Monday, August 23, 2010

An Ecuadorian celebration

While on assignment for The Catholic Spirit Sunday, Aug.15, I got to experience a traditional Ecuadorian celebration. The Ecuadorian community at Sagrado Corazón de Jesús parish in Minneapolis took part in the traditional celebration in honor of La Virgen del Cisne, or the Virgin of the Swan.

The celebration  began with Mass and the changing of the "Manto," the robe of the statue of La Virgen del Cisne. Then a procession.

The celebration continued with musical groups, dancing and Ecuadorian food at the parish.

On Saturday, Aug. 14, Sagrado Corazón hosted a celebration with Ecuadorian games and family activities in a park near the church. 
Devotion to La Virgen del Cisne began more than four centuries  ago and is celebrated on August 15 every year in El Cisne, a small town in Ecuador's Southern Andes. The celebration there begins with a 74 kilometer procession to Loja, another city in Ecuador. Thankfully, the celebration in Minneapolis included a much shorter trek, three blocks around the neighborhood of the church.

The story of  La Virgen del Cisne says that the indigenous people of El Cisne commissioned a statue of the Virgin Mary in 1594. Shortly after it was finished, there was a severe drought and the people were evacuated and they took the statue with them.

Then a strong storm hit that destroyed homes and uprooted trees. The people thought it was a curse for taking the staue away from where it belonged. So they returned to their homes and in the end realized that it was not a curse and that the statue could be moved. Hence the annual procession.

They built a shrine that same year and the current shrine, erected in 1934, is under the care of the Oblate Mission Fathers.

More information about the Ecuadoran celebration and its history is available here.

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