Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Scenes from Chihuahua

Folk dancers perform in front of the Metropolitan Cathedral.

Pigeons in the town square

Dancers twirl and stomp.

Dramatic dusk light over the Metropolitan Cathedral


The group of Santa Fe pilgrims heard the news on the way to Chihuahua. Six people were shot dead. Victims of the narcotraficantes and their war over the drug trade. Father Tri told the pilgrims to use their common sense and to stay safe. Chihuahua is a pleasant city but the drug war has gripped this town just as it has gripped towns and cities across Mexico. And the war reared its evil and ugly face here yesterday.

Newspaper headlines in Mexico regularly have words like NARCO, DROGAS, MATARON and CARTEL splashed across their pages. The photos are graphic. The pain is real. The government is helpless.

A common theme the pilgrims have heard on their trip is that what the people have turned to during their desperate time is prayer. And in Mexico when people pray they direct that spiritual energy to La Virgen.

During the visit yesterday a woman came up to Deacon Anthony Trujillo. She asked for a blessing. She thanked him and the Santa Fe pilgrims for bringing the statue and the spirit of La Virgen to her town. She said she hopes that by the grand image of Our Lady visiting her town that the drug killings and the violence would stop. They did not want the statue of Nuestra Señora to leave.
Santa Fe pilgrim Gail Delgado in front of the Cathedral of Chihuahua

Mexican Army soliders, one of the main forces fighting the Narcos. The other is prayer from the Mexican population.

Parral to Chihuahua

Ricardo Herrera Morales rides on the flatbed trailer carrying the statue from Parral to Chihuahua.

The truck, led by a police escort, leaves Parral. The officer that offered the escort used to live in the U.S. as a Bracero many years ago. When he learned what was happeining with the statue and the pilgrims he hopped into his car to lead the group through the streets of his town.

The truck carrying the statue slowly climbs a hill in Parral.

The turnoff to Chihuahau.

The gathering

The church of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe in Parral was intimate. The crowd was not as large as the previous day but slowly as townspeople figured out what was happening they trickled into the church. But this journey is not about the numbers of faithful that turn out to see the statue of La Virgen. The journey has largely been about the pilgrims from New Mexico discovering how powerful the devotion to La Virgen actually is in Mexico. And this journey has also been about people in Mexico discovering that their most important devotion also exists across la frontera, on the other side.
People gather around the statue after the Mass.

The commotion catches the attention of passing motorists.

The blessing of the statue

Samara Lopez Gonzalez, 8, kisses the statue as her brother José Miguel Silva Lopez, 12, stands atop the truck with his sister.

Jesús Diaz, 6, and his sister Jaime Diaz, 3, watch the blessing.

Mauro and his sister Magdalena Baeza are helped down from the ramp by Ricardo Herrera, top left, and Bernardo Peña Silva, right.

The Mass

The procession into the church

From left, Albino Zuniga, Gail Delgado and Gary Delgado during the Mass

Mass is celebrated in the church.

The church of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe in Parral

Santa Feans from left, Frank Gallegos, Toni Gallegos, Maxine Chavez, Lourdes Romero and Mannie Montoya during the service.

Samara Lopez Gonzalez, 8, during the blessing of the statue.

The procession out of the church after Mass

The Monsignor, Priests and Deacons exit the church after the service.

The procession of Santa Fe pilgrims is led by Frank and Toni Gallegos and followed by Luz and Fabian Garcia.

Missionarios de la Misericordia del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús

While walking past the church after their morning service the Missionarios de la Misericordia del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús stopped to view the statue of La Virgen. The girls, mostly in their late teens, were giggling and smiling at all the attention they received when they walked up to the statue. Initially they walked past the statue but as pilgrim Gilbert Pino put it: "They were drawn to the statue like a magnet."

Parral: A historic assembly of colonists

Parral, a small town along the Camino Real, hosted a large assembly in 1598 that was the beginning of the colonization of New Mexico by the Spaniards. Juan de Oñate and his colonists assembled for their long march up to El Paso del Norte and along the Rio Grande valley to Northern New Mexico.

The assembly was like a military review. The Spanish Viceroy looked over Oñate and his colonists to make sure they had enough equipment, horses, cows and military protection for their journey north. The Viceroy wanted to be certian that all that was promised for the colonists was present and that the colonization of New Mexico would be successful.

A fountain in the town square

The local church dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Plaza

The statue of La Virgen in the town square, seen with a local statue in the background

A street scene in modern Parral.

A truck passes the statue of Our Lady in front of the church dedicated to La Virgen.

Missionarios de la Misericordia del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús, who were walking down the street, notice the 12 foot-tall bronze statue in front of the local church.