Posts Tagged ‘Black Christ’

As promised, the fireworks on Sunday night at Templo del Carmen Alto celebrating Señor de Esquipulas were, indeed, espectacular!  But, you may be asking, “Who is he and why does he deserve such celebration and veneration?”

Esquipulas refers to a town in Guatemala where, prior to the arrival of the Spanish, the peoples of Mesoamerica worshiped the god Ek Chua.  After the Conquest, in 1594, Quirio Cataño was commissioned to carve a sculpture of Jesus on the cross for Esquipulas.  Legend has it that Cataño used dark wood so that it looked more like the indigenous residents of the area.  Another version of the story has the sculpture turning dark overnight to “please the children from the village of Esquipulas.”  However, during a recent restoration of the image it was determined that it was centuries of smoke from candles and being touched by the faithful that turned the original light wood, dark.

Señor de Esquipulas during the Procession of Silence, Good Friday 2013

Señor de Esquipulas from Templo Carmen Alto, Oaxaca — Procession of Silence, Good Friday 2013

Various miracles have been attributed to Señor de Esquipulas and pilgrims descend on the small Guatemalan village from Central America and Mexico to venerate the Black Christ.  He has a long reach and replicas have been commissioned in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Mexico, Nicaragua, and even as far away as Venezuela for the faithful to worship.

I’m not sure how Carmen Alto in Oaxaca came to house a Señor de Esquipulas, but it does and they go all out celebrating.  Processions and special masses have been held during the week.  However, the big festival day is January 19 and it began with early morning rockets at 6 AM — Alegres mañanitas in honor of the Señor de Esquipulas.   The eucharist was celebrated at 7 AM, 8 AM, and 12 PM — the latter “For the peace of the world and for all the infirmed.”  Cultural events were held during the day and there was another eucharist at 7 PM.  Following the evening eucharist, Señor de Esquipulas was carried through the streets of the parish, accompanied by a band, monos, and believers.

Once they returned to Carmen Alto’s courtyard, it was “torito” time.  The little bull holding up part of the castillo-under-construction in my last blog post, was ready to take center stage.  Encircled by a brave crowd, for twenty to thirty minutes he danced and ran around the plaza spewing sparks at those in the line of fire.

Next up was two castillos, multi-story structures wired for a major sensory experience — light, sound, and much welcome heat, on a chilly night.  Peace seemed to be a theme this year, with wheel appendages spelling out, “Violence no more” and “All united for peace.”  This year there was even a prerecorded soundtrack.  A young couple, on a cycling trip from Vancouver to Argentina, recognized it as music from a movie that I hadn’t heard of — however, they seemed quite surprised and delighted.

The flaming tops of each castillo eventually spun off into the night, as a fabulous fireworks display lit up the sky.

The show put on for Señor de Esquipulas was spectacular!

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Beware, anyone in the vicinity of Carmen Alto church tonight…

There’s going to be some major fireworks!!!

Oaxaca is celebrating the Black Christ, Señor de Esquipulas.

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Sunday, in the Plazuela de Carmen Alto, celebrations honoring the Christ of Esquipulas (Black Christ) were in full swing. I was awakened at 6 AM to the sound of fuegos artificiales (fireworks) and eventually drifted off to sleep after 11:30 PM, as fireworks’ explosions resumed.

Festivities lasted all day and I couldn’t resist heading up to the church courtyard to see what was happening.

When I arrived, seats in the shade were filled and a small crowd was gathered behind a barricade; a castillo, laying on its side in three parts, was being constructed; a teenage Oaxacan brass band, with the requisite tuba towering over the other instruments and their players, was waiting to play; and young dancers were performing with a combination of earnestness and joy.

Skirts flying

Dance always seems to be an integral part of celebrations both secular and religious, and, in reflecting on my love for this, at times, perplexing and contradictory place, dance is one of the things that resonates the most.

Piña Dancers

A small stage set up under the trees; dancers, their handmade and unique costumes; energetic music; choreographed steps passed down through generations spirited me back to my childhood…

Mom and me

Let’s dance!

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