Lima is in constant growth, offering visitors more exciting adventures as each day passes; from gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean, to luxury restaurants considered some of the best in the world. It is amidst this modern whirlwind that the city manages to maintain some of its oldest traditions that date back to Colonial times. Today, many of these traditions have turned into cultural symbols that identify the city and those who live within it.
In October of each year, the streets of Lima turn purple. The city slows down, as coloured balloons begin to appear in the plazas, the aroma of anticuchos fills the air, and the sweet taste of the ‘turron de Doña Pepa’ reappears. Meanwhile, church incense burners emit their white, pungent smoke and the choirs sing hymns that reach the soul. Each October, the Lord of the Miracles is taken out into the streets followed by thousands of devotees from all over the world.
The story of the Lord of the Miracles dates back to 1651, when black slaves were being brought into Peru to work as peons, guards, or servants in affluent homes. Looking for a place to convene and connect after work hours, the Angolan slaves formed a brotherhood, and would come together in an abandoned warehouse in Pachacamilla, outside of what is now the Historic Centre of Lima. At some point during these meetings, one of the attendees painted an image of Christ crucified on the cross on one of the adobe walls of this space.
What could have been passed off as a simple depiction soon became the object of worship, after an earthquake devastated Lima and Callao in 1655. Thousands of people were affected and hundreds of homes destroyed, including the warehouse. However, in its case, all but one wall collapsed, leaving the image of Christ standing and intact. The word soon spread, and people quickly began to come and see the wall that had been protected by Jesus Christ, bringing with them their prayers and offerings.
As the ‘Christ of Pachacamilla’ gained notoriety, church officials became increasingly displeased. In 1671, in response to the pressure put on him by Churches, Viceroy Pedro Antonio Fernandez de Castro Andrade gave the order to erase the image. Nonetheless, despite various attempts, this task was never seen through. It seemed that each time anyone went to remove it, they would feel the earth quake beneath them, or be plagued with chills throughout their bodies, while others would just flee without reason.
In 1687, Lima was struck by another sizable earthquake, and once again, the wall remained intact. After this second miracle, everyone was talking about the image, and a replica was made for a celebratory procession that same year. This established the official recognition and importance of the Lord of the Miracles by the authorities, and started a tradition that is maintained to this day.
During the month, there are five different processions for the Lord of the Miracles. The image is taken from the Nazarenas Monastery in the Centre of Lima, and the two-ton plinth decorated with gold, silver, and precious stones is walked through the city streets. The processions are organized by the Lord of the Miracles Brotherhood, a group of men dressed in purple habits in charge of carrying the heavy plinth on their shoulders.
Thousands of devotees follow Lima’s patron through the streets trying to get close to him. Many of them take rosaries, holy cards, and books in hopes of getting them blessed, while others dress in purple habits to demonstrate their adoration. All of them are bonded, however, by their shared desire to experience the ‘miracle’ of the ‘Cristo Moreno.’
Due to the pandemic, the processions of the Lord of Miracles are suspended. But you can join the Purple Month Celebration through the virtual tours that the brotherhood has prepared. Check them out on their YouTube channel and on Facebook.