House of Luis Cantón Marín – Izamal, Mexico - Atlas Obscura

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House of Luis Cantón Marín

A house mixing elements of Chinese and Mexican architecture stands as a tribute to the Chinese-Mexican bishop who lived here. 


Monsignor Luis Miguel Cantón Marín was born in Progreso either in 1937 or 1938, son of Luis Cantón Mas (who was born in China, and whose paternal surname is likely based on what is still the most common Spanish name of the city of Guangzhou) and Florencia Marín Sánchez. Following his mother’s death, he was sent as a boy to study in Mexico City, and after returning to Progreso, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1964.

Initially based in that port city, he soon moved to Izamal, living in this house. It is unclear whether it coincidentally already featured the Chinese architectural details or these were added based on his ancestry. By the 1980s, his path would lead to the state of Chiapas, being named the head of the Diocese of Tapachula by Pope John Paul II.

During the 1990 Papal visit to Mexico, John Paul II was due to visit Chiapas, with Cantón and other members of the local Church assisting. On the 10th of May, one day before his arrival, the airplane carrying Cantón and 39 other people (most passengers being Clergy) from Tapachula crashed on its approach to the airport of the state capital Tuxtla Gutiérrez. Cantón and 23 others died in the crash.

The next day, the Pope paid tribute to Cantón in the Cathedral of Tapachula. Nowadays, he is also memorialized with a plaque outside his Izamal house, which can be found underneath a large carambola or starfruit tree, another connection to East Asia. In addition to his name, that of Florencia Marín Izaleña can be found on the dedication. Due to the similarity between her name and that of Cantón’s mother, it is likely she was both the sponsor of the plaque and a relative.

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