PÁTZCUARO, MEXICO — Atop the highest hill in this lakeside town sits the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Salud, built in the 1500s with whitewashed walls and red stone columns.
On a street around the corner from the basilica, a wooden door framed in carved stone and marked with a cross fleury stands open from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m., and again from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. “We pray for you,” reads a sign on the door in Spanish.
Inside, the room is sparse and dark save for a wooden window and three locked doors. Behind them is a convent, home to two dozen nuns of the Dominican Order.
But the convent also hosts an even larger number of very unexpected residents: a thriving colony of endangered salamanders. Scientists call them Ambystoma dumerilii, but the nuns and everyone else in Pátzcuaro call them achoques. [Photograph by Adriana Zehbrauskas]