After 2 years of intense restoration work and an investment of nearly 20 million MXP, the Pame temple of Santa Maria Acapulco was put into operation again in the Mexican entity of San Luis Potosi. The temple was struck by lightning in July 1st 2007, setting fire to the palm roof.

The Colonial monument is part of the Franciscan Mission Route founded in Sierra Gorda, San Luis Potosi, an architectural jewel and the civic and religious center of Pame people, which gathers in Santa Maria Acapulco a strong, collaborative community that conserves its traditions.

These actions rescue the historical building as well as intangible heritage integrated by countless customs involving the Pame temple.

The National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) has provided specialists and resources for its attention. Work has been carried on by Santa Maria community and its traditional government, Santa Catarina Municipal authorities, San Luis Potosi State Government and Comision Nacional para el Desarrollo de los Pueblos Indigenas (National Commission for Indigenous People Development).

The lateral altarpiece dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe was reproduced by Cuauhtemoc Soto, a renowned specialist in Mexico, which has been already handed over to the community.

Ten 18th century polychrome wooden sculptures were rescued from fire by inhabitants and restored by INAH specialists. Part of the furniture and 17th and 18th documental files were also intervened.

Regarding architectural tasks, structure was consolidated; doors and windows were substituted with mesquite wood; floor was replaced, as well as altars and the characteristic double-slop roof covered with palm leaves.

Restoration work at Santa Maria Acapulco is coordinated by restorer Renata Schneider Glantz from INAH National Coordination of Cultural Heritage Conservation (CNCOP) and Begoña Garay Lopez, architect from San Luis Potosi INAH Center.

Renata Schneider explained that after the fire, INAH has conducted 5 work seasons, attending aforementioned aspects under 3 lines of action: the first one referred to areas of the building that could be recovered.

The second line related to movable goods saved by inhabitants, such as documents, sculptures, furniture and clothing. The third one focused on the reproduction of completely lost objects.

She remarked that mural painting was the element that represented the hardest work. Most of the interior paintings have been consolidated, and the ones at two pilasters at the facade are to be finished during 2010.

The structure of the façade was also intervened to rehabilitate collapsed lintels; its decoration is in process, presenting a 90 per cent advance. A lightning rod was placed outside to prevent future disasters.

The restorer indicated that the decision of reproducing lost items was made collegially, based on specialists’ opinion, who pointed out regulations to be followed. Material similar to original has been used to reproduce and restore elements.     

Architect Begoña Garay explained that the roof’s attention took one year and a half, beginning with wood cutting in October 2007; 600 tropical trees were chopped down with authorization of the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources.

During 2008 the wood was prepared and the roof’s collocation, including the palm leaves cover, was finished in July 2009.
Schneider remarked that all work counted on with the support of the community. She referred that previous work conducted by INAH at the temple was crucial for the rescue; registration and inventory of pieces, including photos and cards with their characteristics were finished by the time of the disaster. Pieces had insurance, which has been used to finance work.

Renata Schneider concluded saying that restoration is planned to be finished in 2010. A management plan is being designed to allow conservation of the temple, which includes workshops to inform community how to take care of its heritage.