Easter festivities begin in San Miguel de Allende with the arrival of Nuestro Señor de la Columna (Our Lord of the Column), one of the most solemn and traditional religious festivities of the year. Accompanied by a large procession, the statue of Nuestro Señor is carried to San Miguel on the shoulders of the faithful the week preceding Holy Week. The procession begins Saturday at 11:00 p.m. from el Santuario de Atotonilco (The Shrine of Atotonilco), eight miles northwest of San Miguel. I left my apartment Sunday morning at 5:40 for the 20 minute walk to the place where the procession enters the city.
Avenida Independencia was filled with people who worked overnight lining the procession’s route with chamomille, anise, and greens. Street murals of intricate designs made with colored sawdust welcome El Señor. Purple and white banners and flowers line the street. At 6:00 a.m., hundreds awaited the procession’s appearance. The statue was greeted with fireworks. The crowd swarmed behind the procession as it passed. Flowers, herbs, and greens are taken as souvenirs.
The procession reached the Church of San Juan de Dios about 8:00 a.m. where it was received by the bishop of Celeya (Guanajuato). Mass was celebrated before a large crowd in the atrium of the church. Following the mass, the statue of Nuestro Señor is placed on the high altar, where it will remain until Wednesday following Easter. At 6:00 p.m. that day, the statue begins the return journey to Atotonilco in a similar, but smaller, procession.
During its stay at the Church of San Juan de Dios, the statue is watched over by members of El Hermandad del Señor de la Columna (The Brotherhood of the Lord of the Column). The Brotherhood organizes the procession, working all year to prepare for the event.
In 1823, Cayetano Vargas, a San Miguel merchant, commissioned Father Remigio Angel Gonzáles, the parish priest of Atotonilco, to sculpt a statue of Señor de la Columna to request a miracle. The statue, made of painted wood, represents the flagellated Christ resting his arms on a small column. His cheek bears the scar of Judas’ kiss, his body is covered with blood, and his ribs are exposed from flogging. An impressive figure credited with miraculous powers, the statue stands six feet high and weighs 88 pounds. It is housed in el Santuario de Atotonilco, a site of spiritual retreat for thousands of faithful from all parts of Mexico.
(Sources of information used in writing this post: Jade Arroyo, Attención, April 4-11, 2014; Attención: Quepasa (Supplement), April 4, 2014; Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel; www.wikipedia.com.)