El Cristo Negro de Esquipulas, a Dark Balsam wood statue of Jesus in Santuario de Chimayo, Guatemala; (see the web-site search articles of THE LEGEND OF “NUESTRO SENOR DE ESQUIPULAS” by Lynda La Rocca , and Stephen de Borhegi, for more detailed explanations. The present article is based on oral accounts given by the parishioners of the Immaculate Conception Church, Los Angeles, CA., located on James D Wood-9th street, a block away from the downtown Loyola- Marymount Law School).)
The Santuario de Chimayo — also called the Santuario de Nuestro Senor Milagrosa (Negro) de Esquipulas — was built on a hillside famous from ancient times for the healing powers of a white, clay like substance. A strange light was seen to burst from a hillside above the Santa Cruz river, in 1595, coming from the white clay. Devout Guatemalan natives, after digging in the clay soil with their hands, uncovered a crucifix with a dark figure of Christ, to which they gave the name Nuestro Senor de Esquipulas. Three times the crucifix was taken in procession to the neighboring village and three times it disappeared, only to be found again back in the hillside cave. Deciding that “Nuestro Senor de Esquipulas” wanted to stay in Chimayo, the people built a small chapel on the site of the discovery, which became famous for its healing powers all over Quatemala, as well as Honduras, and El Salvador, and Chiapas (which today is in Mexico).
-The Guatemalan veneration of Nuestro Senor de Esquipulas or El Cristo Negro (the Black Christ) with miraculous healing powers, became famous throughout the entire Spanish colonial territories. Similar statues showing Christ carrying the cross, carved of the same dark Balsam wood, were shipped to the Philippines (now housed in Quuiapo, Manila), and Macao.
-The current Santuario in Chimaya, Guatemala, was rebuilt in 1816 by donations from a private family. In 1929 it was re-purchased by the devout citizens of Chimayo, and turned over to the Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe. The healings in Chimayo were attributed not only to the figure of the Dark Christ on the crucifix, but also to the white clay like sand, which was ‘eaten, dissolved in water and drunk, or made into a paste and smeared on the afflicted part of the body.” Those who attend the annual festival in other parts of the Americas (such as in the Immaculate Conception Church, Los Angeles, pictured here) on January 15th each year, wipe the wounds of Christ in the crucifix with pieces of white cotton, considered to be healing.
-The Guatemalan devotion to Nuestro Senor de Esquipulas and its healing soil derives, (as does Our Lady of Guadalupe), from a Native American Indian legend; the Santuario was in fact a prediction of the coming healing presence of “Nuestro Senor Milagroso (Negro).” The sand pit is the dried remains of what was originally a hot springs with healing powers. The town of Esquipulas in the Chiquimula district, is one of the most significant in Central America, second only in importance to the shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe outside Mexico City.
– Esquipulas is also the seat of the Central American Parliament and, given its location just a short distance from the borders with Honduras and El Salvador, it has also been the place where several important peace agreements have been signed. The villages, forests and mountains of Mataquescuintla are home to the Pocomam Indians who produce famously colorful textiles and ceramics.
The Black Christ, in Chimaya Church, Esquipulas, Guatemala, is carved from dark balsam wood. The color “Black” (dark skinned) points to the strong native elements that influenced early Colonial Christianity throughout Meso- and Central America. In 1737 when the Archbishop of Guatemala visited and went away healed of a chronic sickness, the shrine and the devotion to the “Black Christ” was given official Church approval, (as was the shrine to the Black Christ in Quiapo, Manila whose festival is celebrated each year, on Jan. 9). While pilgrims journey to both shrines throughout the year, there are two periods when their numbers multiply greatly. One is for a week up to and culminating on January 15, the other is the week of Easter. During these times, upwards of a hundred thousand pilgrims descend upon the normally quiet mountain valley to adore the Black Christ. Great markets spring up, the hotels are over-filled, and people sleep in the church courtyard and along the city streets. These festivals are said to be the finest displays of native dress in all of the Central Americas.