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Posts Tagged ‘religious pilgrimages’

December seems to be el mes de las vírgenes (the month of the virgins) in Oaxaca.  Early this morning cohetes (rockets) and church bells announced the first of the month’s three virgin days; the feast day of la Virgen de Juquila.  And, this afternoon, on the Alameda in front of Oaxaca’s cathedral, a small procession gathered.

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According to legend, in 1633, when a fire burned the small Chatino village of Amialtepec to the ground, a small wooden statue of the Virgin Mary was rescued amidst the ashes.  She was undamaged, save for her light skin color, which was permanently darkened by the smoke, causing her to more closely resemble the Chatino people, who live in this remote mountainous region.  Local priests declared her survival a miracle and she has been venerated ever since.

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Alas, that wasn’t the end of the story; the priest in the village of Juquila convinced the “powers that be” that she should be moved to the bigger and better church in Juquila.  She, however, had other ideas and returned to Amialtepec.  This back and forth continued another three times.  Finally, in 1719, La Morenita (the dear dark one), as she had come to be known, gave up her traveling ways and agreed to call Santa Catrina Juquila her permanent home.

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The faithful make pilgrimages to both her old and new mountain homes (about four hours southeast of Oaxaca city).  They come year round on foot, on bicycle, and in all other manner of transport, to make offerings and pray for miracles, but especially during the days leading up to December 8.  October 8, 2014 marked her crowning achievement; in a grand ceremony, she received a papal coronation, joining her previously crowned (1909) Oaxaca sister, Nuestra Señora de la Soledad.

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No doubt, tomorrow I will be awakened, long before the crack of dawn, by the cracks and pops of cohetes (rockets — all bang no bling) and the seemingly non-stop clangs and bongs emanating from the bell towers of the countless churches that surround me in Oaxaca city’s historic district.  And, I’m sure, I will hear the sounds of a procession — December 8 is the feast day of the Virgin of Juquila (La Virgen de Juquila).

Man painting a banner on a flatbed truck

Flatbed truck on Constitución in Oaxaca city, Dec. 6, 2012.

According to legend, in 1633, when a fire burned the small Chatino village of Amialtepec to the ground, a small wooden statue of the Virgin Mary was rescued amidst the ashes.  She was undamaged, save for her light skin color, which was permanently darkened by the smoke, causing her to more closely resemble the Chatino people, who live in this remote mountainous region.  Local priests declared her survival a miracle and she has been venerated ever since and her image appears throughout Oaxaca.

An image of Juquila along highway 175.

Image of La Virgen de Juquila along highway 175.

In 1776, the Bishop had a new temple built for La Virgen de Juquila in the nearby, but larger, village of Santa Catarina Juquila.  Today, pilgrims continue to come, not just on her feast day, often making the arduous journey up into the mountains by bicycle or even on foot.  They go to La Capilla del Pedimento in Amialtepec to fashion images from its clay soil — replicas of wished for items (cars, houses, healed body parts, etc.) to lay at her feet.

La Virgen de Juquila painted on side of building

Side of a building in residential neighborhood of Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán, Oaxaca

According to this morning’s Noticias, the Archbishop of Antequera Oaxaca has called upon Catholics, as part of tomorrow’s feast day, to pray for reconciliation and peace in Oaxaca.  That’s a tall order.  The miracle of her survival has given La Virgen de Juquila the power to bestow miracles — such is the faith of her believers.  We shall see…

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