Otatitlán, Veracruz
Home of "El Cristo Negro"

A Tropical Paradise

Photos and Text by John Todd, Jr.

Hotel Don Pepe
El Hotel Don Pepe
El Hotel Don Pepe
After lunch, the family sent Germán with me to check into the Hotel Don Pepe, just around the corner from the plaza.

They knew Dońa Paty, the owner, and she gave me the best room, which wasn´t bad. It had air conditioning and was fine.

The siesta was good, too, and afterwards I went back to the house and watched TV with the family and visited until it was time to turn in. In small towns they turn in early.

Breakfast the next day at the hotel was good. The black beans had a special flavor like they had added chicharrones and longaniza, a kind of sausage.

I almost asked for a second helping on the beans.
My guides
Germán, My Guide
My Tour Guide
The afternoon before, Germán had told me he wanted to give me a guided tour of the church.

I hadn´t expected to find him to be waiting outside the hotel.

I guess Dońa Paty called him when I was finishing breakfast.

On the way, Germán explained to me besides being a very old church, it was a place where people came hoping to find a solution to personal problems that seemed to have no solution.

He believed in the power and love of the Cristo Negro.
Church Bell Tower
Church Bell Tower
A Visit to the Church
Things had quieted down after Sunday mass.

It would be a good time to see more of the Black Christ of Otatitlán.

When I am new in town, I try to be a little anonymous, so we went in the side entrance.

It didn´t make any difference, because the few people there were more intent on their own reasons for being there.

They just kind of ignored us as we walked around looking at the statues.

The inside of the church looked freshly painted and clean.

And, it was peaceful, too.
Side Entrance
Side Entrance
The Altar with the Black Christ
The Story of the Black Christ
The Story of El Cristo Negro
On one wall, Germán showed me the painting of how the large crucifix had floated down to the docks of Otatitlán in 1597, and how the people took it as a divine sign that it was a special town.

In 1931, during the second phase of the Cristero Rebellion, the governor of the State of Veracruz ordered the original crucifix to be decapitated and burned.

But the statue was made of nacastle wood which did not burn easily.

The people of Otatitlán carved another head which was used until 1951, when the original was found and returned.

It was placed in a glass case in one corner of the church.

More about the Cristeros. >>>
Profanation in 1931
The Original Head
The Arrival in 1597
Profanation in 1931

A Closer Look at the Altar
A Closer Look at the Altar
Meanwhile, my attention turned towards the front of the church.

It looked like there was a stairway behind the altar where people could get closer to the Cristo Negro.

Germán and I waited until the people ahead of me finished and went to take a closer look.

Most people wanted to touch the velvet garment, and some had left special little pins for a personal request.

You can almost feel a certain strength of the faith of the people who are looking for solutions to some very serious problems that are far beyond their own abilities to solve.

Judging by the numbers of people who ask for divine intercession, it is a faith that seems to produce miracles for many people.
Little Things Pinned to the Hem
Personal Testimonials
A Personal Request
The Head
After coming down from the altar, I wanted to get a closer look at the original head of the crucifix.

The people consider it to have a special power and have left votive candles after saying their prayers.

When taking pictures in churches or anywhere I always try to be respectful and unobtrusive.

You can see the suffering on the faces of many people, and it´s not polite to interfere in their special moments.

Germán told me that some have come from far away, intent on their request.

Others have even walked several days on foot out of devotion to their special request.

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