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El Cañón

Xilitla municipality

In the clouds

Sunday morning found us on the highway south, headed to the Xilitla municipality. This part of San Luis Potosí was very near the state line of Querétaro, but we did not go that far south. Instead we headed up into the green mountains, and forsaking the paved highway the van slowly crawled along the rocky roads along the slopes. I refrain from saying “dirt roads” because this would be misleading–the roads were paved with quite large rocks, making any speed whatsoever in a vehicle quite difficult. As we saw various people crossing the road as they took the footpaths through the hills, I could not help but envy them. How much I wished I could be out on the trails, taking a faster pace but also being able to enjoy God’s creation up close. But I was confined to the van, so I was content.

These mountains are not as rugged as those of central Mexico, and are probably not as high due to their close proximity to the ocean. They reminded me much of the Appalachians, since they were all green and covered with foliage. Beneath this outer covering, however, they are solid rock. As we followed the meandering road, mist overhung the mountains and we were soon in the clouds. Across the valley we were able to see the town of Xilitla–the chief city of that region–and all along the way the scenery was beautiful. There were numerous cattle grazing on the mountainsides, and as I watched the verdant landscape with occasional stone fences and steps, I could almost fancy myself in Ireland or Scotland.

At long last we turned off the road and came up to a concrete building painted turquoise on the front. As I read the words Iglesia de Cristo on the front, I knew we had arrived. We were running behind schedule, but since Mexicans are wont to do this as well, I’m sure no one minded waiting on us. Quite a few people came out to greet us, even with a holy kiss. Though this may seem odd, it is the custom of some, and it is certainly Biblical.

Church building at El CañónTwo Mexican brethren had come with us; both of whom were preachers. In that part of the country preachers are scarce, so oftentimes one man will travel to as many as three different congregations on a Sunday to preach for them. However, they are rapidly training more men to become preachers, so Lord willing this need will soon be filled.

We soon all filed into the one-room church building, and sat down in chairs that were arranged in two sections, left and right. According to custom, all the girls and ladies sat on the right side, and the men and boys on the left. There was a fairly good number of people there, many of whom had walked many miles just to come to worship.

The service began with some songs, and then communion, which was directed by brother José. During this time he gave quite an extensive lecture, which was a very good study in God’s word. At times, however, I became puzzled when I couldn’t understand what he was saying. Surely he was always speaking Spanish–or was he? I finally realized the truth: He was switching to Nahuatl periodically for the benefit of the members there who didn’t know Spanish! As I listened more intently I recognized sounds that he used that were not in Spanish, and then I knew for sure that he was speaking Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs which has been spoken for many years, before ever a European set foot on American shores.

After the Lord’s supper, our translator Jesús got up and gave a good lesson. As well as being bilingual in Spanish and English, he is also a good preacher and student of the Word. He doesn’t know Nahuatl, but he was a great help to the monolingual anglophones of our group.

The windows in the building had no glass, so we were blessed with the sounds of nature on that beautiful morning. The door was open as well, so when a dog decided to come in during worship, one of the little girls was happy to escort him out. A chicken peeked in at one point, but I think it decided to stay outside where there were more bugs.

After worship, the others went to the van to get some things we had brought for the members of that congregation, and I went and got my camera out of the van to take pictures of the building and the scenery roundabout.

I spoke to the elderly man who had sat by me in worship, and asked him about Nahuatl. To my surprise, he told me that everyone there knew the Aztec tongue, and that there were some even who didn’t know Spanish.

We had been invited to lunch at the preacher’s house up the hill, so we headed that direction after a while. The house was partly made of concrete, but part of it was made of sticks. They put us visitors in a room with a table (whether it was a usual dining room, I know not), and we ate with the preacher. The fare was real Mexican food: homemade tortillas, rice, beans, prickly pear cactus, and French fries. The cactus, or nopal, didn’t really have a distinct flavour, and to the uninformed diner it could easily be mistaken for French-style green beans. It was all very good, and for dessert brother José had brought some interesting fruits called mamey.

When we had finished eating, we migrated to the largest room in the house, the part that was made of sticks. That part of the house had a dirt floor, which was hard-packed and quite suitable for the purpose. There were some smaller tables in here where some of the members of the congregation were eating, and at the far end of the room the girls were making tortillas. They had a tortilla-squishing device like the one I have, and after flattening the balls of dough they would flatten them even more by hand, then putting them on a concrete griddle which had a fire built below it. They had an assembly line going, and the tortillas were really good!

Soon it was time to leave, as we were expected at another village later that day. We thanked the preacher and his family for their great hospitality, and I also asked him if he ever preaches in Nahuatl. He told me that he preaches in both languages, and he probably said more that I didn’t catch. At this point my knowledge of Spanish is such that I can understand most of what people say, but I probably miss some interesting details. I’m still working on it though!

As we descended the slope to go back to the van, the preacher accompanied us as well as some of the other Christians. Near the church building he showed me some interesting plants that grew wild there; a coffee tree, an orange tree, and a plant called cilantro. This plant’s leaves are edible, and they put it in their salsa.

Having said goodbye to the brethren of that place, we continued our journey and headed towards our next destination: Tlapexmecayo.

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