Postcard from Cadiz, Spain: Friendly since Phoenician times

This Phoenician woman appeared so friendly in the Cadiz Museum, as though welcoming us to town. Her wave in this post can be considered “adios” because these snapshots are our parting ones.

Love the sensuous Solomonic columns we encountered in random locations, the colorful azulejos benches and the braid left in a church alongside milagros. I had never seen a braid offered in gratitude for a prayer believed answered outside of churches in Mexico.

Next stop Cordoba.

Postcard from Guanajuato, Mexico: Templo de la Compania de Jesus

The florid details of the Churrigueresque façade of the church of La Compania de Jesus in Guanajuato are striking. The church was constructed between the years of 1747 and 1765.

But, as always, the details inside the church are equally as interesting. A rectangle of red velvet hung on the wall next to an image of Saint Lucy to encourage petitioners appealing for better eyesight to pin their silver milagros of eyes there. But, regarding proximity as more potent, several fortified their prayers by taping their charms directly on her image.

One day El Nino Medico almost was submerged completely in a sea of boys’ toys, but he was liberated from them the next week. Only a few photos, milagros and a lone baby shoe remained by his feet. A new crop of toys probably has arrived in his case by now.

Holding El Nino securely in one arm, the Virgin Mary somehow uses her other to hoist up some lad. She rescues him from the fierce-looking jaws of a black, toadlike version of the devil, surely by some artist from another time period than whoever sculpted the original statues in the ornate Baroque niche.

A few-peso fee grants admittance to the sacristy containing a small collection of paintings. But the appeal for me was not just the art. The docent pulled aside a heavy floor-to-ceiling drape to reveal the true treasures – first-class reliquaries containing major bones of several saints.

 

Ah, and the bloody feet pictured on the poster for a pilgrimage taking place tomorrow. Those feet represent those of Jose Sanchez del Rio, who will be canonized a saint in Rome tomorrow. Born in Sahuayo, Michoacán, in 1913, the teen left home to serve as the flag bearer for the Cristeros, who were rebelling against the enforcement of rigid anticlerical laws in 1926 by President Plutarco Elias Calles. Foreign Catholic priests were expelled from Mexico, and monasteries, convents and Catholic schools were closed.

Violence escalated, and the armed Cristeros, primarily rural peasants with no military training, even managed to inflict several defeats on federal forces. When Blessed Jose was captured, he refused to recant his faith. He was imprisoned in the seized parish church, and his jailers attempted to extract a ransom from his family for his release.

In addition to captured Cristeros, a government official was using the church to house his prized fighting cocks. According to the website of Ive Minor Seminary:

When Jose arrived he saw the roosters running around the church and was indignant, and said, “This is not a barnyard!” He took them all by the neck and killed them, hanging them from a banister. According to some, Picasso (the name of the government official) had imported some of those very fine birds all the way from Canada, and this was the last straw; he was so indignant that he commanded that they execute the boy by firing squad.

The soldiers carried out their own gruesome ritual prior to the execution. As he was marched to the firing squad:

…they began to strike him with the machetes they carried. Even worse, they chopped off the soles of Jose’s feet, and they forced him to walk along the rocky unpaved road to the cemetery. Instead of complaining, he shouted, “Long live Christ the King!” Witnesses said that the stones where Jose had trodden were all soaked in his blood, and although he moaned from the pain, he never weakened in his resolve.

Blessed Jose obtained his martyrdom on February 10, 1928.

The roster of Mexican saints now numbers about three dozen. No doubt, a few of the faithful will make the pilgrimage tomorrow barefoot in honor of the canonization of the new saint.

Postcard from Guanajuato, Mexico: Basilica of the City’s Patron Saint

No matter from what direction one approaches, the rich hues of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guanajuato make it stand out against the city’s blue skies. Built between 1671 and 1696, the church houses an Andulusian statue of the Virgin and Child encased in glass on its altar.

The statue was a gift from King Felipe II (1527-1598) of Spain presented to the city in 1557 in recognition of all the riches sent from the mines to enrich the crown. The Virgin represents the city’s patron saint and is believed to be the oldest image of the Virgin sent to the Americas. Along the way, her scepter was replaced with a rose, particularly appropriate as the basilica fronts the Plaza de la Paz.

 

Tucked around the images and statues of the saints inside are reminders of the prayers of those who visit. A silver arm or leg left in hope of a mended limb. A heart milagro for assistance for an organ beginning to falter with age or a young heart broken. Photos of babies in need of cures. Ribbons of wishes for the safe return of family members who have crossed the border to seek work in el norte.