UJ Explorer

A purple tradition that transcends borders

Published 25 July 2017

Written by: Ximena Arrieta

Peru is growing day by day and it’s in constant modernization, with high buildings and big shopping centers. However, although the years pass and the country transforms, traditions are what keep Peruvians connected with our roots.

Every October, Lima is dressed in purple to celebrate one of the largest and most famous religious festivals around the world: the procession of the Lord of the Miracles (Señor de los Milagros). Thousands of people gather in the streets of the Historic Center to follow the ‘Cristo de Pachacamilla’, in a meeting that includes devotion, culture and gastronomy.

The story goes back to 1651, in the middle of the Viceroyalty, when a slave from Angola painted the image of the crucified Jesus on an adobe wall. The art would have gone unnoticed, but the earthquake of 1655 put it on everyone’s lips: the flimsy wall was the only one standing and undamaged while Lima was devastated.

The ecclesiastical authorities were not happy about the increasing devotion to the image and they ordered to erase it. But all the people who were sent to do so were victims on tremors and unknown fears that forced them to flee. After some years the cult was officialized, but it was in 1687 when the mural was considered ‘miraculous’: another earthquake destroyed Lima and the wall remained intact.  That year, the first procession was carried out, a tradition that is alive until today.

The Lord of the Miracles goes through the streets five times: October 1st, 18th, 19th, 28th and November 1st. The canvas – the original mural is on the Nazarenas Church – goes on a platform that weights almost two tons, embellished with gold, silver and precious stones. The members of the Brotherhood of the Lord of the Miracles have the privilege of carrying it on their shoulders, in company of ‘sahumadoras’(perfumers) and singers. Thousands of devotees follow them wearing the traditional purple habits, color used by the Carmelitas Descalzas Nazarenas nuns who take care of the image the rest of the year.

Like in every celebration, food is not missing. The most popular dessert in the ‘purple month’ is Turron de Doña Pepa, made with baked stacked canes of flour, covered in chancaca honey and decorated with colorful candies. The street is full with the aroma of anticuchos, grilled cow viscera; and picarones, fried rings made of wheat flour and squash, bathed with chancaca honey.

The devotion of the Lord of the Miracles is so big that crosses borders, with brotherhoods in more than 260 cities around the world. The processions are organized in the United States, Italy, Germany, Brazil, Italy, Chile, Mexico, Japan, France, Spain, Switzerland, and some others.