The Celosia Argentea flower, commonly known as feather cockscomb for its resemblance to roosters’ combs, belongs to the Amaranth family. It grows widespread across tropical Mexico and Central America, northern South America, tropical Africa, the West Indies, South, East and Southeast Asia where it is grows as a native or naturalized wildflower, and is cultivated as a nutritious leafy green vegetable. It is traditional fare in countries of Central and West Africa, and is one of the leading leafy green vegetables in Nigeria, where it is known as ‘soko yokoto’, meaning ‘make husbands fat and happy.’ The exotic plumes make superb dried flower specimens, retaining their color long after harvest.
This particular flower was photographed at the ex-convent of the order Concepción Las Monjas. This 16th and 17th century Gothic-style national heritage building, located on Calle 63 at the corner of Calle 64, originally took up the whole block. Over the years, pieces have been sold off, but it is still a fascinating place to visit today. Its unique viewing tower, supported partly by the vault of the sanctuary, was constructed in 1633.
Today it is known as Iglesia de las Monjas. The name Monjas means “nuns.” The convent, originally called Our Lady of Consolation, was a self-contained complex. Within the convent walls were a church, residential areas for 40 nuns, courtyards, gardens, and food production areas. What remains today is the church and a couple of courtyards on the southeast corner.
On June 22, 1596 the first nuns took possession of what is now Monjas and 37 years later (June 9, 1633) the first Eucharistwas celebrated in the new convent. One interesting fact about this religious complex is that it was the only convent built exclusively for women in all of Yucatán. Women entered the convent for many reasons; for some it was their only refuge in an all-male society. The Convent of Our Lady of Consolation became a status symbol in Yucatecan society. It was a truly a huge convent, covering many hectares of land. When the government begin land-confiscation in the mid 1600s, most of the acreage was seized leaving Monjas as it is currently. On one other occasion Monjas was closed, for a few months in 2012, until the Salvatorian Fathers arrived and began their ministry, opening Monjas to the public again.
This seat of the convent of the Order of the Conception nuns has a lovely courtyard, and its church area boasts a spiral staircase which leads to the choir area above. The 40 or so nuns who lived here were cloistered following their vows, with no direct contact with outsiders. You can get a sense of their daily life when you see the barred-off area where the nuns went to mass, separated from the church crowd by a latticed steel grate and latticed windows. The confessional booths were located in the thickness of the walls.
The convent was closed in 1863, and later evacuated. It was used for various purposes until 1920, when it was designated to parochial services. Since 1994, the former convent also houses the Casa de la Cultura del Mayab, a place where Yucatecan artists are nurtured. As well, the Escuela Superior de Artes de Yucatán offered degrees in theater and dance, as well as the many artistic workshops given by the Cultural Institute of Yucatan for children and adults.
There is a group starting to raise funds to preserve this historic landmark which is the second oldest church in Merida. All contributions made will go to the preservation of the Monjas buildings.
Rector: Padre Martin Czyz (999)928-0789
English: Padre Jose Vieira Arruda (999)247-1519
e-mail: [email protected]
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