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Templo y Convento del Carmen Alto — Oaxaca City, Oaxaca

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Colonial Church     (G)
Originally the site of an Aztec temple, the Spanish built a small chapel here in the mid 1500s. The Carmelites took the chapel over in 1699, replacing it with a church, their own side chapel, and a monastery, enclosing it all behind a high stonewall, creating a sprawling complex several city blocks in size, the entire complex completed in 1751 still standing today.

Tucked away in a shaded courtyard, the church and side chapel are accessible through two thick gateways, one opening onto García Vigil street to the west, the other opening onto the narrow Plazuela del Carmen Alto to the south. The main portal to the church is covered by an arcaded portico, or narthex, which is standard for Carmelite churches. (The only other narthex can be found covering the main portal to the Los Siete Príncipes church.) As for the interior, it has undergone several renovations, with most of its original furnishings and ornamentation having been stripped out and replaced long ago.

The church and monastery followed the strict racial caste system of New Spain, allowing only persons born in Spain, gachupines, or of pure Spanish descent, criollos, to reside or worship there, while people of pure indigenous and mixed ancestry, indios and mestizos, were segregated to the Carmen Bajo church, four blocks to the south.

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