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Remains Of 16th Century Church Emerge From Mexican Reservoir As Water Levels Drop

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The drought affecting Chiapas, a state in southern Mexico, resulted in something beautiful. A breathtaking site has been reported in the Nezahualcoyotl reservoir where the water level of the Grijalva River has dropped by 80 feet, revealing the relics of a 16th-century church that has been submerged under the waters.

The ancient church was once part of the Quechula Village, which also went underwater following the construction of a 1960s dam. Known as Temple of Santiago, the 16th-century church was built by Friar Bartolomé de la Casas, a Dominican missionary who supported the elimination of slavery in the Americas. The priest and his monks landed in the region, which was once occupied by the Zoque people, in the middle of the 16th century.

Also known as the Temple of Quechula, the ancient church measures 183 feet in length and around 42 feet in width. It had walls up to 30 feet in height and a bell tower that rises 48 feet above ground.

The Temple of Santiago was related to the 1564 Tecpatan Monastery, said architect Carlos Navarete who helped analyze the ancient ruins. Navarete added that the similar architectural arrangements suggest the two structures had the same designer during the same time. Unfortunately, despite the grandeur, the plagues in 1773 to 1776 led to the abandonment of the church.

"It was a church built thinking that this could be a great population center, but it never achieved that. It probably never even had a dedicated priest, only receiving visits from those from Tecpatan," said Navarete. The architect further speculated that the Temple of Santiago did not even have a devoted priest.

This is the second time the ancient church made an appearance. In 2002, the people celebrated when the church first rose from the waters. At that time, the water levels dropped so low the visitors were able to walk inside the relic site.

The second rising of the 16th-century structure has given a new job to a local fisherman, Leonel Mendoza, who used to fish in the Nezahualcoyotl reservoir. He now spends his time ferrying tourists from the shore to the relic site. Apart from eating and hanging out, people who visit the relic site do processions around the church, explained Mendoza who also sell dried fish to the tourists.

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