"Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle."
- Paulo Coelho
& The Historical Jesuit Vineyard
Seated on the edge of the Urique Canyon is an idyllic village called Cerocahui. First contacted by outsiders in 1679, Jesuit Padre Pecoro arrived and quickly realized the Raramuri peoples were not interested in his faith. That didn’t stop Father Juan Maria de Salvatierra from pushing forward with his ambitious plans within the year. Arriving on November 23, 1680, (four years before he set-off for Urique), Father Salvatierra not only began his religious teachings of Christ, but also began construction of the misison church. He remained in the Urique Canyon region for ten years before leaving to found the Church at Loreto – the first mission of Baja California.
In 1767, political strife between the Jesuits and the King of Spain resulted in the closure of the mission in Cerocahui. The Jesuits were given one month with which to vacate the area, returning to Spain. It wasn’t until 1936 when the Jesuits returned. Padre Andres Lara is credited with founding Cerocahui. In 1940, he began restoration work on the crumbling church. In 1941, Padre Lara founded the Tarahumara Indian Girls Boarding School, which is still open today. He was also responsible for the first road between Bahuichivo and Cerocahui, which was completed in the 1950’s.
Father Lara died in Guadalajara in 1976 and was buried in Sisoguichi. On March 11, 1997 his remains were repatriated to Cerocahui, and interred within the walls of the mission church that was so dear to him.
Today, Cerocahui remains a small and relatively isolated village of about 900 inhabitants.
THE EXPULSION OF JESUITS FROM CEROCAHUI, AND THE GRAPES THEY LEFT BEHIND
Local wine may not be what one expects, when arriving in the village of Cerocahui, and yet we owe thanks to 16th century Jesuits for introducing grapevines to the region, among other European plants they introduced to the Raramuri.
Founded by Ignatius of Loyola of Spain in 1534, the Jesuits were perfectly positioned to attain wealth and power quickly, due to their emergence coinciding with the advancement of the Protestant Church. With the promise of chastity, poverty and the self-sacrificing and unconditional vow to obey the Pope’s orders, along with a membership that was comprised of the intellectual and elite, the Jesuits were entrusted by the Roman Catholic Church to evangelize the colonies.
As society moved forward, and Monarchs worked to modernize, centralize and secularize society, the Jesuits became a threat and obstacle to progress due to their worldwide presence in correlation with autonomy through the papacy. Across Europe, following the French Revolution, the Jesuits began to endure widespread suppression, which included not only their expulsion from the colonies – but also the confiscation of their estates and possessions.
On March 27, 1767, King Charles III of Spain issued an edict, expelling the Jesuits from Mexico. He wrote: “Motivated by grave causes related to my obligation to maintain my people in subordination, tranquility and justice, as well as other urgent, just and necessary reasons that I reserve to my Royal self: I have decided to order removed from all my dominions in Spain and the Indies, and the Philippine Islands and adjacent dominions, all members of the Company of Jesus…”
As the forlorn but obedient Jesuits embarked on their arduous and difficult journey to the port of Veracruz, where they would set sail for exile in Italy, the grapevines of Cerocahui were ordered destroyed. With a spring-like climate maintaining perfect conditions for the health of grape-vines, it’s a blessing that someone from the Jose Maria Sanchez family saved some cuttings and secretly planted them behind the family casa. These vines were protected for centuries until the last Sanchez passed on 25 years ago, leaving behind no descendants.
As fate would have it, the gardener who had worked for Sanchez and the Mision Hotel in Cerocahui knew the red grape was not only an Old World Heirloom species, but that it was dying. Planting cuttings from the vine, the gardener saved the vine, and a few short years later, The Mision has been producing Vinto Tinto ever since.
“When one tastes the Mision wine of Cerocahui, one tastes the mountains, the rivers, the flora and fauna of the Canyons. The wine is part of the history, mystery and magic of the region infused with memories of Old Spain, Jesuit missionaries, Tarahumara Indians and generations of Jose Maria’s familia who preserved this bouquet of life for us to enjoy today.” - The Mision Hotel
Into the Lands of the Raramuri (Tour)