Sunday, January 15, 2012

The black Christ

The Black Christ of Esquipulas, Guatemala


January 15 is the feast of the Black Christ of Esquipulas, Guatemala. A black image there of Christ is a site for pilgrimages from around Central America.

There are other images of the black Christ, including one in Intibucá, Honduras. In the parish of Dulce Nombre  three villages celebrate today as their feast day, the feast of Cristo Negro, the black Christ. In some other parts of Central America today is also celebrated as the Merciful Christ, Cristo de las misericordias. 

Thr Black Christ of Intibucá,

I don’t know why, but it never occurred to me how fitting this is since January 15 is also the date of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birth.  This black preacher who taught us the dignity of all persons, who helped the blacks of the US liberate themselves from segregation and marginalization, was born on the feast of Cristo Negro.

Of course, the plight of blacks in the US as well as the campesinos in Guatemala and Honduras still is a form of crucifixion, an undeserved suffering, brought on by structures of marginalization and wealth.

But the image of Cristo Negro and the example of Martin Luther King, Jr., can move us to be in solidarity with them and reject all vestiges of racism and marginalization in our lives and in our nations.

May Christ continue to inspire us with the example of Martin Luther King, Jr.


On April 4, 1967, exactly one year before he was killed, he delivered a strong message against the Viet Nam War, which still has relevance for the US today. In that speech he spoke these prophetic words:

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.  We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

1 comment:

John (Juan) Donaghy said...

There is also a Black Christ pilgrimage site near Santa Rosa de Copán, in Quezalica, Copán. Lots of people made pilgrimages yesterday and my guess is that it's mobbed today. A little girl in a village told me this morning how she went and kissed the Cross. Padre Efraín noted that the Black Christ of Quezalica is also called el Cristo de buen fin - of a good end. He also noted how years ago people made 15 or 20 day pilgrimages, walking from the south of Intibucá or Lempira to the shrine in Esquipulas, Guatemala.