It is difficult to pick one style to describe a typical Mexican church. In the cities, you will see grand cathedrals with Baroque and/or Neoclassical architecture. While in the small towns, you often see the small churches of a mission style and constructed of adobe or rock.
There are also churches of striking and very modern designs. And sometimes churches are very simple buildings or even converted homes and rooms. You may see some churches with dramatic paintings, lots of gold leaf decor or they may be very simple and plain.
The churches are primarily Catholic although you see almost every religion commonly found throughout the world. This includes temples of the Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Shinto, Tao, Sikh, Zoroastrian, and Mormon religions as well Muslim mosques. The Baha’i Faith, agnostics, and atheists can also be found.
There are also nearly 60 indigenous populations in Mexico and some still practice their ancient religions. Mayan, Aztec (Nahua), and Wixarrika (Huichol) are the most common.
The dominant religion in Mexico is Catholic Christianity with about 83 % of the population. The culture and history of Mexico have been centered around this church and religious values. Although this has been changing greatly in recent years, religion is more of a factor in the everyday lives in Mexico than it is in the US and Canada.
There is a strict separation of church and state but Mexico allows religious freedom and other churches have been establishing larger congregations in the country.
And though they may not attend churches, it seems that Catholic beliefs influence the daily lives of most Mexicans. It is interesting to see your taxi driver make the sign of the cross as he takes you to your destination and passes churches along the way. You can also see many small shrines and I enjoy hearing church bells throughout the day.
The Catholic church is different in Mexico from Catholic churches in other countries because it is often combined with native religious rites. The early priests and bishops tolerated the inclusion of local ceremonies, etc. to make the transition to Christianity more acceptable. There are many cases where the original deities have fused with Christian Saints. In one example, the Virgin Mary appeared miraculously to a Juan Diego, a Christian Aztec, just north of Mexico City. She is also associated with Tonantzin, an Aztec goddess.
In the larger communities, you will see missionaries from the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons along with mission churches from many protestant denominations.
You may even see Mennonites in their traditional clothing. And throughout the year you will see many religious parades and ceremonies.
Overall my observation is that religion is alive and well in Mexico. I enjoy driving through cities and seeing the multitude of varied churches appearing almost everywhere.
Ermita del Rosario church, built in 1523, is the oldest mainland church in the New World
Church of San Martin de Porres of Tijuana
A Church for the bullfighters at Plaza Monumental in Tijuana
Saint Francis of Assisi Church, Tijuana
EL Buen Samaritano
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