Sunday, February 10, 2019

A Haunting Image

Every once in awhile, a photograph will really speak to a person. One such photo, showing a church with steeple pointing toward Heaven, sang to John. Having seen countless steeples, what was hauntingly unique about this particular one was where it happened to be located. In a seemingly pastoral setting, this church, along with its steeple, lies beneath the frigid waters of a lake.

Not a common site - even for such travelers as Laureen and John. So the research began with a look into a small valley where, once upon another time, there was a village which no longer exists. Now nothing but a lake, a reservoir, was to be found, where once people laughed, played, loved, prayed, lived and died.

The lake but there's no church steeple to be seen
Since John and Laureen spend countless hours researching various topics for this blog, this photograph definitely grabbed their attention. A lost city beneath the waters of a lake sounded like something only Hollywood would imagine for theaters.

But, it turns out that many villages and towns have been obliterated by flooding waters for eons around the world. Shi Cheng in China,Vi Larinho das Furnas in Portugal, and even St. Thomas, Nevada (USA), just to name a few.

These villages did not fall victim to God-like floods that swept Noah and his family into immortality, but rather to human hubris, building dams and diverting rivers for their own needs.

In the early 1980's, then-President Carlos Andres Perez of Venezuela wanted to build a large reservoir to plan for any future droughts, as well as provide for a planned hydroelectric plant. So, off he flew in a helicopter until he spied the beautiful valley in northwest Venezuela being fed by a couple of rivers. He decided immediately that was where his Uribante Reservoir would be located. Forward thinking by the president since this region had periodic droughts throughout its history. Only one dilemma - twelve hundred people lived in the valley in a village called Potosi.

The church seen by John in the photograph which started us on this journey, belonged to this very same town.

President Perez didn't see a problem here. He simply ordered the people relocated. It didn't matter that their families had lived there for generations. It was a peaceful existence for the people of Potosi with home-lined streets, parks and active businesses. But the government wanted the reservoir more than they cared about the people living in a small village in the middle of nowhere.

Potosi's streets lined with simple homes

Citizens of Potosi socializing in the main square
The church of the lake
So in 1985, with all the residents moved out of the valley, the flooding began behind the Uribante Reservoir dam. Within a blink of an eye the entire town of Posoti was lost and only remained a memory for those who had been citizens of the now-flooded valley.

But nature has a way of undoing some of human's best laid plans. Those droughts that President Perez dreaded, reappeared after 26 years and the waters receded from the reservoir. The first thing that showed on the surface of the reservoir was the steeple of the village church. It was though the heavens were showing who was stronger - divine power over human will.

The reemergence of the church of Potosi 

Then again, perhaps it was just a natural occurrence of a drought once again plaguing the area of where the peaceful village of Potosi once stood. Whatever the true cause - the city reemerged from its watery grave like a specter. 

By 2010 the water was mostly gone and what remained was a village that disappeared nearly three decades earlier.

The church, albeit without walls and roof, is still standing proudly among the remnants of what once was Potosi. This includes the towns graveyard with tombstones toppled as though the dead had tried to escape the impending flooding.

The church of Potosi as it looks now

The graveyard - do soaked spirits walk the valley now?

What remains of the village of Potosi after 26 years submerged
The area is now open to those who want to travel and see a once forgotten and lost town. As of now it doesn't appear people will return to live but just to visit and possibly reminisce of what happened to a city when the government decided it stood in the way of progress.