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The Lord Comes to Town Early

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For the first time in the image of the Lord of the Column’s history, he secretly snuck into town earlier this week instead of having the centuries long procession to occur on Saturday until the Corona virus changed everything.

Normally, beginning at midnight Saturday in a procession of thousands of people, a life-sized figure of the beaten and bloody Christ is carried from Atotonilco to San Miguel on the shoulders of the faithful.

An epidemic broke out in the city after the image was sculpted, and it was brought in a procession. The miracle of ending the plague was requested of Our Lord of the Column and granted.  That is why the procession continues after almost 200 years.

The statue was molded from traditional indigenous materials—corn stalks, corn starch and powdered orchid bulbs in 1823 by Father Remigio Ángel González, parish priest of Atotonilco.  

Christ leans against a column for support. He wears a loincloth and on his cheek is the kiss of Judas. The Lord is the Column is life-sized (5’9”) in the Mexican Baroque style.  It is slightly bent, supporting his raised arms on a small, bloodied column.  Jesus is drenched in blood from the flogging.  Watch when you see this image around Mexico as often his exposed ribcage peeking through his back are actual human remains.

The three medal rods in his head are reminiscent of what the indigenous god of the rain featured on his head.

For the procession, hundreds of silk scarves are brought by local women and lovingly draped across his battered body along with images of St. John and Mary, as Our Lady of Sorrows. Afterward, the scarves will be removed and safe-guarded for funerals and other religious ceremonies later in the year.

This year there were no scarves while St. John and Mary stayed in Atotonilco.

Along the way, the statue is greeted by purple and white paper flowers adorning every home, the colored and intricately cut banners feature balloons strung on wires across the road.  The pilgrims are guided by gas or petrol lamps, which in the past had been actual torches.  Also the Red Cross is now en route for any emergencies.

Given the secrecy in moving the Lord of the Column there was no parade or celebrating.

As the pilgrims normally wind their way towards town, they stop for prayers, hymns and a mass at the Cross of Forgiveness, the red hipped church near Taboada around 3AM.  Hopefully the cross truly is forgiving as most folks take cat-naps during the service. 

All pilgrimages are a mix of fascinating sights mixing the devout with those devoted to having a party, bouts of utter boredom and a lot of physical pain.  Normally I lose all my toe nails which makes me appreciate my foot modeling days are behind me.

Finally, pilgrims enter the northern edge of San Miguel, meeting at the Casa Del Mayordomo del la Cofradia.   Proceeding to Avenue Indepedencia around 6:30 pilgrims head for the San Juan de Dios Church amid the deafening clang of church bells and crash of fireworks.

To enter Avenue Independencia is to experience a multimedia experience of sights, sounds, and smells.  Artists stay up all night creating intricate murals of seeds, plants and flowers that release aromas as re- enactors of Roman soldiers, Jesus and the pilgrims enter town.

Mass is at 8am followed by a wide array of food vendors outside the church.

Originally, the procession was to terminate in the Parroquia, however, the statue was too large to fit in the door so the route changed to San Juan de Dios Church.  The statues remain for three weeks then returns home to Atotonilco in another pilgrimage.  

Today, along with the original statue, are two copies normally kept at the Church of the Third Order (next to St. Francis Church) and the Oratorio.

Fingers crossed, long before next Easter, all is back to normal and no more sneaking into town for the Lord of the Column!

by Joseph Toone

DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed hereby are those of the author and not necessarily those of the San Miguel Times.


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