Postcard from Antequera, Spain: Where women are not depicted as the weaker sex

Romans. Visigoths. Moors. Then Christians. As in Ronda, evidence of the waves of occupiers choosing to fortify a natural citadel in Andalucia remains in Antequera. Real Colegiata de Santa María la Mayor, an early (early 1500s) Renaissance church, dominates the hilltop with its Alacazaba fortress.

A replica of a 1760 float from the Corpus Christi processions parked near the front of the church is what stands out. Tarasca depicts a powerful woman, representing faith, conquering the seven deadly sins, symbolized by a snarling seven-headed dragon.

Then there are the faded murals on the church’s walls. Look closely. The Virgin Mary is not the only role model for young women here. The featured saints are all women. Women at war, leading Christian forces to victory.

And in the church of San Sebastian, there is a statue of a young woman gazing toward heaven. In her right hand, she bears a sword pointing downward to the head of a slain Moor at her feet.

Growing up with these images, are the women of Antequera particularly strident?

We lunched in a small restaurant patronized by locals that balanced things out by presenting the male side of the equation – the walls were covered with photos of matadors.

Postcard from Tlacochahuaya, Oaxaca, Mexico: The temple of the patron saint of librarians

Having heard about the ornate ceiling of the Templo of San Jeronimo in the small town of Tlacochahuaya, we tried to scare up a priest to unlock its doors more than 20 years ago. No luck.

Since its 1991 restoration, gaining admittance is no longer an issue – ten pesos at the door.

Construction of the stunning Dominican church and its relatively modest convent dedicated to Saint Jerome, the well-read patron saint of librarians, was begun in 1586 atop Zapotec ruins. Zapotec bats carved into the base of some of the gilded columns are among the few symbols slipped into the church by the priests’ indigenous helpers.

A magical organ, supposedly with a stop that mimics the sound of songbirds, was added to a new choir loft around 1725.

One of the traditional seven-pointed star piñatas was suspended in the middle of the courtyard of the ex-convent0, but this one bore banners dangling from each point. Our driver said those listed what are known as the seven deadly sins, including envy, gluttony and sloth. When the blindfolded (the blindfold symbolizing faith) batter shatters it on the first of the year, those temptations are knocked out of the forecast for the coming year. The goodies spilling out of the piñata represent bestowal of blessings of heaven.

Not sure what it means that these particular temptations remained intact even after Three Kings’ Day. A temptation-filled year ahead for residents of Tlacochahuaya?