It's October 18, and today marks a very special day in Peruvian culture. It is the main date of the celebration of Lima's patron saint el Senor de los Milagros (the Lord of Miracles). For hundreds of years the image of a black crucified Christ has been marched through the streets of downtown Lima, and Peruvian communities abroad have brought this tradition with them to their new cities.
This past Sunday, October 16, the Peruvian community of New York City celebrated this religious tradition with a procession of its own through the streets of midtown Manhattan.
Just as in Peru, faithful Catholics follow the procession at a slow pace to the beat of a marching band. For those who are not familiar with this celebration, the image of life size Christ in agony adorned with silver, gold, and flowers can have a powerful presence, some shy away, and some non believers laugh. No matter what, the Peruvian followers walk looking at the image of Christ with their heads high, praying for better health and a better tomorrow.
I payed my respects this Sunday, and was there praying for my family and to thank for my blessings. For me this procession is moving, there's so much attached to it, it's not just religion, it's a connection to my roots, an experience that brings me closer to my country of birth, the place I haven't been to for over sixteen years.
I grew up with this, I loved smelling incense in the air, and seeing the push and shove of the people trying to get close to the image. In Lima, over half a million people follow the procession from start to end, which runs some eighteen hours on both October 18 & 19; that is one large group of passionate people.
With so much going on in the world, Lord knows we all need something to believe in, something to make us feel that things will be alright. For the poor people of Peru this has been their strength, their hope for a better way of life.
For more information on this festival, please visit my post on the history of the Lord of Miracles here.