Giving thanks for answered prayers is an art form in Mexico. Even if you are thankful for getting away with running over an old lady.
Retablos, like the one in the photograph, are devotional paintings thanking a saint for answering prayers. This one reads: “I give thanks to God and Saint Francis of Assisi for having let me out of jail for running over an old woman.”
It was one among hundreds of votives that fill an entire room floor to ceiling in the Parish of the Immaculate Conception in the remote former mining and ghost town of Real de Catorce, Mexico. Others illustrated a variety of misfortunes including medical operations and car accidents, some quite graphic, with devotees thanking Saint Francis of Assisi for helping them pull through.
In October of each year thousands of religious pilgrims travel to Real de Catorce to pray in the parish to the altar statue of Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of the town.
Retablos in Mexico, which are typically painted on tin, are a fusion of Catholicism and Mexico’s indigenous artistry. They have become highly sought after by folk art collectors, the older ones commanding high prices.
I will be posting more on the surreal Real de Catorce in the coming weeks.