Researched by Dorothy Harris & Sr. Ethel Puno, CCVI

The Black Christ of Esquipulas is one of the most famous and revered images of Christ in Central America. The Black Christ of Esquipulas is a darkened wooden statue with a carved image of Christ on the cross. The statue is located in the Cathedral Basilica of Esquipulas in Guatemala, the largest Catholic church in Central America.

The feast day of the Black Christ of Esquipulas dates back to 1594, and according to scholarly work, the image was sculpted by a Portuguese artist, Quirio Cataño, in Antigua the same year.

Tens of thousands of pilgrims and devout Catholics travel to Esquipulas during the annual celebration of the Black Christ on January 15th and during Holy Week. People from all over pray and ask for help in front of the sculpted image which is known for miracles as early as 1603. However, things really began to happen after Fr. Pedro Pardo de Figueroa was miraculously cured in 1735 while praying in front of the statue.

The Black Christ of Esquipulas was also the scene of important debates about citizenship and identity in the Guatemalan nation throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. These discussions surrounding the shrine expose the shifting classifications of race and ethnicity through the course of Guatemala’s political progression. The Basilica de Esquipulas is such a major religious site that Pope John Paul II paid a visit in 1996 to mark the 400th anniversary of the church which the Pope is said to have called “the spiritual center of Central America.”

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