The quirky but lovely temple and ex-convent of Santo Domingo is in Uayma, a small town of 3800 inhabitants about 15 km. northwest of Valladolid. The church was built by the Franciscans in 1646 out of stones from nearby Maya ruins, including Chichén Itzá. As with the great majority of the colonial era churches, it has a large atrium and patio, because the evangelist work of the friars required large gathering places. During the Caste War (1847-1901), the rebel Maya, in their revolt against Spanish rule, captured Uayma and burned the church.
Uayma’s annual festival honoring Santo Domingo takes place from July 28 to August 6, with vaquerías, popular dances, bullfights, guild processions, flower bouquets, and the traditional pig head.
A little background: The Caste War is one of Mexico’s longest-lasting and bloodiest rebellions. Not surprisingly, when the Spaniards settled here and began to practice cruel and unjust working conditions on the Maya, as well as removing the access to public lands which the Maya had used for farming, the Maya rebelled.
The situation was made worse as the success of the henequén industry grew; and the hacienda owners continued to practice the feudal system which kept the Maya workers in servitude to their masters.
After the Maya burned the church of Uayma, it remained a roofless ruin until 2003, when the repair and restoration of the church began. Restoration was completed due to the efforts of Elba Villareal de García Ponce of the private program called Adopte una Obra de Arte (Adopt a Work of Art), along with Fernando Garces Fierros, of the government’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).
Almost unbelievably, as the restoration process got underway, the original colors and decorations of the stamped stucco, covering both interior and exterior walls, were revealed. The amazing starbursts and rosettes, in bold and uncommon colors, give a feeling of happiness and joy, in contrast to the building’s troubled past. The building was officially reopened in November of 2004.
The predominant red color of the buildings represents the martyrdom and sacrifice of Christ, while the green represents hope. The white stars and the roses are a reference to the worship of the Virgin Mary. There is also a headless eagle on the façade, which was a Franciscan symbol adopted during the construction, representing the Catholic union between the kingdoms of Spain and Portugal.
Currently there are various cultural programs which offer recitals and symphony concerts fairly regularly in the church’s atrium. Its unique colors and ornamental beauty define it as a magical place to carry out these programs in splendor, as well as weddings and other religious ceremonies.
The town of Uayma, which in Maya means “not here,” is 15 km. northwest of Valladolid.
If you are interested in visiting Uayma, also known for its pottery and hammocks, you could easily combine it with a trip to Valladolid, also home to some very important history. The above-mentioned Caste War began there in 1847, as well as the first signs of the Mexican Revolution of 1910. There are seven churches in Valladolid, along with the impressive San Bernadino Convent, the San Roque Museum and the Government Palace, with its huge murals depicting Mexican history. Take note of the detailed stonework on the facades of many of the colonial buildings. Valladolid’s proximity to the archaeological site of Ek Balam, as well as Cenotes X’kekén and Samulá, located in Dzitnup, make it a wonderful destination for a weekend away.
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