Sunday, October 05, 2014

on the border

It´s only a 2-hours drive, roughly, from Mesa to Tucson, which lies a little over 100 miles south of the Phoenix metropolis. Culturally, however, Tucson is a world away, & most of the city looks and feels like a Mexican town. Except for the gleaming downtown and gringo enclaves with names like  SageView Park, Parkview Sage, and Sage Parkview,

Mostly, the city consisists of  Mexican-type neighboroods, where people´s homes are small (some are tiny) & mostly built of unreinforced masonry with shingle roofs, and small, well-kept yards. Even a casual visitor like me can feel a difference between such places, and US suburbs which give the definite impression of being nowheres, although such feelings are indescribable.

After driving around somewhat aimlessly for a while, we found lunch downtown, then headed for the old Spanish mission of San Xavier del Bac, 10 miles south and a little west of town. This is an impressive historical and artistic site, with its gorgeous, assymetrical façade.

AS we approached the front of the old iglesia,  I wondered what occult or Biblical symbolism is expressed in the unmatched towers, but as it turned the 18th-century Jesuits who built the place uncharacteristically ran out of cash & credit.

The interior is as beautiful as the outside, There's been a
Catholic church here since before 1700, and ths place was sacred to the Indian inhabitants of this desert  back into the fog of  near-prehistory.

Moving inside, we found a hive of activity inside the church, uncharacteristic for a late Sunday afternoon. The feast of the Saint for whom the site is named was two days ago, and St. Xavier's wooden effigy is still laid out like a corpse just in front of the entrance to the east transept, in front of the altar.

Pilgrims have driven, walked, & literally crawled to this place for hundreds of years for the feast of  San Xavier del Bac (of the waters), & to touch the effigy's feet and face before pausing to lift his head and shoulders from the pallet he lies on. The legend behind the ritual is that only the pure of heart are able to lift Xavier's head from its resting place.

The present building was begun in the 1760's and never finished, although construction stopped in 1783. No one knows the names of the architect, interior designer, or individual artisans who created this church or its gorgeous interior .

Some might find the enthusiastic idolatry practiced here silly, or superstitious, or worse. Rituals like the one we saw today have been going on in this place before there was a USA, & the present building went up before there was a nation of Mexico. It's not up to the Gringos to judge the beliefs and behaviors of Old Mexico, and personally, I feel there's a timeless tranquility implicit in such  rituals

Supersitious? Maybe. But rationalists, as Dr. Jung reminds us, ignore the "psychological effect." 

Click on any of the photos to see them bigger.

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