Thursday, August 11, 2005

Sierra Gorda Missions, Queretaro, Mexico

During my latest visit to Mexico, I had the chance to visit the rugged Sierra Gorda region in the state of Querétaro. This area is best known for its five Franciscan missions: Landa, Jalpan, Concá, Tilaco, and Tancoyol. These isolated 18th-century missions are reached by a roller-coaster road that winds through the stark mountains of the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve. This dramatic, cactus-studded landscape is some of the most awe-inspiring that I've encountered in Mexico. The missions all have churches with remarkable baroque facades richly decorated with both Christian symbols and pre-Hispanic indigenous motifs, as well as stylized plants and geometric designs. In 2003, the Sierra Gorda missions were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Mexico now has 24 such sites, more than any other country in the Americas.

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