October 30, 2020

Indigenous zoques venerate dark-skinned Christ in the Mexican town of Oxolotán

Indigenous zoques venerate dark-skinned Christ in the Mexican town of Oxolotán

Among leaves of pepper, wildflowers and aromatic essences, indigenous Zoques cleaned, clothed and venerated this Friday the dark-haired Christ of the mountain range of Tacotalpa, in the southeastern Mexican state of Tabasco.

A syncretic tradition, Mayan and Hispanic, which has been celebrated for five centuries on the sixth Friday of Lent.

With wine and blessed oil, the faithful followers witnessed the millennial ritual where they took down the Christ of the Holy Sepulcher, stripped him naked and meticulously checked his miraculous signs (signs).

The parish priest of the Church of Oxolotán said that in previous years the Christ of the Holy Sepulcher foreshadowed floods and earthquakes, but said that for this year he predicted an abundant harvest accompanied by drought.

"The Lord gives us a sign of seeds, pollen and means that there are probably harvests, although the drought is strong, and the pious and humble people recognize these signs," Flavio Cruz of Oxolotán told Efe on Friday.

Some 60 legionaries participated in the ritual and only four mayordomos were appointed to clean it and change its shroud with cotton specks and essences.

At the end of the Mass the Catholic parishioners made a long line inside the compound to ask for their blessing and beg for health.

"Upon reaching his feet, every person who comes with that faith in his heart is completely healed, he is a doctor to whom many people from different parts of the country have come to visit him," explained Santos Vázquez, president of the legionaries committee.

While the veneration was taking place, a contingent of pilgrims arrived in the afternoon to continue with the ritual that concluded with the return of the Christ and the placement of the coffin, which will not be opened until next year.

With bouquets of basil, mint, roses, carnations, rosemary and candles, the faithful attended on crutches and in wheelchairs in search of a miracle for their health.

"He helped me get out of bed, to endure pain and sometimes sadness, he gives me strength, so I feel it in my heart," affirmed the believer Asunción Izquierdo.

The image of the dark Christ of the burial saint, also called the Lord of Oxolotán or Emmanuel del Santo Sepulcro, was brought by the order of the Spanish conquerors around 500 years ago, a veneration that grew after the arrival of the Spaniards in 1519.

The image is made of wood covered with cane paste.

History tells that abandoned by the Dominicans in 1546, during the Catholic evangelization in Mexico.

The procession or ritual begins when they take it out to the holy burial of its urn-a wooden box-and then clean it with cotton and special essences with centenary rites.

When they take it out of the box, only the oldest men in the village can touch it, young women have no access to the rite nor can they manipulate it.

The exact origin of the religious image has not been confirmed, but local historians maintain that it was brought from Spain during the colonization.

The veneration of the dark haired Christ began 35 years after the order of the Dominicans arrived.

For the local historian Efrén Ordóñez Capetillo, his worshipers consider this patronal feast to be very important, much more than that of the patron saint of Santo Domingo in the town's temple.

The image remains hidden all year round in a wooden box, wrapped with purple cloth and a Christ indicating that inside there is an image protected with a glass urn.

It is only taken out two days a year, during the sixth Friday of Lent and on Good Friday.

According to the Spanish religious chronicler Fray Diego de Landa Calderón (1524-1579), this sense of syncretism and solemn tradition has its Mayan origin and a pre-Hispanic and Catholic connotation.

"It was forbidden to see it for women (the dark-skinned Christ), only old people, children and young people could see it, and it seems more forceful to me that it obeys the conservation of Mayan custom," said local historian Ordóñez Capetillo.

He is considered "a very miraculous saint". However, there are no references that indicate this, they are simply statements from the villagers that perhaps refer to very particular cases that occurred in the locality some time ago.

The image does not leave Oxolotán, nor does it travel through other nearby towns, it stays there.

In 1926 the Christ of the Holy Sepulcher was hidden among the stones of the Oxolotán River and its thick jungle.

Only then did he survive the religious persecution of ex-governor Tomás Garrido, who sought to make the town of Tabasco less religious.

For that reason it is considered the oldest and most preserved image.

"In itself it is not the oldest image of Tabasco, but the oldest one that is preserved and that has been cultured for five centuries," said the expert.

Although it is a patronal festival dating from the arrival of the Spaniards, it is still unknown to many.

And only by accident those who go on vacation to the place to meet the Dominican ex-convention know by accident this celebration.

"It is a very unknown festival, even in Tabasco, there are modern images much more popular and recognized than the Lord of Oxolotán", concluded the historian.


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