Angahuan, Michoacán – God-fearing lava

The lava buried two villages, it rammed the church, caused one of the spires to collapse, destroyed the entire nave, and crawled further to the altar. Only a miracle can explain what happened then. Very suddenly the lava stream stopped, it froze in front of the altar, and the volcano became inactive. Should it have respected the house of God? Was it reverence? Humility?

Everything began on February 20th, 1943. In one moment the farmer stood on his field and tilled the soil, in the next moment he fled panic-stricken as the earth began to quiver. A volcano grew under his feet, broke repeatedly in thundering explosions, and spit ashes and lava for the next nine years. 4000 humans had to leave their houses and flee, fortunately nobody was hurt.

Today the dormant crater Paricutín protrudes 424 m from its environment, surrounded by a 25 sq km big pitch-black lunar landscape that is only slowly reconquered by nature. At the edge of the lava field Iglesia San Juan de Parangaricutiro can be visited or just what is left. On one side is the entrance portal with the preserved and the collapsed spire. Climbing over the metres-high lava boulders to the other side to the opposite wall, there is the undamaged altar that is newly decorated over and again. The embers literally stopped one meter before. The heat just took the toll on some plaster figures above the altar.

The village Angahuan is starting point for the visits. Managing to squeeze past the eagerly advertising Indio who offer their services as guide with and without horse we drive a few more kilometres to the last parking lot at the viewpoint. Not without being followed by wild riders who don’t want to give up so easily. After we convinced the men that we really rather hike than ride they leave disappointedly. For some Peso we can park here, for a few more even overnight. Following the numerous horse and footprints downhill through the forest we reach after three kilometres the frozen lava. From here on – with or without horse – one has to walk in any case over the lava field. Long pants, sturdy shoes, and possibly a robust long-sleeved top prevent from being injured by sharp-edged rocks. Those who prefer the horse can ride to the edge of the crater, but that would be a day-trip.

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