When I, or one my equally klutzy siblings, ran to Mom following a tumble we were clearly told to take our pain and “Offer it up to the poor souls in Purgatory.” Once when a sibling stammered “I’m hungry.” My mother stated again “Offer it up to the poor souls in Purgatory.” to which I retorted “Why? Are they hungry too?”
Purgatory has always been an odd concept to me. Even as a child I couldn’t understand why my physical discomfort aided a dead person’s ascent into heaven from what could be best be described as God’s waiting room. Then by the time I reached high school, purgatory, like St. Christopher and limbo, appeared to vanish.
Well, not so much here. Many believe Purgatory is a suburb of Hell and that we all must pass through it to reach Heaven in a cleansed state. Purgatory is believed to be by many to be where Jesus spent three days before coming back to Earth and going to Heaven. Frankly, if the Son of God needed three days in Purgatory you and I will be spending an awful lot longer there!
When I started to volunteer teach dance in Escobedo, south of Comonfort, I was surprised to learn a neighboring town with Chichimeca roots is called “The Corner of Purgatory”. Oddly, I never thought of God’s waiting room as being square shaped or having actual corners. Plus who picks Purgatory to name an actual town? Also, unless you are currently in Heaven, who wants to admit they are from Purgatory?
If you Google map Purgatory it is a short leap from Jalpa off the highway to Querétaro. Trust me, only a billy goat can get to Purgatory that way. Instead go to Comonfort and take a downtown street lined with Catrina murals, an apt entrance to Purgatory.
You’ll soon find yourself in the countryside where corn and the flowers for Day of the Dead are grown around a decaying hacienda called Oliveras. You’ll likely pass all types of livestock in transit and a descasner (to rest) to three young men that died at same time a year ago. The three crosses mark where they had their appointments with death just outside of Purgatory and by all the fresh flowers there they are clearly still very much missed.
Sidebar: I once had a priest tell me funerals for children were easy with the logic of God wanting an angel to come home or for adults over 30 as they have completed what God wanted from them. However, folks in their late teens and early twenties were the most difficult to talk about because there is no apparent logic to their departure.
After about an hour drive you’ll be in Purgatory, a mountain town with lovely views and a well maintained church to the Lord of Good Health. And that’s pretty much it as the roads turn to muddy adventures beyond it.
So, I’m one of the few lucky enough to enter Purgatory and come back out the other side without having to die first, though the logic of going to Purgatory, on purpose, is still rather elusive.
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 HistoryAndCultureWalkingTours.com, and JosephTooneTours.com.