The Virgencita Temple: From Indigenous Hospital to Parish

San Luis de la Paz, Gto. Wednesday, February 22, 2012.  Among the local Catholic temples, one standouts because of its style and color: the Three Hail Marys, better known as La Virgencita. Even though this church has less than one hundred years of existence, its origins go back to Colonial Times, when the place not only served as a chapel to honor Our Lady of Solitude, but also as an indigenous hospital.  Centuries later, in the 1990s, it was elevated to parish.

In the Viceroyalty Era, our town was divided into four indigenous neighborhoods.  One of them was called Our Lady of Solitude.  It was given this name for the church dedicated to Our Lady of Solitude that existed where today La Virgencita is.  Hence, not only it venerated Virgin Mary, in her portrayal of loneliness after the death of his son, but that also served as a hospital to serve Indians.  Natives who inhabited this neighborhood were dedicated to cultivate vine and raising sheep.

The chapel was demolished in the 1920s, and with its remains La Virgencita was built. According to people who knew the old temple, it was similar in size to San Luisito.  It was north of what is now the atrium of La Virgencita.  Its facade looked south, just like San Luisito too.  Among its rubble, was found an old document from the 19th century, which included a copy of the refounding of San Luis de la Paz in 1560.

La Virgencita shrine was built by the wish of Father Melquiades Perez, who also headed the construction of the Temple of San Francisco.  The design was carried out by the German engineer Gustavo Lesser Nolte, who arrived to town during the mining boom of Mineral de Pozos.  He designed it in German Gothic style, which makes it different from others, as well as its white color. The name of the temple is still related to Our Lady of Solitude, as this dedication to the mother of God is intimately connected with the prayer of the Three Hail Marys.

Its atrium had a renovation in the 1970s, during the governorship of Luis H. Ducoing Gamba.  It was elevated to a parish in 1996, motivated by the population growth of San Luis de la Paz, becoming the second one after San Luis Rey.  It materialized during the administration of Bishop Humberto Velasquez.  The first parish priest was Father Eusebio Pantoja.  Its festivity is celebrated on August 15.  A night before, the Virgin is exposed, and people leave letters making requests, so she takes them with her to heaven.


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