In case you haven’t yet noticed, the Parroquia is chock-full of murals on a variety of subjects. Some tell the story of Guadalupe or Mary of the Light here in Mexico. Others tell the stories of saints like St. Phillip of Jesus (first Mexican martyr) and St. Veronica of veil fame. Some are extremely local like the one that tells the story of the cross known as Lord of the Conquest (which resides just beyond the mural).
Painted by different folks at different times and with wildly variant styles, I’ve always been partial to murals as storytelling devices.
On today’s tour a resident ex-pat commented about two wall spaces that are mural-less, simply painted white. He asked “Why can’t we form a committee to meet and choose a bible story to depict on this space? The Church can make money from it after it is done.”
Wow, there was a statement that got my mind wheeling in a multiple of directions for reasons profound to rather silly.
My first thought was a funny one (it often is). Knowing the lad was a Rotarian and that Rotary folks don’t use the restroom without doing a cost benefit analysis first, I was stunned about the comment on how the Church can make money later. A Rotary project starts with cash flow projection detailing who makes money and how much that will likely be. There is nothing wrong with that, but to think a non-Rotary institution should make money afterwards I found amusing.
Plus how does the Church make money on religious art (aside from postcards at the Vatican gift shop)? Art in the Parroquia, or any church, is there to inspire gratitude and reflection, or simply prayer. Statues, murals, paintings and alike don’t generate revenue in and of themselves.
“Why can’t we form a committee?” is a phrase I’ve heard uttered by ex-pats so many times I only wish I earned a peso on each occasion. If so, I’d have a zillion pesos by now. As a successful entrepreneur I’ve had fewer than a handful of meetings in twenty years, and zero committees. To move forward and fast, leaders chat up other leaders. You want to do something in a church? Then meet with the priest in charge.
Or, if you are really clever, have a long term relationship with the caretaker. Clergy come and go, but the caretaker is in charge of the facility, often for life.
My other point is purely aesthetic, I like white walls. My whole home features white walls as white enables art and gardens on and around the wall to pop. Having a rare blank wall in the church lets the other art shine a bit brighter.
Now, for me, whenever something my fellow ex-pats say or do I find baffling I try to reverse the situation. For those of you that have read my Mexico/U.S. ponderings before you know I often poke fun at my Southern Baptist brother, the minister. (I’m a younger brother, that’s what we do.) He’s the lad that will let you know in under a minute after meeting if you aren’t Southern Baptist too, you are on that express train to Hell.
So, if a group of Mexicans came into my brother’s Southern Baptist church to let him know their committee picked a bible scene to paint on one of his church’s white walls, he’d laugh. Then kick them to the curb even as the committee explained he could “make money afterwards”.
If adding art to the Church is goal for you I’d join the church, go regularly, make nice with the priest, fellow parishioners and caretaker, donate hugely and only then approach with the adding new art idea. Otherwise enjoy the wealth of gratitude, faith and compassion the existing art offers and leave well enough alone.
As my fellow neighbors on the North/South Carolina border whom favored folksy wisdom frequently uttered “Mind your own biscuits, and life with be gravy.”
Cripes, I’d love some biscuits and gravy!
Joseph Toone is the Historical Society’s short-story award winning author of the SMA Secrets book series. All books in the series are Amazon bestsellers in Mexican Travel and Holidays. Toone is SMA’s expert and TripAdvisor’s top ranked historical tour guide telling the stories behind what we do in today’s SMA. Visit HistoryAndCultureWalkin