Disconnected From Peruvian Traditions
In Episode 60, aired October 5, 2022, I highlighted October as Peru’s traditional Month of Purple, El Mes de Morado. Even with my Peruvian heritage, I had never heard of the tradition. But, scrolling through Instagram, I discovered a post on the Peruvian Sisters account. Humorously, I realized that I had been part of the tradition my whole life.
This is a common experience in First Gen children living in the U.S. with immigrant parents. Being born in the U.S., First Gen kids are disconnected from the context of their parents beliefs, traditions and language. They may be exposed to it by their parents, but children rarely are given the explanation behind it.
One of these experiences revolved around my mother, also Consuelo, and her scapular of El Señor de Los Milagros. For years, I noticed this scapular pinned to the inside of her coats, no matter the season or style. This wasn’t too offbeat since we had a lot of iconography in the house; portraits of the Sacred Heart, prayer cards to the Virgin Mary and crucifixes in every room.
Knowledge Without Understanding
Traditions of multicultural families are shared between cultures. We were forced to eat an American Thanksgiving dinner, learned in the era of Jello salads and boiled beans. It was saved by my mother’s Peruvian rice stuffing, with the ever present raisin and peanuts; staples of her recipes.
As with any kid, I didn’t question why things were done, I just learned them as part of our upbringing. So, when mom pinned the scapular to her clothes, I figured it was her go-to Catholic item that made her feel safe. Similar to carrying a rosary in your pocket, more for comfort than tradition.
But then, she began pinning it on me whenever I was severely ill or needing surgery. At that point in my life, I had realized she needed me as an ally and I saw this as a desperate act to keep me by her side. Little did I know, it was our cultural tradition she was acting on.
Learning the Facts Behind the Tradition
It wasn’t until last week, the beginning of October, that I learned the history of her intentional action. I was already celebrating my Birth Month, when, every day, I have to do something new. It’s a lot more difficult than you think and I encourage you to try it. Besides, you are much too precious to only celebrate one day!
But, this October 1st, I discovered a post on the Peruvian Sisters Instagram that explained why it’s the Month of Purple in Peru. I was stunned. I had never heard this in all my life of celebrating October.
The post explained that purple is worn throughout the month in devotion to El Señor de Los Milagros. Suddenly, my intrigue soared. El Señor de Los Milagros, or Los Milagros in my mother’s reference to her scapular, was painted on a wall in Lima, Peru by a man in the 1600’s. The powerful fact is that Los Milagros, The Miracles, survived two major earthquakes that devastated almost 100% of Lima at the time.
In devotion to the miracle that the wall survived, and Lima came to thrive, is celebrated all of October. A 2000 pound replica of the painting on the wall is carried in a procession throughout the City, the streets packed with faithful.
Power of Cultural Tradition
In that moment, my memory of my mother pinning her Los Milagros scapular to me changed from an act of desperation to one of devotion. My Americanized memory of her Peruvian belief trivialized the depth of her cultural tradition. She wasn’t behaving as a Peruvian mother. She was immersing me in the power of my cultural tradition that I would otherwise never know.
The scapular represented the power of an entire country’s faith in miracles and protection. One so powerful that an entire month is devoted to memorializing it every year. Soccer teams change their jerseys to purple. People fill the streets, churches and plazas in celebration together.
The scapular was her touchstone to this profound Shrine, keeping her close to her beloved country, reminding her of its faith and prompting her to act in its power.
I still have her scapular, even though my mother passed away 3 days after my birthday. A reminder that epic joy is vulnerable to immense sadness. The power of Los Milagros wasn’t passed on to me, but the memory of having it pinned on me is forever changed.