It sounds like something out of a gothic story or a fantasy novel, but it’s real: the ruins of a magnificent 16th-century temple have just emerged from the bottom of a Mexican river. Unfortunately, though, neither magic nor mysticism were responsible. It was drought.
In the southern Mexico state of Chiapas, the Nezahualcoyotl reservoir was first created in 1966 by the damming of the Grijalva river. Although the dam had positive impact on the region, it also had the unfortunate side effect of drowning the ruins of the Temple of Quechula, a 183-foot long, 42-foot wide, and 30-foot tall building. That’s pretty tall, but usually, it’s fully covered by the reservoir waters.
Luckily, the Temple was abandoned hundreds of years before, in the great plagues of 1773 to 1776. It doesn’t look like it was ever widely used, either. According to architect Carlos Navarete, speaking to the AP, the church was built in 1564, and probably never got a lot of traffic. “It was a church built thinking that this could be a great population center, but it never achieved that,” Navarrete said. “It probably never even had a dedicated priest, only receiving visits from those from Tecpatan.”
With waters having dropped almost 82 feet this year at the reservoir, the Temple of Quechula has now slowly emerged from the waters once again. It appears that a brisk trade has opened up by local fishermen, who have started ferrying curious tourists out to the once-sunken temple.
It’s only the second time since 1966 that the temple has emerged from the waters. The Temple of Quechula previously made an appearance in an even worse drought in 2002, where the water was so low that visitors could actually walk into the church, and perform processions and religious ceremonies.