For all we hear about the decline of Catholicism around the world, a version of it is alive and well in Barranca. I am not sure how many people I know go to Mass every Sunday, but almost everyone participates in one of the many festivals in honor of the Virgin Mary or other saints that take place around the year. I was reminded of this recently when I realized there are three shrines to the Virgin right here on the beach, and there is another at the market.
One shrine is by the water company pumping station down the beach a bit. Just down the street from our house is a shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes that is maintained by a group of women who hold an annual celebration in her honor. The original shrine is up on a hillside overlooking the beach. When some of the members found it difficult to walk up to it, the group conducted a fundraising campaign to build a building on a small patch of land that they got the city to donate. The shrine is maintained by a group of women that seems to include almost everyone on the beach. The responsibility for organizing the annual feast day celebrations rotates among members.
Another Virgin presides over the market. She seems to be ready for the season.Our region also celebrates a number of saints. Every town has a roadside shrine or two. There is national veneration of Senor de los Milagros, a mural that survived an earthquake in 1655 when all the walls around it fell. The procession through the center of Lima honoring this image is said to be the largest in the world.
Closer to home, I couldn’t understand why there were fireworks last weekend, especially during the day. They were part of the celebration of the feast day of Saint Martin de Porres. A special seating area was set up in front of a temporary shrine across from the sea wall. After being on view most of Saturday and Sunday, there was a procession up and down the street, with stops at some houses. I saw a small child held up to touch the image of the saint. In addition to Saint Martin, there is Saint Rose of Lima, Saints Peter and Paul patron saints of fishermen, and the Virgen del Carmen, called the Perpetual Mayoress of Lima. Each of these elicits processions, vigils, and sometimes festivals up to a week long. This is a largely secular society, but there is still a lot of faith.