BRIDGEPORT—A group of Catholic sisters, dressed in purple robes and holding sliver incense burners, slowly walked backward and wafted smoke toward a big, rectangular platform covered with revered icons and images of Christ.
A cadre of 30 or so bearers—also wearing purple robes—balanced the platform on their shoulders and slowly shuffled forward, cradling the flowers, pictures and the other adornments on their shoulders. A band of “Cantadoras,” playing New Orleans-style music, followed behind.
“This is a special day,” Evlyn Rodriquez, a Bridgeport resident and Peruvian native, said Sunday as the “Procesión del Señor de los Milagros” — Procession of the Lord of Miracles — began outside Saint Mary Roman Catholic Church on the city’s East Side.
Based on religious faith and legend, the Lord of Miracles procession is a staple in Peru and Latin America, drawing thousands of followers each fall for the colorful displays, religious symbolism and iconic music. The procession on Sunday drew faithful from New Jersey, Rhode Island and Long Island, N.Y., as well as from across southwestern Connecticut.
St Mary’s Pastor Rolando Torres said the ceremony is a one of a kind celebration that began centuries ago.
“It’s a special day for the Peruvian community and all Latin Americans,” Torres said, adding Sunday marked the second year his church hosted the procession, which slowly moved through city streets for hours as hundreds of onlookers watched.
“It’s beautiful to see,” Torres said.
The Lord of Miracles procession dates back to a 1655 earthquake that destroyed parts of Lima, Peru and the surrounding countryside, including a number of churches. But at one church, a wall containing an image of Christ escaped unharmed and that “miracle” formed the basis of the processions.
According to legend, orders to erase the image, which had become a popular religious gathering spot, failed. In one story, a painter began to tremble and shake as he attempted to cover the image, and was unable to continue.
Jose Casco, a Bridgeport City Council member, said the procession is important for the Peruvian and Latin American communities.
“It’s important for our community to get together,” Casco said. “Our community needs places to get together and stay as a community.”
Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, were on the mind of those gathered for the procession — as were the recent Mexican earthquakes.
Casco said the church and other community leaders are raising relief funds, including supporters in Stamford and Norwalk. He said Torres plans to personally deliver donations to Puerto Rico.
“The money is for Mexico and the Caribbean too,” Casco said. “We are getting a lot of turnout, a lot of support.”
Manuel Murrugarra, a Westport resident who was raised in Peru, said Peruvians and other Latin Americans grow up with the Lord of Miracles procession.
“All of our lives we have seen this,” Murrugarra said. “This is 400 years of tradition. It’s our way of living true. We can get together, but not just for Peruvians but other Latin (communities), such as Puerto Rico.”