The sun was born of a dry landscape. Today, perhaps because the Wirikuta reserve in San Luis de Potosi is its birthplace, the sun illuminates Wirikuta’s matte hillsides with the most tender glow and sets upon the desert floor in a most slow surrender.
Wirikuta’s nooks and crannies and shrub-covered undulations give refuge to towns – they are carved into hillsides, or superimposed upon them, or else houses appear like scattered matchsticks without ever gathering into something that could be called ‘town.’ Underneath the carpet of the ground is another city, that of old mine shafts and galleries big as ballrooms carved into the rock below: silver.
There are churches above and below the low shrubbery, and both catered to the miner. In the one above, the floors are made of what looks like the sidewalls of cedar chests; the patron saint is San Francis de Assisi. The one below is dark, the little altar illuminated only when headlamps fall upon the stone in spots. Doesn’t that make prayer somehow more personal?
In an abandoned mine site below Real de Catorce, the altar was the only thing with any visible upkeep. The wooden portals and massive stone walls of the wearing buildings were not attended to. Water flowed out of the mine mouth; we ventured into its velvet throat to cool off from the heat, then napped on logs. The resident cat led us to a man that used to mine here. I mined all over, he told us, but came back here, because this is where I am from. Cats leave home to die, men come home.