Posted by: ktzefr | February 18, 2010

Today Churches; Tomorrow Carnaval!

“Continually, a bell rings in my heart.” ~ Vijaya Mukhopadhyay

I searched, but could not find, the picture of the one-room church I attended as a child.  The whole congregation was in that photo, gathered in front of the church and spilling onto the lawn.  My friends and I were preschool age.  We were standing together in the front row, most of the other girls in frilly dresses with big bows; I in my corduroy trousers and striped shirt.  My cousin Susie’s hair was blonde and permed; mine was brown and stringy and cropped at the ears.  From the side windows every Sunday we watched the folks from town arrive next door to have Sunday lunch at the D & W cafeteria.  Their cars spit up gravels as they hurried by, threatening to drown out the sermon.

So, I didn’t find the photo, but I did find a lot of other stuff I had forgotten about — a small envelope full of dried flowers that my mom had collected over the years, a wooden cross full of silver milagros (miracles to offer the saints) I had bought for her in Mexico, and my collection of articles and pictures and other clippings related to the JFK assassination.  In my careful handwriting, The Gettysburg Address, the words to the Star Spangled Banner, and a hand-drawn, full-page flag with the right number of stars. I had also made mini envelopes with notebook paper and tape and tucked “special” articles inside: a piece by Governor Connelly, a description of the funeral procession, and the eulogies by House Speaker John McCormack and Senate democratic leader from Montana, Mike Mansfield.

I had recycled and written captions for the various articles and photos on my sister’s old paycheck stubs, but the Scotch tape had disintegrated and the “captions” were scattered amongst the yellowed clippings:  Jackie Returns to the White House, John Jr. Finds a Friend, Jackie Shows Dignity.  (I misspelled dignity — digunity).  The biggest surprise, after all this time, was discovering on the pink check stubs that my sister was making only $40.00 a week.  Minus the taxes, it came to exactly $33.33!

No pictures of one-room Kentucky churches to offer, but I do have some of my favorites from Latin America and the Caribbean…

San Juan Cathedral, Puerto Rico

The Cathedral is stark white against the blue Caribbean sky, as seen in this picture from the terrace of Hotel El Convento, a former convent and also once a flophouse.  The Cathedral holds the tomb of Ponce de Leon who, alas, didn’t find the fountain of youth.

Another lovely little chapel on Calle del Cristo (Christ’s Street) in Old San Juan…

Capilla del Cristo - Cristo Chapel

Calle del Cristo runs from this high cliff above San Juan Bay to an even higher perch above the Atlantic.   Legend has it that, during an 18th century horse race, two riders were competing for a girl and one of them failed to make a left turn onto Calle Tetuan (one block up) and fell over the cliffs, seemingly to his death.  When he survived, however, the locals were so astounded that they constructed this little chapel to commemorate Christ’s intercession.  Others say, however, that the church was built in this spot to block the street and keep such a mishap from happening again.  The adoquines (blue bricks) to build the street in front of the church (and in much of Old San Juan) came from the smelting mills of 16th century Spain, brought over by the Spanish as ballast for their ships.

Another beautiful white church sits high on the hillside above the capital city of San Jose in Costa Rica…

The church at San Rafael, Heredia, Costa Rica

We got off the bus and walked a couple of blocks through a local farmer’s market to get pictures.   The vendors’ bins were full of mangoes, papaya, cashew apple, and root vegetables.  A band of musicians pulled up in a pick-up truck and unloaded their instruments…families gathered in the church yard.

On the other side of the country, in tiny Tortuguero, there is only one church…

Locals walk or come by boat to church on Sundays — the river is five minutes to the left; the black sand beach along the Caribbean is five minutes to the right.

And a church with a million-dollar view…

Frederick Lutheran Church, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas

This Lutheran church, with a congregation that’s been in existence since the late 1600s, sits on a hillside above beautiful Charlotte Amalie harbor on St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands.  The building casts a pretty yellow-gold color in the sun and its staircase resembles welcoming arms.  At this time of day part of the church is shaded, but I like the light and shadow and perfect blue sky.

The entrance to El Monasterio, San Pablo del Lago, Ecuador…

Hacienda Cusin, Ecuador

Now an inn for travelers…the monastery circles a courtyard filled with banana trees; the nights are dark and cool, the air filled with the scent of wood smoke and the call of the great horned owl.

In Mexico’s central Yucatan, the little chapel of Saint Isidro is the site of an annual celebration.  Local Maya farmers gather every May 15 to celebrate the life of Saint Isidro Labrador with mass and fiesta.

Saint Isidro, Chichen Itza, Mexico

Further south, on the Riviera Maya, this little church is crammed amongst the junk stalls and upscale shops, places to buy wooden jaguars and silver jewelry, Harley Davidson t-shirts and slippers from Israel, handmade lanterns and huge, brightly-colored paintings…

The White Church on 5th Avenue in Playa

…on the beach in Playa del Carmen, this little church looks out to sea with the island of Cozumel in the distance.

And last…the beautiful churches of San Miguel de Allende in the central mountains of Mexico.

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