400-Year-Old Church Emerges in Reservoir
The Temple of Santiago gets a breath of air
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 18, 2015 12:30 PM CDT
The remains of a mid-16th century church known as the Temple of Santiago is visible from the surface of the Grijalva River, near the town of Nueva Quechula, in Chiapas state, Mexico, Oct. 16, 2015.   (AP Photo/David von Blohn)
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(Newser) – Huh, this wasn't there last year—a 16th-century church emerging from the waters of a Mexican reservoir. But it actually makes sense, because drought has caused the water level to fall 82 feet in the Nezahualcoyotl reservoir, revealing a church that was flooded during construction of a dam nearly 40 years ago, the AP reports. Known as the Temple of Santiago, the building is about half-way visible in the watershed to the Grijalva river. This isn't the first time the church has resurfaced: In fact, the water level got so low in 2002 that people could actually walk inside: "The people celebrated. They came to eat, to hang out, to do business. I sold them fried fish," says a fisherman who's now offering Temple of Santiago boat tours.

The church harks back to colonial times, when the Spanish friar Bartolome de las Casas showed up with a group of monks who built the Temple of Santiago, the Independent reports. Las Casas, the first bishop of Chiapas, initially believed in subjugating the native people, but later argued for abolishing slavery and helped persuade King Charles of Spain to grant the natives their freedom, notes Latin American History. But when conquistadors and settlers revolted, Charles reversed much of the new legislation. As for the church, it was abandoned during plagues of the 1770s, an architect says. Re-discovered in the 20th century, he says, it contained "a large ossuary of the victims of the plague that depopulated the area." (In the US, drought is causing Lake Mead to give up a few secrets, too.)
 

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