Visit to Esquipulas
In the spring of 2014, two COAR students, Diana and Mercedes, were honored with a trip to the town of Esquipulas in southeastern Guatemala due to their outstanding grades. Members of the local Parish, Our Lady of the Pillar of Zaragoza, were making a pilgrimage to Esquipulas and invited these top scholars to join them on this personal and spiritual journey. While there were younger children who also had wonderful grades, only the two older girls were selected since they were over 18 and would have fewer issues when crossing the border.
Esquipulas was called the ‘Spiritual Center for Central America’ by Pope John Paul II. The focus of the pilgrimage is the “Black Christ,” a dark wooden sculpture carved in 1594 and commissioned by Spanish conquistadors. After experiencing a miraculous cure, the Archbishop of Guatemala commissioned a Basilica to house the statue which was completed in 1759. Catholic devotion is so strong that visitors tend to back away from the statue feeling that to turn one’s back to the stature would be a sign of disrespect.
Esquipulas is also one of the most important cities in Guatemala. It is the second most visited city in the country, surpassed only by the capital. The Esquipulas Peace Accords eventually lead to an end of various military conflicts in Central America which had been festering for decades. All five Central American Presidents eventually signed an agreement calling for economic cooperation, peaceful conflict resolution, democratization, free elections, and assistance to refugees. Diana and Mercedes both felt that the pilgrimage was a wonderful opportunity to see for themselves this famous town which is so well known by all Central Americans.