Peruvians in South Florida celebrate patron saint

Hundreds of Peruvians from throughout South Florida gathered at the Holy Family Catholic Church in North Miami on Sunday to launch month-long celebrations of their country’s patron, the Lord of the Miracles, as well as enjoy some nostalgia and traditional food.

“It’s like transporting ourselves mentally back to our country,” said Martín Ventura, a 45-year-old construction worker who moved from Peru to North Miami in 1999, as he waited for the procession of the venerated image to begin.

The image of a crucified Jesus was carried around the church grounds by men from the parish branch of the Brotherhood of the Lord of the Miracles, clad in traditional purple robes and thick white ropes.

The half dozen Brotherhood chapters in South Florida reflect those in Peru, founded to venerate the image kept in a Lima sanctuary of Jesus on the cross, which generates some of the biggest religious gatherings in South America.

“This image has been responsible for many, many miracles,” said Enrique Matienzo, a member of the Brotherhood chapter based at the Holy Family church.

The church was packed on Sunday with several hundred of the faithful — many of them wearing the traditional purple clothes — for the first of several celebrations of the Lord of the Miracles set to be held around South Florida until the first week of November.

More than 5,000 Peruvians from throughout South Florida are expected to take part in all of the celebrations, which include one at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Kendall on Oct. 20 and another at the Corpus Christi church in North Miami the following Sunday.

For them, the celebrations are a chance to venerate Peru’s patron, meet up with relatives and friends, talk about politics back home and try the plates of traditional food sold on church grounds.

After the Mass and the procession on Sunday the faithful could enjoy tasty ceviches, tender cubes of beef hearts called anticuchos, and stews called chanfainitas and Cau Cau.

“This is about nostalgia, for the country and the food,” said Juan Mora, a Peruvian who runs a catering business. “When you live in distant lands, this is like being at home.”

The celebrations in Lima are marked by processions of the sacred image, kept at the Sanctuary of the Nazarene order of sisters, and carried by Brotherhood members on Oct. 18, 19 and 28. Membership in the fraternity is a high honor and has included former President Alán García.

Also known as the “dark-skinned Christ” or the “Christ of Pachacamilla,” the image was painted in 1661 by an Angolan slave on the wall of a church in the Pachacamilla neighborhood of Lima and miraculously survived several devastating earthquakes, according to Catholic church tradition.

The image and platform carried in the Lima procession are covered in gold, silver and flowers and reportedly weighs more than 2,000 pounds.

Brotherhood chapters abroad organize religious retreats and visits to hospitals and assist in funeral services for members or relatives. In the U.S., they provide information on immigration and other bureaucratic issues.

Peruvians have an expression that where there is one single Peruvian, there is a memory of our Lord of the Miracles, and where there are 10 or more, there is a Brotherhood.

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