Disasters & Accidents

Mexican reservoir recedes to reveal 16th-century church

By Mitzi Fuentes

Tecpatan, Mexico, Jun 22 (EFE).- Drought and a historic heat wave have caused the water level at a reservoir in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas to drop and exposes the ruins of a 16th-century church that was a local pilgrimage site for hundreds of years.

After nearly a month of temperatures above 40 C (104 F), the reservoir created in 1966 by the construction of the Malpaso/Nezahualcoyotl dam has receded by roughly 25 m (82 ft).

For the first time in 20 years, the remains of the Church of Santiago Apostol (St. James the Apostle) are again accessible and people are coming to Tecpatan from other parts of Chiapas to get a glimpse while they can.

One of those visitors is Maria Sarmiento Perez, who traveled from Tuxtla Gutierrez, the state capital, after years of hearing about Tecpatan from her son-in-law.

“He always told me we should come, but I couldn’t until today we got the opportunity, it’s very pretty,” she said to EFE.

Even after Santiago Apostol disappeared under the waters of the reservoir, believers would come to the dam every year to make offerings.

In recent days, hundreds of people – many of them on foot – have come to the church. The devout stop on the threshold to cross themselves, while others snap photographs.

The heat wave, which has pushed the thermometer above 45 C (113 F) in some of Mexico’s 32 states, is amplifying the harm from the drought effecting roughly two-thirds of the country to one extent or another.

Here in Chiapas, the impacts include putting a strain on hydroelectric plants and crippling 500 tilapia farms.

“I have lost product on my farm,” tilapia producer Baldemar Antonio Masa tells EFE, adding that just as Mexico’s publicly owned electric utility is taking steps to keep hydroelectric plants operating, the government should come to the aid of the fish farmers.

“We want the support, that the government assist us for the losses we have had,” he says. Another tilapia farmer, Pablo Mendoza Vazquez, says he has lost half of his production, some 2,500 fish in all.

Chiapas, according to an industry association, accounts for 30,000 of the 50,000 tons of tilapia Mexico produces in a typical year. EFE mmf/dr

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