As an addendum to our recent series on the churches of eastern Yucatán, another worthwhile detour is to Espita, "Leaping Water," a charming colonial town located 14 kms west of Calotmul along a straight but narrow road.
Espita was a vital frontier outpost during the later colonial years and into the 19th century. Local lore has it that, when suddenly coming under attack during the Caste War, the town was heroically defended by a force that was finally reduced to only fifteen, including several women dressed as soldiers.
The imposing parish church of San José was completed in the late 1700s—one of the last to be erected during the colonial era in Yucatán. Its soaring west front is a handsome example of the late secular style of church architecture in Yucatan. The long single nave is braced by numerous buttresses.
As at Peto, the porch and choir window are framed by a large recessed arch ornamented with floral reliefs and set on giant pilasters. The carved relief of an angel is set high in the surmounting pediment, which is capped by a triangular stone parapet pierced with diamonds and rosettes.
The most unusual feature of the facade is the vertical bands of stucco relief, depicting lions and stars, that extend to almost its full height.
Multi-tiered bell towers are capped by shallow domes masked by open parapets like miniature triumphal arches. The tower cornices were formerly tipped with ornamental "pineapple" pinnacles on each stage, most are now missing.
A large patio with surrounding rooms lies to the north east of the church, while a two story arcaded former camarín adjoins the apse.
text © 2021 Richard D. Perry
images by the author and from online sources.