Charlotte Ekland, Ph.D of CSU, Chico Mexican Colonial Architecture

Indigenous Elements

In 16th Century New Spain, native masons, sculptors and painters constructed and decorated the newly introduced European-style buildings. Typically, pre-Conquest temples were partially dismantled in order to provide building materials. Newly founded churches were then built on the old foundations, forming visual metaphors for the veneer of Christianity covering indigenous beliefs.

Occasionally, native workers incorporated pre-Conquest religious symbols and traditional imagery into Christian buildings. A number of buildings contain indigenous dates and/or place glyphs. In other examples, native artists interpreted European concepts through familiar Mesoamerican visual vocabulary.

A more widespread and inherent influence was the integration of pre-Conquest aesthetics and techniques into the reproduction of European motifs. This intermingling of native style with Christian imagery, referred to as tequítqui, transformed European forms into something uniquely Mexican.

In the literature concerning colonial churches and monasteries, structures are commonly identified simply by the name of the town where they are built.  This system works for small towns that have only one notable colonial building.  However, in larger towns or cities, where there are multiple buildings of note, the nomenclature creates confusion. I have chosen to use the formal names of buildings for the sake of consistency.  In addition, I include the town or city where the building is located.  In the lists below, the buildings are alphabetized by city/town to make it easier to follow the literature.