Álamos and Aduana Church Bells

64… Two churches, two bells, two men and two towns…

tino, caretaker of the church, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson

Tino and his beloved Bishop Reyes Cathedral face another sunset.

Anders knew this would be an interesting photograph. Tino, a man, who,
in his face, had seen much of what life has to offer, a church bell
framed by its belfry and a natural backdrop stretching from Mirador
to Sierra Madres. All were lit by a low brillant sun whose golden rays
were diffused by humid shimmering heat waves. They only had a moment
to take this photo, as they were speaking Tino was summoned to fix a
pressing property emergency, this is what maestro Tino did. Anders
asked Tino to look towards the sun and pressed the shutter button.
One click and done, another moment is saved for the future.

Caretaker and bell at Aduana church, near Alamos, Sonora, Mexico. Photo by Anders Tomlinson

Caretaker of Nuestra Senora de Balvanere Church in nearby Aduana.

La Aduana on a midweek day in late Spring is peaceful. Take away the
sounds of birds, insects, burros, dogs and a handful of kids and it is
really quiet. Few cars will be heard for hours. This is a place where
the past lingers on, mining sites and ruins litter hillsides, a lonely
plaza’s dry fountain surrounded by buildings once busy including a store
where customers’ shoes for hundreds of year have cut a groove into the floor.
I visit the small church and met the caretaker who takes me on the roof so
I can see the town from where the bells of Nuestra Senora de Balvanere are.
The church has an interesting story involving a beautiful maiden, Indians
and some rocks, but that is for a coming journal entry. It is hard to
imagine what it is like when thousands of pilgrims arrive in La Aduana,
many walking along arroyos from Alamos, to honor the Virgin of Balvanere
every November 21st. A breeze kicks up dust on an empty road, a crow calls,
three boys in a dry creek bed laugh and the day moves on. Life in Aduana 1996
is much different than life in Aduana 1700, one can only wonder
what it will be like in Aduana 2020.

two church bells at bishop reyes cathedral, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photos Gary Ruble and Anders Tomlinson.

A tale of two bells, one old, one new, and how they toll.

The bells of Bishop Reyes Cathedral are part of Alamos’ daily fabric,
they are a prominent voice in a complex polyrhythmic-tonalsonic landscape.
Here are old and new: a cracked bell was replaced by a shinny bell.
I was raised to believe if you don’t have something good to say about
something don’t say anything. This is a good rule of thumb, especially
in small rural communities. There are always exceptions: this new bell
didn’t make me feel good but it is sweeter than the cracked bell. It wasn’t
inviting me, its clang was more of a warning, possibly because of the bell
ringer’s technique. The years are passing by and maybe the bell is mellowing
with age. I hope so. A town so culturally rich should have a bell that
touches the heart and inspires the imagination. Maybe it does now.
Here is a comment from Jim Swickard, “the Plaza bells are so important
in so many ways. I think it was about 20 years ago when one morning I saw
them hoisting a new bell to the tower which was donated by the Corral family.  
Only in Mexico, without a crane, could a group of men move something so
heavy with beams, pullys, etc, and get it up into the tower and secured.  
It was a joy, and still is, because there was an old bell with a crack and
it sounded like hitting a big skillet every day instead of
the beautiful tone of a bell.

This marker celebrates the birthplace of Dr. Alfonso Ortiz Tirado, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Dr. Ortiz Tirado is another Alamos native that touched the world.

Dr. Ortiz Tirado was born in Alamos and spent his early tears in
Culican, Sinola before moving with his newly widowed mother and
family to Mexico City. He became a successful doctor specializing
in plastic surgery and was Frida Kahlo’s bedside doctor. He made
vast contributions to the medical world. And he could sing.
His beautiful tenor entertained audiences across continents.
Alamos hosts a grand music festival in his honor, The Festival International
Dr. Arturo Ortiz Tirado
, that includes dance, art and music
with workshops, lectures and concerts. The festival entertainment,
centered in Alamos, also performs across Sonora visiting venues in
Nogales, Hermosillo, Ciudad Obregon, Hutabampo and Navojoa.
The ten day event is held each year in late January.

Bishop Reyes Cathedral

Bishop Reyes’ Cathedral takes up the entire southern side of the
Plaza de las Armas. Its three tiered belfry towers above town and
touches low passing clouds. Along with multiple daily services the
church is also a religious classroom. Religion speaks of yesterdays,
todays, and tomorrows. It speaks of better days and better places.
Religious followers are asked to endure and conceptually, eventually,
benefit from their days of survival and struggle on this small planet.
Photos and editing by Anders Tomlinson. Music from
“Camino Songs” by SonicAtomics.

Here was Silver

Here, seven miles west of Alamos, at 2,500 feet elevation with surrounding
mountains as high as 4,700 feet, Aduana has a few hundred people where
once there was 5,000. A church, country store, cemetery, a small restaurant-inn,
a plaza with a dry fountain in its center are surrounded by the past.
Spanish conquistador Vasquez de Coronado camped here during the winter of
1540-41. He was searching for gold in what turned out to be mountains
with veins of silver. The mines closed in 1906 after nearly 400 years
of continuous mining. La Aduana was the “custom office”, it was all about
taxes and royalties. Photos and editing by Anders Tomlinson.
Music from “Camino Songs” by SonicAtomics.

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