It’s January 14. This is the date El Cristo Negro is venerated in our village of Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca. The Black Christ has its origins in Guatemala. The figure played an important part of ceremonial ritual during the violent 30-year war against the Maya people there. Yet, pilgrims who have gone there from southern Mexico adopted this miraculous religious figure and brought it home. We know of men from Teotitlan del Valle, now adults in their fifties and sixties, who went on a pilgrimage to the Guatemala town that is the namesake for Escuipulas, when they were in their teens.
The veneration of various Jesus figures stems from the European images of Christ on the Cross that depicts his blackness. The spread from Guatemala to Mexico is attributed to the proselytizing work of one 17th century Catholic missionary.
So, today, I was drawn to the market, said to be one of the biggest of the year, to see what people were getting to pay tribute to the Black Jesus.
Poinsettias (Noche Buena) seemed to be the most popular flower, but I also saw lilies, sunflowers, and branches covered with thorny leaves and berries. Women’s shopping baskets were filled with candles, chocolate and bread. The practice will be to go visiting family members tonight with gifts of bread, chocolate and candles — much like during Dia de los Muertos.
I’ve come to learn that living here is always an opportunity for celebration and community connection.