Vacation Week: Concepción de Ataco
|Cobblestones, clay roof tiles, and murals add historic charm to Concepción de Ataco|
Coffee Stop above Lake Coatepeque
Experiencing the Energy at Tazumal
I have visited Ataco with several delegations over the years, and we have enjoyed staying in Ataco for a couple of family vacations. A few years ago, I wrote Off the Beaten Path: Concepción de Ataco, which gives a little overview and history of the town, as well as a profile of the boutique hotel where we stayed. Like many touristic locations in El Salvador, Ataco reveals a little more of its character and history with each successive visit.
|Hanging flowers add ambiance at Picolo Giardino restaurant.|
|Night view of the church from Ataco's central park|
|Garden courtyard at Casa Degraciela|
|Breakfast in the garden|
|Interior of Immaculate Conception of Mary Catholic Church|
The biggest change I remember to the church happened when I was a little boy. This was in the 1970's. There was a priest that came at that time, and he decided to change the facade of the church and make it white, like you see it now. I don't know why, but he took away the frescos that were there and there (he pointed to the arched insets on either side of the entrance). One was of St. Francis...
In the earthquake of January 2001, the church was very much destroyed. That happened on a Saturday. On Sunday we already had mass right here in the front, and very quickly the workers with iron and cement put up this galera (a covered space without walls) in front of the church. Everything was really broken. The roof in the front was broken. Thanks to the Franciscans from New York and Friar Rafael, and the people we were able to rebuild it...
Yes, the church is like it was before, but now there is rebar inside the walls. They drilled down and installed rebar so the walls are resistant to earthquakes now. We had mass and all the ministries outside under the gallery until the church was complete in 2003. Now we have taken down part of the gallery, so we just have this little section left. Oh (he added), that one tower is new. That was added in 2003.
|Immaculate Conception of Mary Catholic Church|
After learning about the church, we decided to walk to Calvary. Navigating a small town like Ataco is pretty straightforward. The main park is in the center, the parish church is on one side of the park, the mayor's office is on another side, and the streets are laid out in a grid. Walk from one church to another, and see what you can see. "Walking to Calvary" means "walk to the edge of town" and in Ataco, the church at the edge of town is actually named Calvary.
|Calvary Catholic Church|
|Watch out for the moto-taxis, especially during busy market times|
|It's hard to capture just how steep this hill is on the opposite side of town from Calvary. |
The coffee grown on the mountains surrounding Ataco is abundant and delicious.
On our last afternoon in Ataco, we stopped by this mural, which appears in many publications promoting tourism in the town. A small group of police officers was hanging out on the opposite corner, and the edge of Parque Fray Rafael Fernandez - the central park (remember, Friar Rafael was the parish priest who worked with Franciscans from New York to restore Ataco's parish church.) I asked the officers if they knew of a legend related to the big tree at the corner of the park. A long time ago, someone told me that it was called the "tree of the hanged ones." Supposedly, the name originated with a tale about a young women, abandoned by her suitor, who, in great despair, hung herself from the tree. The legend says that still today, mournful cries can sometimes be heard coming from near the tree, and jilted lovers linger beneath the tree in their sadness. Well, the officers had never heard anything about this story, and they laughed a little bit about learning something new from a tourist.
|Lovely Ataco, captured in a mural|
|Good night, Casa Degraciela.|