La PintadaAlthough small, this refurbished Ixtla chapel claims the most interesting of the painted interiors in the area. Despite its size, the capilla has a two stage bell tower and a cut stone doorway.
Thought to date from the late 1700s, the murals are rendered in a colorful and lively style, illustrating a variety of biblical scenes along with the sun and moon, musical angels, curtained altars and temples, with friezes of mystical animals.
Beyond its attractive folkloric style and the vividly portrayed figures and objects, a complicated narrative unfolds with themes that appear related to traditional Otomí history, cosmogony and world view.
Episodes from the Passion of Christ are intermingled with battle scenes featuring Otomí and Chichimec warriors, the former in war apparel and the latter largely naked except for feathered headdresses. Spanish troops, helmeted and mounted, also appear.
Some warriors carry musical instruments, crosses and banners in addition to native weapons, emphasizing the ritual aspect of the confrontation—a theme more fully developed in the monastery of Ixmiquilpan.
Although many details remain obscure, scholars speculate that the murals link Christ's ordeal to the struggle between the two indigenous groups and, by extension, the Spanish colonizers.
text © 2014 Richard D. Perry. images by Benjamin Arredondo and others.