Centuries-old church emerges in southern Mexico after water levels at reservoir drop

Submerged 16th century church in Chiapas appears after reservoir level drops.

QUECHULA, CHIAPAS, MEXICO (REUTERS) – Due to drought, the ruins of a 16th century church believed to have been built by Spanish colonists recently surfaced from the receding reservoir waters in Mexico’s southern state of Chiapas.

The temple, located in the Grijalva River area, appeared once in 2002, also due to low water levels brought on by drought.

This year, the water dropped to about 24 metres (80 feet), revealing the 400-year-old roofless church.

Specialists think the structure was built in the year 1564 by Dominican friars who came to evangelize the inhabitants of the region, then inhabited by the Zoque people.

Following construction of the Nezahualcoyotl Dam, better known as the Malpaso Dam in 1966, the area flooded.

Curious onlookers have arrived on boats to visit the colonial-era ruins.

Visitor Amelia Jimenez was surprised the structure hadn’t disappeared over all the years.

“We came to see it. Sometimes we think that when it’s submerged in water the church will erode quickly but it doesn’t. It’s there still,” Jimenez said.

Resident Uriel Sanchez said many large agricultural estates once dotted the area but were soon covered in water.

“You can see the trees that were covered by the water. Many cacao, coffee haciendas, pasturelands were lost,” Sanchez said.

When the church was visible in 2002 the water levels were so low that visitors were able to walk around the temple interiors.