By Jill Brooke
While walking in NYC this weekend, I literally stumbled upon a celebration called “Mes Morado” near Lincoln Center which I want to share with you.
The street fair that lined 10th Avenue was filled with chicken, pork and steak on skewers and grills as well as steaming vats of oil for various dishes to celebrate Peruvian culture. There is also a special pastry called Turron de Doña Pepa that was featured.
But the moment I will not forget is when a group of people in purple robes held a float decorated with flowers and to the sound of music and cheers walked down the block celebrating the “Lord of Miracles.” Women also in purple garments with lace head coverings carried incense to add to the festivities. Flowers and scents perfumed the air.
Not only did a group of men hold up this very heavy float – a feat of strength as well as devotion – but a neighboring soccer league also created a table with purple and white flowers to honor this holiday. Turns out that for every game, they say a prayer to honor the “Lord of Miracles.” As a result, there were purple roses and white carnations in abundance. Lavender and other flowers are often featured as well.
What is the history of this holiday for this predominantly Catholic country?
The occasion is in remembrance of the resilience of people after a life-changing earthquake in the 17th century.
According to Dr. Cynthia Vich, a professor of Spanish and comparative literature, Señor de los Milagros “is a religious celebration that dates from Colonial times.” According to tradition, a slave of African descent painted the image of Christ onto the side of a building in Lima, and a group of other slaves called Hermandad del Señor de los Milagros, or “Lord of Miracles Brotherhood,” would gather in front of the painting to hold meetings.
The veneration of the image gained special admiration by many from Lima but gained its “miraculous” status when it survived not one, but two earthquakes in 1685 and 1687. The rest of the city was damaged or destroyed, including the building in which the Lord of Miracle’s image was housed, but the wall on which it was painted remained fully intact.
Since that second earthquake, the month of October is known as “Mes Morado,” or “Purple month” in Peru, with the most important event of the festival being a procession held every year on Oct. 28 in Lima. Devotees wear purple and march down the street carrying a replica of the original painting weighing more than a ton. Although other processions are held on Sundays throughout October, none are as important or grand as this one around the 24th.
As Vich concludes, “It is a religious celebration very closely tied to the city of Lima and to the mixed-race and cultural identity of ‘limeños,’” she says, “although it has been so powerful that it has become a national symbol of Peruvian cultural identity.” And of course, flowers are a part of the celebration.
Jill Brooke is a former CNN correspondent, Post columnist and editor-in-chief of Avenue and Travel Savvy magazine. She is an author and the editorial director of FPD, floral editor for Aspire Design and Home magazine and contributor to Florists Review magazine.