in rural Paris, Iowa, and Wordpress

Atotonilco: Perfect Place to Do Penance

It is time for a bit more sightseeing for those who enjoy that.

The village of Atotonilco is located a little more than a half hour up the highway on the way to the historic town of Dolores Hidalgo.

Little Atotonilco is home to the Sanctuary of Atotonilco. This has since colonial times been the place to which the Mexicans of central Mexico have made pilgrimages to find solitude and to do penance.

On a Sunday the street in front of the Sanctuary is filled with the stands of various merchants. Atotonilco is a tourist destination for poor Mexicans in the area. On my trips there I have yet to bump into a gringo in the street.

You can purchase one of these scorges made of rope for use in flagellating yourself.

You can purchase an authentic crown of thorns in order to make you forehead bleed.

There is, as usual, a large complex of ruins adjoining the sanctuary. . .

amid which one can still find a little shade.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

I am putting my rendition of the historical importance of Atotonilco at the end of this in order to make it easier to skip.

On September 16, 1810, the pistolero priest, Father Hidalgo, stood on the church steps in Dolores Hidalgo, then known simply as Dolores. He addressed his Indian congregation enjoining them to arise, take up arms, and follow him to fight the Spanish. These “arms” consisted initially of farming implements primarily, with which the Indians slaughtered a lot of Spanish.

He concluded his oration with a call to kill the Spanish. Today, his grito, or cry, is memorialized when the Mexican people participate in the call and response of “Viva México!” three times in their town plazas on the eve of Independence Day.

The occasion of this is celebrated as Mexico’s Independence Day even though the war for independence lasted another ten years. This September 16 will mark Mexico’s Bicentennial. Father Hidalgo’s call to arms will be remembered with the grito all over the country, as it is on the eve of every Independence Day. In the main square of Mexico City, the Zocalo, the President will lead it late at night before the throng gathered there.

Here in San Miguel the main plaza, El Jardin, will also be filled with people late at night. The mayor will lead the call and response there. This is a moving thing to witness. It is referred to simply as El Grito, “The Call.”

But back to Atotonilco and the Sanctuary. On their way toward San Miguel and on to Mexico City, Father Hidalgo and his Indian army stopped at the Sanctuary there and famously stripped out all of the images of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the virgin of color, for use as battle standards.

The Virgin of Guadalupe has been blessing bloodshed in Mexico ever since.

[I suggest that you treat yourself to Michel’s spectacular photographs of Atotonilco, which you will find by clicking on these words. –9 June 2012.]

2 Responses to “Atotonilco: Perfect Place to Do Penance”

  1. Atotonilco | The Solipsist

    […] not really a church. It is a santuario, the left section of the Santuario de Jesus de Nazareno in Atotonilco, about twenty to thirty minutes from here depending on how many risks you’re in the mood to […]


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