Saturday, May 11, 2019

Dressing the Divine

Processional Figure of Virgin Mary, Merida, MX

Many believers in the Latin American world have a very personal and intimate relationship with their religious images.  Their interactions with them are complex and In many ways they are treated more like people than statues.  This is true for the large images found in churches, as well as the smaller devotional figures found in home altars, such as the Divino Niño in the photo below. This Divino Niño, which portrays Jesus as a young child, is very popular.

Divino Niño, Chiapas, Mexico  
Divino Niño, Xquerol, Quintana Roo, MX

Images of the Divine Child are available for purchase and the clothing is sold separately.

Figures of Divino Niño, Quito, Ecuador

Clothing for Divino Niño, Quito, Ecuador

In may places, people sew the clothing for the images by themselves, as a gift for the image, and it is an honor to have an important religious statue wear your clothing; some religious images have extensive wardrobes that are rotated. In the more indigenous churches of Chiapas statues sometimes wear many of the clothes gifted to them at the same time, resulting in statues completely swaddled in many layers of clothing.  

Magdalenas Aldama, Chiapas

The statue of La Conquistadora, located in her own chapel in Santa Fe New Mexico's St. Francis of Assisi Cathedral, dates from 1625, a time when what is now  New Mexico, along with much of the southern US was still part of Mexico. To this day, Santa Fe's culture remains very Mexican.  Below are photos of La Conquistadora and a very small part of her extensive wardrobe.

Retablo of La Conquistadora, Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi, Santa Fe, New Mexico

La Conquistadorra, October 2018, St. Francis Cathedral, Santa Fe,  New Mexico

La Conquistadora, July 2013, St. Francis Cathedral, Santa Fe New Mexico
La Conquistadora, July 2012, St. Francis Cathedral, Santa Fe, New Mexico

In Roman Catholicism, the Holy Cross (Santa Cruz) is very significant and the Cross itself, is venerated.  In Spain and in many places in the Latin American world, May 3 is the Feast of Santa Cruz.  In Mexico, this celebration has its roots in the early 16th century when the Spanish explorer Juan de Grijalva named the island of what is now Cozumel, Isla de la Santa Cruz.  Although throughout the world, crosses sometimes have a cloth draped over them, in the Mexican states of Quintana Roo, and Yucatan, crosses are often actually dressed in clothing.

Dressed Crosses, Xcabil, Quintana Roo

Crosses wearing huipils, Xcabil, Quintana Roo, MX
Cross wearing Huipil, Xcabil, Quintana Roo, MX
Maya Church Altar,  Quintana Roo MX
In Yucatan and, especially, Quintana Roo, the Cross has an additional kind of meaning
stemming from the time the 19th to early 20th century Caste War.  During this overthrow of the Spanish, the Maya redefined Christianity and the Cross in the Maya Cruzob movement. for themselves. You can read about this fascinating episode in Mexican history by following this link:   The Maya Church and its adherents, the Cruzob, still exist in Quintana Roo and Yucatan, today.