the pioneers of water management in Mexico.

I was surprised and delighted to find that the church of San Rafael is a beautiful little gem of a church that like many old churches in the Mexican countryside seems to have been forgotten by time. It was constructed with locally quarried stone that has a rose pink color and as you can see in the pictures that the workmanship of the stone masons is exquisite. So far I have been able to find little information about this church. I can only guess that it was built sometime between the Fight for Independence and the time of the Porfiriato. After we had had a good look around, Gina and I went across the street and had some wonderful breakfast tacos made with handmade tortillas of nixtamal and we chatted up some of the local people. Unfortunately, and as is often the case, the people didn't seem to know many historical details. Life for many people in Mexico has been quite a struggle over the years and knowing the construction dates of old buildings was not a priority. That's okay. I understand. I have started a file and I will add bits and pieces to it as they become available and if God grants me the time perhaps one day I will have enough info to post a blog entitled "San Rafael de Cerro Gordo Revisited". I can hear someone ask, "Who cares?". I don't know. If only one or two other people do then I guess that's good enough for me. Besides, I'll bet it would please San Rafael. He is the archangel of Judaism, Christianity and Islam in charge of all manner of healing. In the modern church calendar his feast day is celebrated on September 29th together with Saint Michael and Saint Gabriel. Not a bad idea to stick close to that team, eh?


El Bable said...

Bob, good surprise I got seeeing a post about Cerrogordo, many says Cerro Gordo, I rather go on the old way: Cerrogordo (fat hill). The Hacienda have a long story, the best known guesst they have was Emperor Maximiliano and Carlota in 1858 (?) during the first trip they made to me central part of Mexico it was in this time, I mean between August and September, since they want to spend the 16th September at Dolores Hidalgo. Maximilano first arrive in Celaya, then pass by in Villagran, at the time called El Zapote, then into Salamanca, they sleept couple of night at the house located in front of the old Cine Rex. Then they continue to Irapuato but he got some disee, probably yellow fever, very common on the new commers to Mexico, reember Celaya was full of water ponds at the time, and mosquito reproduce easily. Probably he gots a Montezuma revange, ¿who knows? so he have to go back, he went straigh from Irapuato to Cerrogordo, they overnight there, then continue to Dolores Hidalgo to attend the ceremony, Maximiliano was the first Emperor, lets say, the firs Presidente who attend the anniversay of beginning Independence War. You can see this in the fascinating and hard to read "Mexico a Través de los Siglos" volume IV at the very end. Hard to read means HARD, pubished in 1880. For details on dates check on El Bable (april). Also teh book publish by Editorial Porrúa, "Salamanca, recuedos de mi tierra guanajuatense" by José Rojas Garcidueñas (1984) is the only one who have information about Cerrogordo.

GlorV1 said...

That is a beautiful beautiful church and I really enjoyed reading about this. I'll read your new blog if I'm still around. Thanks bob for your always great learning posts.

Steve Cotton said...

Bob, put me down as one who cares about the history of ANYTHING you can find in Mexico. I truly enjoy your posts. So far. my research to discover the source of San Patricio's name (the village, not the saint) has run into the same problem you noted. People have "ideas," but no documentation.

Anonymous said...

Если врач знает название вашей болезни, это еще не значит, что он знает что это такое. Никогда не приписывай человеческой зловредности того, что можно объяснить обыкновенной глупостью. Человек может долго жить на деньги которые он ждет. Реальность это иллюзия вызываемая отсутствием алкоголя. Женщины едят за разговорами, мужчины едят заедой.

norm said...

I'm with Cotton, history is interesting in its own right. The stuff you dig up and post becomes part of the public domain through google's search engine. You are putting prints in the sand for the next person who comes along. And I thank you.

Bob Mrotek said...


¡Muchísimas Gracias! You are the best! The information about Maximilian & Carlota is fantastic! Now I know that I am on the trail of a very interesting story :)

Gloria, Steve, and Norm...thank you for the kind words, and Steve...keep after it!

Я не знаю, что вы пытаетесь сказать. Можете ли вы напишите более четко на английском языке. Спасибо.

YayaOrchid said...

You can count me as really enjoying your blog posts. I always leave your site having learned something new. That is priceless to me.

Love pictures of old structures and buildings with rich history. Thank you for sharing!

Babs said...

I ipresume the cantera might be from the quarries near Queretaro or in the State of Hidalgo. It is interesting how different regions of Mexico favor different colors of cantera. Don't you think?

THAT is a big canal!

I love the history too........fascinating.

someone said to me the other day, "I hate the churches and all the saint days and those things". I was so shocked. I said,"Well, then you are negating the history of Mexico and the people"
In my humble opinion, if the people are proud of the churches and the practice of honoring the saints, who are we to question or think it is irrelevant. And to be angry at the Spaniards and the Catholic Church for the past? Your thoughts........

El Bable said...

Hello Bob!

¿Do you belive in coincidences? Well, yesterday, following the list for reading the books I brought from el Bajío I start something I would say a BLOG FROM 1864, one of the Carlota's companions,condesa Paula Kolonitz, wrote her trip to Mexico and there she mentioned Irapuato and Maximiliano's sickness. ¿Remember I told you about a book store in Celaya? -Manuel Doblado 106-A- near Templo del Carmen, they still have. "Un viaje a México en 1864". Fondo de Cultura Económica, Lecturas Mexicanas No. 41


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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.