Festival of the Black Christ

Black Christ, Festival of the

October 21
There are two legends associated with the observance of the Black Christ Festival in Portobelo, Panama. One says that during a cholera epidemic on the Isthmus, the people found a crate floating on the water near the beach. When they brought it ashore and opened it, they discovered a statue of a black Christ. They brought it into the church and, within a few days, the cholera had completely disappeared from Portobelo, even though it continued to rage elsewhere.
The other legend concerns a ship carrying the black Christ statue from Spain to Cartagena, Colombia. The ship stopped for supplies in Portobelo, but when it attempted to leave, it was turned back five times by sudden storms. The crew finally threw the crate containing the statue overboard, but local residents rescued it and put it in a place of honor in their church. The image of the black Christ, which is made of dark brown coco-bolo wood, has been credited with everything from miraculous cures to helping the city win the national lottery.
The people of Portobelo honor their patron saint, El Jesús Nazarene, by carrying the statue in procession on a decorated platform through the city streets. Pilgrims come from all over Panama, as they have for more than 300 years, to celebrate with folk dancing, music, and songs.
See also Black Nazarene Fiesta
CONTACTS:
Embassy of Panama
2862 McGill Terr. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
202-483-1407; fax: 202-483-8413
www.embassyofpanama.org
SOURCES:
GdWrldFest-1985, p. 148
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