The church of San Pedro de Aconchi, downstream on the Río Sonora from Huépac, has a Black Christ over the main altar. Although some local folks refer to it by its “proper” name of El Señor de Esquipulas, it also has legends similar to the one I told earlier for the Black Christ of Ímuris. In this case, the priest was fed poison, but when he kissed the feet of the crucifix, the statue absorbed the poison and turned black. These poison stories seem to have migrated from Mexico City, where there is a famous Black Christ called El Señor del Veneno – The Lord of Poison.

The statue of El Sr. de Esquipulas, or the Black Christ of Aconchi as it is today. Church of San Pedro de Aconchi. Jim Griffith photo.

However, the statue you can see today is not the original Black Christ of Aconchi. The mid-1930s were a time of religious strife in Sonora remembered by many as La Persecución or ”The Persecution.” Churches were closed by the Sonoran state governnment, priests went into hiding, and groups of zealous iconoclasts called quemasantos or “saint-burners” destroyed large numbers of religious images.

On April 5, 1934, a group of quemasantos stripped the Aconchi church of all its images and loaded them in a car, to be burned in Hermosillo. When they got to the gorge of the Río Sonora, on a part of the road called las seicientos curvas –“the six hundred curves’ - several images fell off, and the entire load was burned on the spot. Apparently the larger statues were cut in pieces for easier burning.

The face of the original Black Christ as it was saved from the quemasantos in 1934. La Labor, Sonora. The head is now in the Hermosillo area. Jim Griffith photo.

After the quemasantos left, a local man came along, saw the fire, and recognized the head of the Aconchi Christ. He pulled out the head with a stout stick, carried it home, and gave it to his daughter. She cared for it on her home altar in the village of La Labor, until she moved with it to Hermosillo in the early 2000s. Meanwhile, the villagers of Aconchi ordered a replacement Black Christ and installed it over the main altar of the church, where it hangs today.

Incidentally, images of el Señor de Esquipulas are usually associated with healing earth and hot springs, and there is indeed a hot spring across the river from Aconchi.

For more information on the legends associated with Sonoran Black Christ images, see “The Black Christ of Ímuris: a Study in Cultural Fit,” Chapter 5 in Griffith, James S. A Shared Space: Folklife in the Arizona-Sonora Borderlands, Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 1995, pp. 87-107.