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El Cristo Negro de Esquipulas

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  • El Cristo Negro de Esquipulas
  • Retablos are important to Mexican folk religion because they are a physical representation of holy images such as Christ, the Virgin Mother, or one of the many thousands of saints. They come from the need humans have to interact on a personal level with divine spirits. Retablos are evidentiary support for communication between the divine and humans.
  • This fine late 19th Century Retablo is a depiction of a wooden Crucifixion Statue found in Guatemala.
  • The Black Christ of Esquipulas is a wooden image of Christ now housed in the Cathedral Basilica of Esquipulas in Esquipulas, Guatemala, 222 kilometres (138 mi) from the city of Guatemala. It is one of the Cristos Negros of Central America and Mexico.
  • There are few early sources on the development of the religious veneration of the image and pilgrimage to its site. According to tradition, the image was found in a cave and had healing power. According to scholarly work, the image was sculpted by a Portuguese artist in 1594.
  • The image is known as "Black" because Spanish missionaries wished to convert the natives who worshiped Ek-Kampulá. Ek-Kampulá was a deity worshiped by the natives of Equipulas, Guatemala, believed to move the clouds.
  • Although such a name is relatively recent - in the 17th century it was also known as the "Miraculous Lord of Esquipulas" or the "Miraculous Crucifix venerated in the town called Esquipulas". Esquipulas holds its patronal festival on 15 January, when the largest number of pilgrims come from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and other Central American countries. The festival is also celebrated in the United States of America in some cities and states, such as Los Angeles (California), New Jersey, Kansas, and New York with a high Central American populations. El Santuario de Chimayó, in Chimayó, New Mexico, also honors the Black Christ of Esquipulas.
  • There are few early sources on the development of the religious veneration of the image and pilgrimage to its site. According to tradition, the image was found in a cave and had healing power. According to scholarly work, the image was sculpted by a Portuguese artist in 1594. It blackened over the years due to soot from candles. In the late nineteenth century, the cult was buffeted by the political conflicts between conservatives who supported the Catholic Church and Guatemalan liberals, who were anticlerical, seeking to diminish the power of the Church. The Catholic hierarchy in Guatemala sought to increase its reach and to reinforce ideas that it symbolized a stance against leftists Juan José Arévalo and Jacobo Árbenz in the late 1940s and early 1950s who were considered socialists or communists. The color of the image was not highlighted during this era, but rather the focus was on the importance to Catholicism. However, "the color of the image would become its defining characteristic by the 1980s, when it became a site where the war-ravaged nation could seek peace and justice."
  • The Black Christ first gained widespread attention when the Archbishop of Guatemala recovered miraculously from a chronic illness after visiting Esquipulas in 1737, and the town got a healthy publicity kick when Pope John Paul II visited in 1996.
  • But the statue's popularity has also been explained by the syncretism of pre-Christian and Christian beliefs. All throughout the Americas, when the Spanish arrived, indigenous peoples soon discovered it was less painful to appear to accept the new religion, basically retaining their traditional beliefs and renaming the old gods accordingly. In Maya culture, black was the color of warriors and associated with magic, death, violence and sacrifice. Accordingly, El Cristo Negro can be seen as a warrior Christ, defeater of death.
  • There are two authorized copies of Esquipulas' El Cristo Negro in the US. One in New York has come to represent the sufferings and hardships experienced by the Latino community there, while the one in Los Angeles (which was smuggled into the country, allegedly aided by bribed officials) has taken on a special significance for undocumented immigrants.
  • Retablo dimensions are approx. 10 inches vertical x 7 inches horizontal.
  • Condition: in excellent, clean, original condition with some minor paint loss acquired over more than a century of use and devotional prayer.
  • Materials: iron plate coated with tin and painted with oil paint.
  • Origin is Mexico