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Santa Anita Atliztac, Jalisco

South of Guadalajara, just off the main road to Lake Chapala, lies the ancient village of Santa Anita Atliztac.

Beside the humble 16th century Franciscan monastery (right), stands the grand parish church, noted for its filigree-like "folk baroque" facade whose sculpted doorway (left) is ringed by angels playing archaic musical instruments.

Opposite the church is the recently renovated Guadalupe Chapel, formerly the sanctuary of the old Indian hospital, now the shrine of Our Lady of Santa Anita, whose revered image is the object of pilgrimage from surrounding communities.

According to legend, the image of Our Lady of Purification, as it was originally called, was brought to the village by a hermit in the late 1600s. After the hermit's death, thesanto demonstrated mysterious curative powers, her visage always turning dark at the moment of any miracle. Cherished by the villagers as their traditional protectress against plagues, the Virgin was enshrined by the Franciscans in the Guadalupe Chapel.

Our Lady of Santa Anita is a tiny carved wooden image, only 18 inches in height, revealing delicate Spanish features and finished in a richly worked painted and gildedestofado. As with the other traditional figures of the Virgin in Mexico, she is richly bejeweled and luxuriously clothed in stiff, spreading vestments. She wears a gold crown and silver aureole, and stands above a silver crescent moon in the biblical tradition of the Woman of the Apocalypse.

Text ©2001 Richard D. Perry

For more on the churches of Santa Anita Atlixtac and the Guadalajara region, see our guidebook, Blue Lakes & Silver Cities