Lima's Lord Of Miracles
Imagine a dark-skinned Christ, painted on a wall by an Angolan slave during the Spanish Viceroyalty. Imagine a wooden platform covered with silver and gold, weighting over a ton. Imagine a procession of hundreds of thousands of devotees, all dressed in purple habits. If you can, you've probably been in Lima during October, the mystical month. That's when the city's patron, the Señor de los Milagros -or Lord of Miracles-, is celebrated. The largest procession in the whole South America, it congregates devotees from all over the country.
The origins of the Lord of Miracles date back to the mid XVII century (probably between 1650 and 1651), during the Spanish Viceroyalty. An anonymous Angolan slave painted a dark-skinned Christ on the wall of a humble plot in the Pachacamilla ranch, near Lima. At the time a non-white Christ was considered heretic, but notwithstanding the furious attempts by the Spanish ecclesiastical hierarchy to erase it, the image resisted. The devotion for the image boosted in 1655, when a massive earthquake demolished every building in the proximities, but not that wall.
During the whole month of October, known as the mes morado -or purple month, due to the Patron's colours- minor observations are celebrated. The main event though, a colossal procession, is reserved for the 18th. Hundreds of thousands of devotees, wearing their purple habits, sing and pray while accompanying the image on its 24-hour route from the Nazarenas temple to La Merced church, in the historic yet weary Barrios Altos district.
The wooden portable platform that holds the image is completely covered with silver and gold, and weights more than a ton. It is carried out on shoulders by groups of loaders, organized in cuadrillas (teams) according to shoulder size and height. Nowadays there are 20 cuadrillas, such as the "Pachacamilla Christ Brotherhood" or the "Loaders of the Canopy". During the first procession, some 300 years ago, only eight loaders were needed to hold the platform; today, more than thirty strong men are needed.
Traditional sweets and food can be purchased from vendors along the path of the procession, in particular the Turrón de Doña Pepa, a soft nougat candy made almost only during October.
During October and November, the Señor de los Milagros bullfighting season takes place in Lima's Plaza de Acho (1768), one of the oldest bullrings in the Americas. Known as the Feria Taurina del Señor de los Milagros, it gathers the most prestigious bullfighters of America and Spain, who compete for the Escapulario de Oro (golden scapular).
This year the traditional bullfighting season celebrates its 60th anniversary, and celebrates it with eight dates: four bullfights, one rejoneo (bullfights from horse-back), two novilladas (bullfights with young bulls), and a gala festival. Some 10 renowned matadors will participate, including Julián López "El Juli", Enrique Ponce, Luis Francisco Esplá, and Finito de Córdoba.
About the Author: Journalist, impenitent traveller, and aficionado cook, Ferrer is founder of http://www.ThePeruGuide.com, and its Lima Restaurant and Nightlife editor.