Saturday, December 12, 2015

El Camino Real Part 5

As I was finishing up my El Camino Real series, a TV news segment popped up. “One of the 450 hundred year old colonial missions surfaced from the Nezahualcoyotl Dam in the southernmost Mexican border town of Guatemala.” It’s all because of the summer drought of this year that caused a drop in water level, both in the dam and the River Grijalva, known as the Chiapas’ Grande River. I found another El Camino Real stretch, connecting the colonial cities of Chiapa de Corzo, Mexico with Antigua Guatemala.

The church was related to Dominican Friar Bartolome de Las Casas (1474-1566), whose name is seen in San Cristobal de Las Casas. Fr. Las Casas was named Bishop of Chiapas in Guatemala to enforce the “New Laws” of Emperor Charles V, which prohibited slavery and limited ownership of Indians to a single generation. The settlers objected to anything limited, and many clergy would not follow the new bishop’s lead. After the King rescinded the prohibition on inheritance, Fr. Las Casas resigned from his office in 1547 and returned to Spain.

I found the Las Casas name in many locations; Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Peru. While he was young, perhaps he followed his father and uncle who voyaged with Columbus representing Spain. Then he entered the priesthood and tried to advocate and correct misdeeds as Christians (Catholics).

I wrote to my San Diego friend Mary Lu Brandwein who was my Spanish teacher and lived in San Cristobal for a long time. She wrote back that I would have to cross the River Grijalva to get to the lush highlands because the dam is close to the Chiapas/Veracruz State border.

Per Mary Lu, the early Camino Real followed the ancient Mayan trade route south along the banks of the Grijalva River, through the Central Depression of Chiapas from Chiapa de Corzo to Guatemala. In later years, with the establishment of the Spanish colonial city of San Cristobal de Las Casas, a secondary road was added which follows the present route of the Pan American Highway through the highlands from San Cristobal south to Comitan, then heads back down into Tierra Caliente to join the original route.

Aside from the big city missions, numerous missions were founded by the Dominicans, including the one submerged in the dam at strategic points, but most of them were abandoned because of depopulation.

No comments: