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:
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.
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.