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Villagers bulldoze historical church in the night

Tlaxcala, Mexico – Mexican officials have filed a criminal complaint after villagers in the central state of Tlaxcala destroyed a historical chapel.

The bulldozed chapel, the Chapel of Holy Christ, was from the 1700s. The incident happened late Saturday and into early Sunday.

Arturo Balandrano, head of the historical monuments for the National Institute of Anthropology and History, said he does not know why the locals of San Pablo del Monte demolished the Chapel of Holy Christ.

“We don’t understand how a community that is eminently Catholic, that traditionally follows the rites of the Catholic Church, could have committed this barbaric act,” Balandrano said.

Local media quoted villagers as saying the chapel “was falling apart” and describing it as “not that old.”

Like most churches in Mexico, it is state property and is ceded temporarily to the Catholic Church to use for religious celebrations. Destroying a church, or any other historic monument, is a punishable crime that can include prison terms from three to 11 years, Balandrano explained.

With 110,000 historic monuments and buildings to look after, authorities didn’t discover what had happened until it was too late, and the chapel had been bulldozed flat and the rubble cleared, he said.

The one-story Chapel of Holy Christ was originally built during colonial times by the Franciscan order and added on to in the 19th and 20th centuries. The church had a simply façade, two bell towers and an arched nave. The church stood in front of a much larger, newer church that residents built about a decade ago.

Balandrano said the chapel was not big enough for the community’s religious needs, but he denied it was falling down. “It was a solid building that wasn’t at risk. It had some small cracks, as all historic buildings have, but it wasn’t structurally at risk.”

Raul Delgado, who heads the historic site protection for the National Arts Council, expressed dismay at the chapel’s destruction. Mexican towns and villages typically protect such simple but stately old historic structures fiercely, he said. “This is unheard of.”

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