By Kim Groves
Every time I visit the women En Via works with I am surprised and delighted by their stories. Every tour I learn something different about their lives; about their pasts, presents and futures, and the way these unique realities affect the ways in which they participate and grow within the program.
Recently, in the patio of Magarita’s grandmother’s house we sat as a group under the loaded fruit trees. She proudly shared with us how her weaving and artisanal projects were going. We heard about her recent sales in the city, and we pored excitedly over some new bag designs. We laughed together as the palms of our hands turned a beautiful yellow with the stain of a natural dye demonstration. We all could see how capable she was, how confident; that part didn’t surprise me, but the next part of her story did…
“Yes, I have a lot of work to do”, she said, “what with my own weaving, and looking after the family, and seeing to the people that come to see El Cristo Grande”. A few of my tour companions looked to me, eyebrows slightly arched with curiosity, for clarification. “It’s a crucifix, a statue of Christ, that is getting bigger over time”, she continued. “He has grown so big he has needed to be moved to several new crosses over the years”. My heart actually leaped, I was so excited to translate this. “It’s been in my family for generations”, she said casually. I was on the edge of my chair leaning towards her to hear more. “It’s been dated as being more than 350 years old. Would you like to see it?”
We were talking excitedly in the courtyard, and as we stepped into what I expected to be another normal room I immediately hushed my voice. It was like a little chapel. It was a little chapel. A great wooden Christ on a crucifix towered in the small space. To my astonishment, he did seem to be literally stretching against the white cloth bands that secured him. There was an older couple at the foot of the altar with candles that I gathered were locals. Another couple (who we later found out had travelled all the way from Mexico City) had their heads bowed in prayer behind them.
I was awed to learn that it is in fact a national site of pilgrimage. Why? Even more than the miracle of a Crucifix changing shape, I believe that people have found hope and faith in the idea of outgrowing one’s confinements and burdens. There is a saying here “es tu cruz y tienes que cargarlo” (It is your cross and you have to carry it).
Personally, I never use it because I do not like the idea of resignation to hardship that it implies. But that said, maybe we all have burdens in life that we struggle to fully shrug off. Yet at the same time, we are growing and changing all the time. We are getting bigger and bigger ourselves, as we gain experiences and achieve in life, and perhaps in comparison, that burden we carry gets smaller and smaller until the point that we outgrow it completely.