Modernist Churches in Northern Mexico

Year Built – 1941-46, 1953
Architects – Enrique de la Mora e Ing. Armando Ravizé Rodríguez
Text and Photos – Stephen Fox
Basílica de la Purísima, Monterrey, 1941-46, Arq. Enrique de la Mora e Ing. Armando Ravizé Rodríguez

Although proponents of the Modern Movement in twentieth-century architecture mobilized the rationalist, instrumental discourse of modern engineering to justify functionalist architecture, they were not averse to Regionalism if treated as a method rather than a style. The Mexico City architect Enrique de la Mora demonstrated what form a modern Mexican regionalism might take when in 1941 he designed the first modern church built in Mexico, now the Basílica de la Purísima in Monterrey, completed in 1946. The parabolic profiles of the nave and transepts materialize the rationalism of modern concrete construction. But the rustic texture of the stone bell tower and the stone panels inset in the church’s concrete frame imbue la Purísima with a powerful Regionalist emotional charge.

The influence of la Purísima was visible in new parish churches constructed in border cities in the early 1950s. The population of Reynosa surged after the discovery of natural gas fields between 1944 and ‘49 and construction of a refinery there by Petroleos Mexicanos in 1951. Reynosa’s good fortune was manifest in the construction of a new church for the city’s oldest parish, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, dedicated in 1954. La Santísima Guadalupe reproduced the parabolic profile and stone-faced towers of la Purísima alongside the stone bell tower of the church’s mid-nineteenth-century predecessor.

Templo del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús, Matamoros, 1953

A new parish church, Sagrado Corazón de Jesús, was completed in Matamoros in 1953 facing Plaza Allende. It too paid homage to la Purísima.