Sanctuary of Atotonilco

On Saturday August 22, 2020 our new friends here in San Miguel de Allende invited us to Atotonilco to see the historical Sanctuary of Atotonilco. Sanctuary of Atotonilco was built in the 17th century by Father Luis Felipe Neri de Alfaro, who said he had a vision of Jesus with a crown of thorns on his head with blood on his face and carrying a cross. Sanctuary of Atotonilco remains a place of worship and penance to this day, attracting as many as 5,000 visitors every week.

Sanctuary of Atotonilco was built in the 17th century by Father Luis Felipe Neri de Alfaro
Sanctuary of Atotonilco was built in the 17th century by Father Luis Felipe Neri de Alfaro.

The city of Atotonilco is part of a World Heritage Site (2008) along with the historic center of San Miguel de Allende.

Art and I were so excited and happy for the invitation as it was our hope to see and learn more of Mexico’s history. It was a very pleasant and sunny day, good for taking pictures and walking.

We rode with our friends in their car to Atotonilco. It was a fun ride with visiting, laughing and joking. We were all able to get to know each other better.

When we entered Atotonilco Art and I felt like it was an authentic Mexican village. Atotonilco is a small town with less than 600 inhabitants, whose name means place of hot water. It is about 14 kilometers from San Miguel de Allende and just over 30 kilometers from  Dolores Hidalgo, two cities that played a leading role in Mexican independence.

Street vendors selling handmade crafts and artwork.
Street vendors selling handmade crafts and artwork.

We parked the car and began walking to explore the area. Walking was a little difficult due to the rugged cobblestone street. There were a few street vendors selling handmade crafts and artwork. We explored the stands and bought a few items. Art and I bought a Molcajete. This is a Mortar and Pestle Made of Volcanic Stone Used for Food Preparation. Our hope was to try some Mexican food recipes and make homemade salsa.

Molcajete a Mortar and Pestle Made of Volcanic Stone Used for Food Preparation.
Molcajete a Mortar and Pestle Made of Volcanic Stone Used for Food Preparation.

The indigenous people considered this area sacred before the arrival of the Spanish due to the hot mineral springs. The name Atotonilco is common in Mexico, especially in the central highlands and is most known in Jalisco. The name comes from a Nahuatl phrase “in hot water” which refers to thermal springs. Chichimecas people came to this particular place to perform penance rites, puncturing themselves with maguey thorns in order to wash away their guilt in the thermal springs.

Art and I walked down to the Sanctuary of Atotonilco. We were not able to enter as it was closed due to COVID 19.  Sanctuary of Atotonilco is a beautiful white castle looking structure. We took many pictures hoping you would enjoy them as much as we enjoyed taking them.

Sanctuary of Atotonilco closed due to COVID 19.
Sanctuary of Atotonilco closed due to COVID 19

According to the history, Father Neri arrived here from preaching at missions in Dolores Hidalgo. While resting under a mesquite tree where the sanctuary is now located, he dreamt of Jesus wearing a crown of thorns and carrying a cross. Father Neri declared that he heard from Jesus and it was his will that the area be converted into a place for penance and prayer. Another version of this story states that Father Neri was there due to his ill health to heal in the hot springs. He was assisting at a small church called the Capilla de San Miguelito, which is still found on the banks of the Laja River. At that time, the native Guachichiles and Pames considered the thermal springs to be sacred and medicinal.

Our friend bought some cookies from the Sisters of the Sanctuary of Atotonilco. We also admired the statue of Don Miguel Hidalgo Y Costilla the father of Mexican independence and we took a few pictures. 

As it was getting later in the afternoon and quite warm we walked back to the village. Seeing women cooking outside we decided to stop to enjoy lunch on the village street. We ordered pocket burritos with beans and nopal. As we ate we were entertained by the occasional horse and rider traffic. The horses looked well kept and beautiful. I went into the local store and bought us both an apple soda to enjoy with our meal.

Enjoying lunch on Atotonilco village street.
Enjoying lunch on Atotonilco village street.

After lunch we headed back to the car and spotted farmers selling fresh produce. We bought a huge fresh papaya. The farmer let us sample a famous fruit that we never had before. We don’t know it’s name but it was delicious. 

When we entered Atotonilco Art and I felt like it was an authentic Mexican village.
When we entered Atotonilco Art and I felt like it was an authentic Mexican village.
The horses looked well kept and beautiful.
The horses looked well kept and beautiful.

The ride home was fun and our friends drove past the hot springs. They said next time we come back we will bring our swimming suits to bathe in the springs. 

See our full picture gallery: https://photos.app.goo.gl/FXn9PMfrYJC3mESU7

More Reading: 

Sanctuary of Atotonilco
Why visit Atotonilco, in Guanajuato
How to Use a Molcajete
Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla

Published by visitoldmexico

Join Art and Carol as they Visit Old Mexico

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