Murals for Love, Free Trade and Tolerance
Every mural lover should visit Comonfort’s museum that was once home to the Leading Lady of Love’s story in our area’s colonial history. The museum also features murals to pre-Hispanic indigenous culture alongside modern artistic expressions and the biography of a very radical priest!
The museum’s main murals depict María Manuela Antonia Basilia Roxas Taboada (names were really long then, so let’s call her Manuela for short) who was born in San Francisco Chamacuero (indigenous for place of ruins and today called Comonfort) a decade after the American Revolution in 1776. At that time, girls didn’t go to school, but as a wealthy lass Manuela was educated by private tutors at home.
Colonial era marriages among the wealthy are a bit of mystery to me. It’s hard to know, with the passage of time, was the marriage simply a business transaction, an exchange of her dowry for protection or actual passion? When Manuela married Mariano Abasolo in the still lovely St. Francis’ church in Comonfort (where she had been baptized) there is no question that, yes, she was wealthy, but she also had real chemistry with Mariano.
Mariano and Manuela were squarely on the side of the rebels come the revolution with Spain. Manuela’s brother, Pedro, and her cousin, Ignacio, had been killed in battle and while her husband continued fighting, she donated her fortune to Ignacio Allende and Fr. Hidalgo in their quest for freedom from Spain.
Mariano was caught in battle and sentenced to life imprisonment in Spain. This part of the story confuses me as why did the Spanish want to ship a convict all the way to Spain? Perhaps they were afraid he could escape here.
The humor ends there as Mariano and Manuela were stuck in prison in a foreign country. He died in her arms following a painful illness.
The revolution over and her husband dead, Manuela was released from prison and returned to Comonfort as an old woman. She had her funeral mass at St. Francis, the church that was a constant in her life from baptism to marriage then death.
Also on display are murals depicting the fruit and vegetables grown here since the time Otomis (indigenous farmers) called the area home. Across from the Otomis and their agriculture achievements are murals featuring the Chichimecas, indigenous hunter gatherers. They are shown dancing and being a bit more, well, unsettled as hunter gatherers tend to be.
Between the Otomis and Chichimecas are murals depicting the Purépechas singing to the stars. Where Comonfort stands today was a major trading post between indigenous cultures as funeral remains contain the Purépechas from today’s Pátzcuaro area and Aztecs from their Mesoamerican empire to the south around today’s Mexico City.
Modern day scenes show craftsmen making molcajetes used to grind food plus baskets, pulque and religious sculptures. Festival murals use a two paint color process to pull in Chichimeca dancers and Otomi cooks from past celebrations.
There is also a detailed biographical mural of Dr. Mora, the priest that was a century ahead of his time in insisting the 1824 Mexican Constitution not state Roman Catholicism as the sole religion. His bid for religious freedom failed as did his notion of expropriating Church property – both of which occurred a century later.
Dr. Mora’s mural includes another use of the two color process this time highlighting the differences between indigenous and Spanish women.
Still, if you really want to try some unique beef, there are bull penis tortas for sale just outside the museum!