Blood, Miracles, Faith, and Tradition in Procession
By Jesús Aguado, photos by Juan José Frías
Previous to Holy Week each year, the sculpture of a beaten and bloodied Christ (Our Lord of the Column) leaves Atotonilco in a procession to the church of San Juan de Dios.
This year, the image will leave Atotonilco in the early morning on Sunday, March 22, and will arrive at San Juan de Dios at 7am. The night before in Atotonilco, this sculpture and that of Virgin Mary (Our Lady of Sorrows) and apostle John are covered with hundreds of fabrics and blankets to protect them from the humidity of the journey. At 12am the procession, with at least two thousand people, leaves Atotonilco and at around 2am makes a stop at a chapel in Cruz del Perdón, near Taboada, where a mass is held.
With chants and prayer the pilgrimage arrives at avenida Independencia, where the neighbors greet the images with giant, colored sawdust rugs decorated with religious images. The arrival of the sculptures is announced by thunderous rockets. The pilgrimage stops for almost an hour at avenida Independencia, where the images are uncovered and the fabrics are given away to the devoted followers, who take them to their homes because they carry the Lord’s miracle and can even heal those with diseases.
The procession continues through Independencia, avenida Guadalupe, and San Antonio Abad. These streets do not have sawdust rugs, but they are covered with thousands of flowers and fragrant herbs. A mass is held after the arrival.
Our Lord of the Column is a sculpture of polychromatic wood carved in 1823 by Father Remigio Ángel González, parish priest of Atotonilco. The Christ is 1.80 meters high and weights 40 kilos. In early 1800 an epidemic broke out in the city after the image was sculpted, and it was brought in 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 Christ and the other religious images stay at San Juan de Dios for three weeks.