Things to Keep in Mind
They are spread all over the territory. Even though you may not believe in a particular religion or credence, there are some things a visitor can do to show a little respect to the attendants to religious temples in Mexico.
Five hundred years of religious heritage makes believers feel proud of all those temples which show the encounter of cultures that found in Mexico a melting pot.
Mexico is home to over 2000 catholic churches, some of them amongst the most beautiful in the world. By exploring cities in states like Guanajuato, Puebla, Oaxaca, Querétaro, or Michoacán, just to name a few, you will inevitably run into some of them on your traveling journeys.
There’s no need to be a believer to visit religious centers to appreciate the art and the techniques that many skillful artisans impressed throughout history to the walls, domes, porches, and other spaces that worked as a canvas to depict magnificent artworks.
Therefore, after twenty-five years of trips in my own country, I’ve hoarded some learnings concerning observing some behavioral actions when visiting catholic churches in Mexico.
- Watch for restriction indications at the entrance of every church.
Depending on the religious order that rules the temple and the state location of the church in Mexico, you may or may not capture pictures inside the church. Video is almost restricted unless you obtain a special permit from the administration of the church.
In most cases, you’ll see an indication at the entrance of the same one showing you not to take pictures. When taking photos is allowed, you can picture them without operating your camera’s flash.
However, it’s a major rule that flash photographing is prohibited at all in every Mexican church. Why is this? Several temples are a shelter of impressive masterworks like altarpieces, sixteenth or seventeenth-century paintings, sculptures and valuable items.
- Don’t interrupt masses or religious celebrations by walking when you see a restrictive indication.
Another situation that you may experience when you decide to go inside the church is to detect an indication of inviting visitors and tourists to respect any kind of ceremony that takes place at the interior of the temple.
Some churches allow visitors to walk into them by keeping silence and merely staring at the art inside; some others don’t allow at all the entrance and walking into the churches’ hallways while celebrations are running.
It’s just a matter of watching for any signs hanging from the temple’s gates or beside the hallways that lead from the access to the grand altar.
- Ask for permission if required
As always, manners are welcomed in every situation by asking permission first before carrying out any activity that might be restricted.
For example, visiting “El Pozo de Los Deseos” (The Well of Desires) located just behind the “Cholula” pyramid and in front of the “Parque Cholula” in San Pedro Cholula, state of Puebla is a great experience. Right there, you can watch the interior wall paintings and drink the “Sacred Water” extracted from the well.
I just remember the day I asked first for permission to the site’s devotees guardians, and in gratitude to that action, they even allow me to go upstairs the hill and take pictures from the top of the same. The access to this place is usually forbidden to ordinary visitors.
Hence, you no see some manners can return miracles.
- Dress appropriately if you walk into the church.
There’s no need for me at all to include here too many explanations for this fact.
With very few exceptions of churches located in some vacation spots like Cancún, Playa del Carmen, Los Cabos or Puerto Vallarta, the entrance with light clothing is always forbidden. I mean, bathing suits or women’s top will encounter harsh resistance from believers.
So, don’t forget to watch first the way locals dress to go inside and then after you can either choose to go and admire the interiors or to avoid experiencing an embarrassing moment.
- Shut down your cell phone.
As you can see in the picture below from “La Crucecita” village in the surroundings of the “Bahías de Huatulco,” Oaxaca state, this is absolutely clear in almost every church in Mexico.
“Should God be going to call you, he isn’t going to do so by a cell phone.”
Complete cell phone’s sounds shut off, or the airplane mode will prevent awkward moments. I’m afraid saints and virgins don’t like to watch their church’s visitors send whatsapps or tweets while the priest is “summoning” the holy spirit.
I guess they don’t have those gadgets yet up there.
- Don’t use lobby’s monumental crosses and sculpture bases as stands for personal photos.
Indeed, some of the art pieces you can admire at churches are real masterwork pieces. As a devotion act, some of them occupy their base on bedrocks that, in some cases, some smart people use them as stands to get the ideal selfie.
For instance, in the main lobby of the “Santuario de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios” in the magic village of San Pedro Cholula, state of Puebla, there’s a monumental standing rock cross receiving the visitors.
Yeah, I’ve observed in the past some sanctuary’s acolytes advise those frantic travelers when they go that extra step to picture that memorable “I was here” selfie.
I think you may recognize some of these convenience rules that may indeed apply in religious buildings at your places of origin.
Therefore, I recommend you when you approach a religious temple here in Mexico, watch for local dressing codes and for indications at the entrance located as I previously mentioned at the wooden doors of the church or outside the main entrance.
Those indications may be the typical universal graphic symbols banning pictures or camera’s flash. Not to forget to mention, please pay attention to your behavior inside the site.
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