The 17th-century church in Chiapas. The 17th-century church in Chiapas.

Dropping water levels reveal hidden church

The Nezahualcóyotl reservoir is down 25 meters, revealing 17th-century ruins

Record drought conditions in southeastern Mexico have been affecting farmers for some time now, but the lack of rain has had another effect on a reservoir in Chiapas: an old church has been seen rising from the water.


It is not a religious apparition but the effect of dropping water levels at the Nezahualcóyotl reservoir on the Grijalva River, an area that was flooded with the building of the Nezahualcóyotl dam in the 1960s, covering villages, towns and archaeological sites.

It was the second time since the dam’s completion in 1966 that water levels have dropped enough to reveal the colonial-era ruins of the town formerly known as Quechula.

The town — and part of the territory of the Zoque people— and its church were built by Dominican friars led by Bartolomé de las Casas in the mid-1600s.

The town’s relative importance was derived from its location on the King’s Highway, a road designed by Spanish conquistadors and still in use until the 20th century.

“It was a church built with the thinking that this could be a great population center, but it never achieved that,” said architect Carlos Navarrete, who worked with Mexican authorities on a report about the structure.

“It probably never even had a dedicated priest, only receiving visits from those from larger towns nearby.”


“A plague afflicted the nascent town between 1773 and 1776,” he recalled, after which it was all but abandoned.

The Nezahualcóyotl reservoir has dropped 25 meters this season, making it the second lowest drop since 2002.

That year, water levels were low enough that curious visitors could walk inside the church’s structure.

Fisherman Leonel Mendoza recalled that people were drawn to the ruins of the church at the time: “They celebrated. They came to eat, to hang out, to do business. I sold them fried fish. They did processions around the church.”

In recent days, besides fishing on the reservoir, Mendoza has been ferrying curious passengers drawn to the rare spectacle of the recently emerged ruins.

Source: SIPSE (sp)

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  • chmarr walcott

    this type of stuff i like.

    where i live there was a dam built, it covered an entire town, a road, 5 bridges, phone boxes and a post box.

    this year the reservoir was drained as the dam needed major works on it and when the water was draining they watched buildings creep up out the water, the bridges still in one peice and most of all the phone box still had the phine and glass in it, but the biggest surprise was the road … it was still usible and was in very much great condition.
    something that was covered in water for 70 years was still usible and the post box ….. it was still red … abet a rusty red.
    they could walk down the road and enter the roofless buildings which were structuraly sound and was the bridgies.

    • Tony Perez Tsoukatos

      Wow! Sounds really awesome man 😛
      I would love to see something like that :3

    • Patrick Joseph-Louis Leclerc

      Where was this? Sounds amazing!

  • knowsbolos

    they don’t build them like that any more..lots of years under water…and still ..look at the awesome detail that remains on this beautiful structure!

  • Shirley R

    Sad to say, but in Texas, a reservoir was built and covered a cemetery. Why no one moved the graves has always been a mystery to me. What a lack of respect for those buried there.

    • Ludovicah

      TBH I never heard of a cemetery being moved to accommodate a reservoir, certainly in the UK theyre left where they are. I dunno that its disrespectful.. at least they get to rest in peace without disturbance

    • phoenixkevin

      Are you referring to Falcon Lake?

      Generally, until recent times ~1980’s, nothing was removed from the prospective “lake bed” – not trees, houses or other obstructions. The idea, I think, was that they provided “cover” and “reefs” for fish.

      There are “lost towns” under several lakes in the western US, complete with buildings (such as they now are) and cemeteries. Including Falcon Lake that I mentioned.