October, the purple month

28 Oct

October in Peru is el mes morado (the purple month), during which traditional Roman Catholics celebrate El Señor de Los Milagros, the Lord of Miracles. You can get a pretty good idea of what we’ve been seeing all month using Google images. According to Wikipedia (and corroborated by our language teachers), the traditions originated around a famous mural in Lima of El Cristo Moreno (dark-skinned Christ) painted by an Angolan slave circa 1650. The painting continues to be a symbol of black brotherhood in Peru. Reportedly, the wall on which it is painted survived the earthquake of 1655, which was the first of many miracles attributed to it.

On this day in 1746, Callao (the port city of Lima) was inundated by a tsunami associated with the worst recorded earthquake in Lima. In remembrance of the tragedy, October 28 has become the day of the main procession, in which replicas of the painting are carried throughout the streets of Peru. In downtown Arequipa this afternoon, the streets near the San Camilo market were blocked off and 2 or 3 different groups of 30-50 men in purple robes stood waiting to walk in the procession. Along the streets, the people erect shrine-like purple booths and the pavement itself features murals or writing made with painted sawdust. (A missionary friend recalls that in one smaller town where they lived, all the children were required to bring a bag of sawdust to school because the town did not have enough). All month long, many women have been wearing purple robes with a white cord for a belt. Each knot in the cord represents a “miracle” or answered prayer. The historic cathedrals are draped with purple and hold special masses and other events throughout the month.

The processions have become quite commercialized. I saw cotton candy vendors and carts offering various types of chocolates and baked goods. There is a special cake attributed to Doña Pepa, an enterprising black woman who catered to the thousands of procession-goers in Lima. A teacher brought some to language school earlier this month. It tastes a bit of licorice and I found it too sweet overall. Tonight, there are fireworks, as there have been almost every night this month. It seems that Peruvians love fireworks almost as much as ice cream.

The holiday is very typical of Catholicism in Peru: it is focused on the image of the crucified Christ (not the risen Christ) and has an air of superstition about it owing to the supposed miracles. There is an outward show of religion, and many think they are achieving favor with God (or perhaps favors from God) by their exercises, but we know that God looks on the heart. The only robe we need to be accepted by Him is that of Christ’s righteousness, given to us freely by means of faith in the risen Savior.

5 Responses to “October, the purple month”

  1. Yvonne October 29, 2013 at 6:21 am #

    I can’t remember in which post you talked about ice cream and that they have queso ice cream? Is that cheese dip ice cream? 😋

    • David Chandler October 29, 2013 at 10:28 am #

      Queso helado, we’ve learned, has nothing to do with cheese. Just like “hot dog” has nothing to do with canines. It’s just the name for the local homemade ice cream 🙂

  2. Jim Saporsky October 29, 2013 at 7:13 am #

    Oh I see, they do celebrate festival days and seasons and new moons. Also ice cream and fireworks. I am learning so much from your messages. Is the Holy Spirit there?

    On 10/28/13, The Chandler Far Southern Times

    • David Chandler October 29, 2013 at 10:31 am #

      Yes, Jim, the Holy Spirit is here! He has led many to repent from dead works and to serve the living God!

  3. michael CHANDLER October 31, 2013 at 9:15 pm #

    When in Peru, don’t do what the purple Peruvians do. Good words on the risen reigning Christ.

    Love, Dad

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