Very Rev. Fr. Sasoon Krikor Zumrookhdian blessing the khachkars, “Glorieta del Jachkar” [Khachkar Traffic Circle], Paníndicuaro, Michoacán, April 22, 2023 (photo Carlos Antaramián)

First Khachkars in Mexico Inaugurated for the 108th Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide


PANINDICUARO, Mexico — On Saturday, April 22, 2023, as part of the 108th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, three khachkars [cross stones] were inaugurated in a roundabout (traffic circle) in the town of Panindícuaro, in the state of Michoacán, located in central-western Mexico.

A close-up of one of the khachkars

Under the patronage of Jack and Diamandula Sahakian and their family, the khachkars were made in the town of Tlalpujahua – also in the state of Michoacán – by the master craftsman Rigoberto, and starting on this Saturday, they have become the first to be exhibited in a public space in Mexico.

Jack Sahakian at left, with Carlos Antaramián, “Glorieta del Jachkar” [Khachkar Traffic Circle], Paníndicuaro, April 23
The Armenian community in Michoacán is very small. In addition to the Sahakian family in Morelia, the state capital, there is also part of the Antaramián family in that city, the family of Alain Avakian (Armenians from France) in Uruapan, and the family of the Ethiopian-born Armenian painter Vatche Guevdjelian in Erongaricuaro, near Lake Pátzcuaro. So in this state, the Armenians do not exceed 15 people in number. The vast majority of Armenians living in Mexico are in Mexico City, Tijuana, Acapulco and Querétaro, as well as scattered throughout the rest of the country, always in very small numbers. We can estimate that today there are between 2,500 and 3,000 Mexican Armenians, but none live in Panindícuaro.

Then why in this town were three khachkars installed? Jack Sahakian tells me that the reason has been his friendship with Mayor Manuel López Menéndez, who has invited him to invest in the town, which has around 18,000 inhabitants. And also because he has been coming to this place for many years and has always enjoyed its climate and the warmth of its people. In addition, his father Sarkis Sahakian (who died in August 2016) accompanied him when he made business visits and sat in the Central Plaza where he observed the broken church clock. Sarkis remarked that he would provide the necessary support for the clock to be fixed – a project that, despite the fact that Sarkis is no longer with us, his son will carry out very soon. Also, the khachkars are like the Armenians: they settle in remote places that seem isolated from the rest of the world, but they always carry the Armenian culture in their hearts, like the symbols of eternity that the cross stones have at their center.

Indeed, a part of the history of the Armenian diaspora has been the construction of churches or khachkars in places that might seem far from everything. In Swaziland, Singapore, Madras (India), Dhaka (Bangladesh) and Gherla (Romania), among many other places, Armenian churches testify to the Armenian presence. Khachkars also accompany the dispersion of the Armenians. There are 30 khachkars in France, others in Madrid, Sydney, various cities in South America, and in many other places around the world. Now we can add to this list three beautiful khachkars in Panindícuaro, the first ones in Mexico.

The inauguration was attended by the ambassador of Armenia in Mexico, Armella Shakaryan, by Very Rev. Fr. Sasoon Krikor Zumrookhdian, representing the Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, the Consul of Armenia in Michoacán Jack Sahakian, the federal deputy for the state of Michoacán Berenice Juárez Navarrete, the president of the World Lebanese Cultural Union Nabih Chartouni, the mayor of Panindícuaro Manuel López Menéndez and his council, in addition to General Alfredo Ortega Reyes, Secretary of Public Security in the area.

Very Rev. Fr. Sasoon Krikor Zumrookhdian with some students from public schools in Panindícuaro, (photo Carlos Antaramián)

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Before blessing the khachkars, Father Sasoon asked the nearly 150 attendees, students from various schools and the general public, to see these cross stones as a “living monument to the saints of the 1915 Armenian Genocide.” It is important to note that in 2015 the martyrs of the genocide were sanctified, so now the Armenian Church considers that those massacred during the genocide no longer need requiem masses but are already contemplating the grace of God, for which they already can intercede for the faithful. This was made known by telling the audience that “these million and a half saints will intercede for you on Judgment Day,” and the khachkars “will be silent witnesses for centuries and an undeniable sign that the Armenians live and prosper in these lands.”

A few steps from the glorieta (traffic circle), and as an anticipatory symbol, there is a funeral agency with the name of San Judas Tadeo (Sourp Tadevos or Saint Thaddeus), the evangelizer of Armenia. The cult of this saint was introduced in Mexico in the ’40s of the 20th century, and since then it has been expanding, perhaps becoming one of the most popular saints in the country. This is a saint representing the union of Mexico and Armenia.

Paníndicuaro is a small town with a high migration rate, however, it has ample potential to become an axis of industrial and commercial development. It is located at the foot of a highway that connects Mexico City with Guadalajara. Less than an hour away is the area of ​​town of Tequila, producer of the most famous Mexican elixir. Also an hour away, towards the town of Uruapan, is the most important area in the world in avocado production. Strawberries are produced in this region, and Michoacán is the main producer in the country, so perhaps in a few years the town will attract large investors. What is undeniable is that it is already on the map of the Armenian diaspora.

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