as i mentioned, the indigenous folks used to come to a cave at the site to worship the goddess of trash and the dark lord of the cave, and evidently practice human sacrifice, but one day around the 1530s some evangelists, trying to convince the pagans not to practice idolatry, went into the cave to destroy the dark lord and saw a jesus with dark skin there in his place.
apparently the jesus is the same one that’s still on display in the current church (built in the late 1600s)– doesn’t seem that dark skinned? which is maybe why some accounts call him black jesus and others don’t. i’m guessing he is still darker than most of the representations people saw back then, and would have appeared moreso inside the cave.
so that’s why chalma is so important. when we went on christmas day there were pilgrims from all over, including some who came in on foot. many were wearing flower crowns in accordance with the pre-jesus tradition. the particularly prominent pilgrimage organized for christmas this year was the pilgrimage of the dancing cowboys (“la danza de los vaqueros“).
i didn’t take any pictures because i felt like a jerk, but my parents did. i will upload those when i can. the cowboys were wearing chaps, hats, boots, etc and dancing in the plaza in front of the church accompanied by a live band. you could climb down onto the river banks from the church plaza, where a bunch of people were chilling out, eating and swimming.