Black Jesus

The story goes that in 1651 an Angolan slave, living just outside of Lima Peru and wholly converted to Catholicism, painted a mural of a black Jesus on a wall.

Murals were the thing then, for the poor and slaves (poor poor) to make because they became places for them the congregate and worship. This one was special however as it survived not one but two of Lima’s devastating earthquakes. Please note that Pisco, the epicenter of the August 2007 earthquake is still in complete shambles, surviving one is a big deal.  During the first earthquake, in 1655, everything was destroyed. Every house, every church, every structure except this one wall with the mural of the black Jesus. 

Later in 1670, a wealthy, sick (like the brain tumors kind of sick) man came to the black Jesus or Cristo Moreno. No doctors or shamans had been able to help him and he came in faith and desperation to Cristo Moreno asking to be healed. And he was. 

It was then that the authorities realized they might have some venerating to do. They went through the obligatory rigamaroll required for veneration and the first mass celebrating The Lord of the Miracles occurred in 1671. The first procession, as far as I can tell, was in 1687. Later, when it became associated with the Nazarenes, people dressed in purple to honor Nazarene sisters who worshipped the black Jesus. 

Having recently moved to Lima and knowing that October was the month of Cristo Moreno, I decided to start looking into some of these processions. There are 3 major ones, the largest on the 18th of October and then 10s of other much smaller processions all over the Lima area. A group of men from the local hermandad, dress in purple and carry the gigantic litter, with an image of Cristo Moreno, the real one remains permanently housed en La Iglesia de Las Nazarenas in downtown Lima. 

Here are some photos of the October 18th procession: 

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This thing was friggin HUGE! I have no way of judging the number of people but if you told me hundreds of thousands people were there I would believe you.

It was entirely and absolutely magical. People gathered in celebration, and also in humility begging for a miracle. I’m not used to the two. Either you’re solemn and reverent or joyous and powerful. But here, thousands of people got together for both the party and the reverence. It stopped in front of me to bless the school across the street and then it continued on to meet the thousand of others waiting. I don’t normally cry at Catholic events, but I cried for black Jesus.









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I thought the events ended in October, el mes morado,  but they keep on blessing the neighborhoods of Lima through November. I’ve gotten obsessed with them, looking for the litter, the music, people dressed in purple. And every time I think this black Jesus is really something. I like him. 

Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Aaron Brown says:

    After Thanksgiving ends, I’ll break out the nativity scene I purchased in Haiti last year (I visited as part of a Protestant mission trip). Black Joseph, Black Mary, Black wise men, Black Baby Jesus. (The sheep are white though). It’s pretty cool.

    I, too, think my black Jesus is really something. I don’t cry for him, though. Mainly, I make up stories about how such-and-such Prophet told such-and-such temple worker that Jesus was black, and then brag about how my figurines are thus more historically accurate than the Jesus-the-Viking portraits most Mormons hang on their walls.

    Last Christmas, the relatives were not amused.

    AB

  3. Well Jesus wasn’t white.

  4. Sharon in Tennessee says:

    “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”
    “Out of the abundance of the (heart) eye, the
    mouth speaketh”.
    “God looks to the HEART”.
    It is the Holy Ghost that produces the fruit
    of the spirit…..JOY, PEACE, TEMPERANCE,
    etc…….therefore…..we are filled with feelings and visions of the true heaven and
    what God is and looks like, as WE are filled
    with the TRUE spirit of the Lord, as our hearts are filled with UNCONDITIONAL LOVE for all mankind (includes our enemies)….and as we BECOME like Christ….
    THE MOST IMPORTANT thing to have and SEE in any countenance is LIGHT.
    THE MOST IMPORTANT thing to have and feel inside our hearts is LOVE…GODLY love !!!
    Bless us all in our journey in seeking Godly feelings and experiences in our journey to become like our Savior Jesus Christ.
    I KNOW He LIVES and LOVES us and died for our sins.Bless all my brothers and sisters out there
    all over the world.

  5. I like this black Jesus depiction more than the Greg Olsen Nordic version.

  6. Thanks for posting this. I hope by the Second Coming we will have gotten past the emphasis on looks and be focused more on the spirit.

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    Wonderful!

  8. Thanks, Amri. This was very nice.

    Since we, of all people, see ourselves in God and Sod in us, I love this type of representation.

  9. Rameumptom says:

    Reminds me of the several celebrations I experienced in Bolivia 30 years ago on my mission.

    The biggest one I saw was for the Virgin of Urkupina, in Quillacolla, a small town just outside of Santa Cruz. While the town had about 25,000 inhabitants, it swelled to hundreds of thousands for her annual celebration. Huge parade in the streets, with dancers from every part of Bolivia in their traditional clothes, and the Virgin being marched out for all to see.

    Afterward, she returns to the church, where the people stand in line to enter and pray. A room on the side has so many lit candles burning (from those who are finished praying, and leaving them), that the heat bends many of the candles over.

    The priest stood at the front, praying in a sing-song fashion. Several people knelt at the seats, some with half a dozen candles melting in their hands – one for each of their deceased loved ones.

    I innocently asked one woman what they were praying about. She asked me if I was a believer. I said I was a tourist. She told me I shouldn’t be in there as a non-believer, for the Virgin would curse me. I thanked her and moved away from her so as not to disturb her anymore.

    Definitely an experience I will not forget.

  10. StillConfused says:

    What is “litter”?

  11. #8 – “God in us” – not “Sod in us”

    Wow.

  12. A litter is sort of like a stretcher.

  13. #10, the litter is the thing that they carry that has the painting on it.

    The thing that amazes me is that blacks are currently a very very tiny part of the population but Cristo Moreno is the most important Catholic icon in all of Peru. And despite the fact that he was still a slave, and treated poorly, they whole-heartedly believed that he painted it under divine inspiration. From what I’ve read, even at the time, they believed he had divine inspiration.

    I’ve asked people at processions, taxi drivers, friends, and no one knows (or gets my question) where his power comes from. People still seek healing from him. Does Cristo Moreno have his own power? Does it come from Jesus? God? I don’t know.

    Regardless, I like him.

  14. In the philippines, there is a something similar “santo nino” a baby doll of baby Jesus purportedly from the days of Magellen. Once a gentleman in one of my areas was baptised because Sto. Nino visited him in a dream and took him on a tour of the Salt Lake Temple.

  15. david knowlton says:

    There is more to this story, according to the great Peruvian historian Maria Rostworowski. She argues there is a continuity between the ancient Lord of Pachacamac, from the Lurin Valley, just south of Lima, which was one of the major pilgrimage sites of the ancient Andes, to the Lord of Miracles, the black Jesus.

    In Cusco he is known as the Lord of Earthquakes and is the popular patron of the City.

    Blacks were an important part of the colonial presence in Peru, although the current Black population is small, and were critical intermediaries between the Indians and the Spaniards. They were not merely slaves. Their importance is recognized in many dances, such as the Morenada of Bolivia and Puno. And, they are recognized in the hybrid stories about the Lord of Miracles which bring together the Indian past and the Spanish reality.

    In January I will be at the feast of the Virgin of Copacabana to document her pilgrimage. Copacabana is matched in sacred antiquity with Pachacamac, the one on the coast and the one in the highlands.

    Andean popular religiosity fascinates me because of its richness, evident devotion, and distinctive spirituality. I first came across it during my mission in Bolivia and it just comes to be ever more fascinating as the years go by.

    Thanks for this Amri. I love it.

  16. Each of these stories seems to me to be a clue to the promises of eternity and God’s love. I know I am supposed to be LDS, I have had a personal witness of that. But perhaps others are meant for other religions. How, then, can we promote ourselves as the one true church? Just a question – I am not meaning to cast doubt on the restoration.

  17. Nora, have you considered that what you just said is peculiarly Mormon? Perhaps a large part of the Restoration was the effect the fundamental concepts would have on the rest of the world, much like the Spirit of Elijah inspiring millions of non-members to trace their family histories. I see more and more of our core doctrines popping up in other church’s teachings and practices continually, and I wonder.

  18. I hadn’t thought of it that way, Ray. Certainly you are correct about the Spirit of Elijah; I see that in my calling. Then perhaps we are all moving toward one focal point, even the folks in Amri’s procession. Are the missionaries actually converting people to gospel principles, then, and not just to the church? That would mean to me that any time they teach a lesson they are accomplishing their goal, not just when they baptize someone.

  19. One other thing that makes black Jesus so fantastically awesome? He’s changed fashion. So lots of middle aged women and men for several decades at least have worn plain purple smocks the whole month of October. Women wear them everyday, the men to any procession. Well, some women got tired of that and just wanted to wear purple anything so despite the fact that spring lines are out everywhere, every boutique, clothing shop, fancy or not has purple clothing. Very fashionable purple stuff for Cristo Moreno.

    I love it.

  20. And then there is this article.

  21. I love your descriptions and pictures, Amri! They remind me of the Easter week processions I saw in Ecuador when I lived down there. They wore purple robes too, but also wore white hoods (alarmingly kkk looking).

    Cristo Moreno is interesting. Thanks for this!

  22. I enjoyed reading this, too. It sounds like a very inspiring event. This sounds like a very lame comment, but seriously, it makes me want to be there.

  23. Rameumptom says:

    Nora, we believe that God gives to every nation and people the amount of truth they are willing and ready to receive (Alma 29:8). This means that all religions are inspired to a level of truth and light. Most are able to bring people to a level of salvation equal to the Terrestrial Kingdom.

    We offer the people higher truths, still. But we do not, nor should we, ignore the fact that there is truth and light in most religions, sent to bless people’s lives.

    David Knowlton, when did you serve in Bolivia? I guess it must be in the La Paz mission, as you mentioned the Virgin of Copacabana? I served in the Santa Cruz mission 1978-80. The Virgin of Copacabana is a major saint, however the virgin of Guadalupe in Sucre is equally impressive. She is made of solid gold, with hundreds of precious jewels on her. I’d estimate her value in materials alone at over $50 million. And she’s been around for centuries. On his way to victory, Simon Bolivar stopped and placed his gold watch on her as a prayer for victory in pushing out the Spaniards.

    Gerald Smith

  24. What a beautiful celebration.

  25. REPENT FOR THE KINGDOM IS AT HAND!!

  26. CONSEQUENCES says:

    YOU ARE BANNED, SPAMMER!

  27. Applelonia says:

    This a true pic the real Jesus.

  28. For we walk by faith, not by sight….
    We were all created in his image.
    http://www.colorhimlove.com

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