Locals left stunned as 16th-century church emerges from dried up Mexican reservoir

Locals left stunned as 16th-century church emerges from dried up Mexican reservoir

As the waters receded, exposing the church fully, visitors are thronging the site, now accessible by boat and by foot.

In a remarkable spectacle, a stunning 16th-century Catholic church has emerged from the depths of the Nezahualcoyotl reservoir in Mexico, capturing the awe of locals as the region faces an intense drought. Known as the Temple of Santiago, this stone structure, typically visible partially during periods of low water levels, now stands fully exposed, presenting a challenge to the livelihoods of the nearby fishing community, reported the Daily Mail.

Constructed by a group of monks led by Friar Bartolome de la Casas, the Temple of Santiago found its place in the Quechula locality within the Chiapas region. Originally lost to the reservoir waters in 1966 during flooding, the church has resurfaced due to the drastic drop in water levels caused by the ongoing drought. With walls towering up to 30 feet, the structure spans an impressive 183 feet in length and 42 feet in width. Its bell tower reaches a height of 48 feet, proudly overlooking the grounds of the Temple of Quechula.

Despite spending years submerged, the ancient church has remarkably retained its intricate architectural features. Delicate arches gracefully stretch over the entrance, showcasing its detailed craftsmanship.

The handcrafted bricks and ornamental designs have stood the test of time, offering a glimpse into the rich history of the region. Architect Carlos Navarete, who collaborated with Mexican authorities on a report about the structure, revealed that the church was abandoned due to widespread plagues that ravaged the area between 1773 and 1776.

The Temple of Santiago was closely associated with the nearby Tecpatan monastery, established in 1564. Navarrete suggests that the church and the monastery share architectural similarities, indicating they may have been built by the same hands around the same time. Its strategic location on the King's Highway, a road constructed by Spanish conquistadors and in use until the 20th century, further elevated its significance in the past.

As the waters receded, exposing the church fully, visitors are thronging the site, now accessible by boat and by foot. However, the exposed church poses a grave threat to the local fishing community, as the Nezahualcoyotl Reservoir has dwindled to a mere 29 per cent of its capacity. The livelihoods of fishermen are at stake, with reduced water levels impacting their ability to sustain themselves and their families.

Local tilapia farmer Darinel Gutiérrez told AFP that the water began to drop too much about five months ago and has already gone beyond ordinary.

'What do I support my family with? Right now, I have nothing,' he said.

The resurfacing of the Temple of Santiago serves as a poignant reminder of Mexico's escalating drought crisis. In March, Mexico issued an alarm about the drought, attributing it to insufficient rainfall over several years, resulting in water scarcity. The country's vulnerability to droughts is amplified by the fact that 52 per cent of its territory falls within arid or semi-arid climates. Over the past decade, droughts have become more frequent, intense, and prolonged, exacerbating the challenges faced by communities dependent on water resources.
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As locals marvel at the resurfaced church's architectural beauty, the sight also underscores the urgent need for sustainable water management and solutions to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change on vulnerable regions. While the Temple of Santiago has reemerged from its watery depths, the situation serves as a poignant metaphor for the ongoing struggle faced by communities grappling with water scarcity in an increasingly unpredictable world.

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