The bright beauty of Mexican village churches


Photos of sacred structures from a road trip through the Yucatán peninsula.

In 2015 I spent two weeks driving through Campeche, Yucatan, and Quintana Roo visiting as many Mexican churches and archaeological sites as possible. I had a rented car, a tent, a paper map, and a fair assumption that if a village existed, there’d be a Conquest, Colonial, or Republican period church in it.

All told I visited 79 churches, 26 archaeological sites, 2 combined archaeological and church sites, 3 museums, and 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It was an incredible experience: a romance with a part of the world that I love and one of the most aesthetically pleasing of my life.

My 2015 route.I had plans for more but my car broke down just outside of Ticul so I stayed there for a couple of days.

Feel free to interact with this map of my road trip, and consider visiting Mexico yourself.

I made this trip alone. I usually travel alone. Solo female travel: something I should write a blog post about. With no one else to please, it’s okay to start out at 5am and go to sleep at dusk, to be not quite lost and to navigate based on “Mexican conquest-era villages sort of all work in the same way”, to declare tuna from the can eaten atop a Maya temple at a deserted ancient site to be “lunch enough”. Also alone, I can say “5 more village churches, then I’ll rest”.

Oh the churches. Corners and curving lines in burnt orange, ochre, and deep red against the contrast of the blue Yucatan sky. I was there to think about sacred art theft and heritage protection at these sites, but I hadn’t expected to be so moved by the churches themselves. Crumbling, ruined, and tenderly cared for. Decorated with bunting that flapped in the wind, flowers and candles inside. Old ladies sitting inside chatting: high ceilings and darkness make the churches the coolest buildings in the village.

I took so many photos.

Here are some of my favourites. Click for full size and the thumbs seem a bit blurry. The village is in the filename.

I’m thinking of driving through Puebla next.