The mysterious mule that brought Santo Cristo de la Capilla to Saltillo

A mule started one of the most important devotions of the Saltillans. Is it risky to say? I do not think so. Not when the religious image we are talking about “compete” in veneration with the very patron from Saltillo.

The Holy Christ of the Chapel he is not the patron of the city, but it seems that he is.

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$! Mass and ceremony to lower the Holy Christ from the chapel, on the eve of his novena.

Mass and ceremony to lower the Holy Christ from the chapel, on the eve of his novena.

He throws a tremendous party every 6th Augustsummons hundreds of people in his novenas and thousands of believers make requests to him.

You would think that this role corresponds to Santiago Apostle, the true patron of the city. But not.

The construction of the cathedral was dedicated to him, although it is not celebrated in a big way. The date of his exaltation rather coincides with the Anniversary of Saltillo.

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Another difference is that Santiago arrived in the city by Spanish imposition and Santo Cristo was brought by a mule. But we will get to that later.

Santiago is rooted in Saltillo since its foundation. Villa de Santiago de Saltillo, that was the first name that on July 25, 1577 the Spaniards gave to what is today the city. That day coincides with the celebration of the Catholic Church to the Apostle Santiago.

And the name of Saltillo, was for a small waterfall that the conquerors saw in a plain in the Ojo de Agua neighborhood, in the Central Zone.

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Divine mule?

This is where the mule comes into the picture. Legend has it that 31 years after the founding of Saltillo, a solitary mule indicated where and whom to worship.

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That is what the legend says that has been transmitted for generations and that until today shares the church.

In 1608 a mule entered the city, without company, without a guide, but with a box on its back.

It is said that the animal reached the Central Zone and lay down in front of the Plaza de Armas. There, they dismantled the box in which he carried an image, that of the Holy Christ. Once unloaded, the mule was never heard from again.

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What happened later with the image is more an act of faith. Santos Rojo, one of the founders of Saltillo, placed the Holy Christ on the altar of the Souls. It was a small adobe chapel located where the mule settled.

Since then, the villagers began to pray and make petitions to the Holy Christ. Already in 1690, the descendants of Santos Rojo built another stone chapel in the same place.

Around 1762, the construction of a new house for the Holy Christ was completed, the one we know today next to the cathedral.

$! Transfer of the image of Santo Cristo prior to the celebration of his novena.

Transfer of the image of Santo Cristo prior to the celebration of his novena.

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A devout woman, Josefa Báez de Treviño, donated part of the wealth left by her husband, Captain Bartholomé de Elizarrarás y Cuéllar, to the work of the chapel.

And the origin?

We already talked about the strange arrival of the Holy Christ in Saltillo, and its origin is just as mysterious, and of course, there are several versions.

It was believed that the image came from Veracruz, which had arrived from Europe in the maritime fleets of Castile. According to, from Xalapa, and that Santos Rojo would have brought it to the north of the country.

$!The image is kept inside the Chapel of Santo Cristo.

The image is kept inside the Chapel of Santo Cristo.

But since 2004 that theory has been ruled out during a restoration. It was revealed that the Holy Christ is not European but American. Historians consider that it was made by artisans from Michoacán or some other central site of New Spain.

In the investigation that was made of the image, 18 years ago, it was also specified that the main material that composes it is corn stalk paste.

$!The main material that makes up the image is corn cane.

The main material that makes up the image is corn cane.

And the miracles?

More than four centuries after the arrival of the mule, the acts attributed to Santo Cristo are innumerable.

That if we have put an end to droughts, prevented epidemics, saved hundreds of people from death, healed the sick and others that we may never know.

It is precisely those miracles that every year motivate parishioners to organize the feast of the Holy Christ. Except for 2020 and 2021, when the pandemic prevented it.

But removing those two years, on August 6 the streets surrounding the Cathedral are filled with food stalls, people walk shoulder to shoulder and the Matlachines do their thing.

$!Aerial view of the Santo Cristo celebrations during 2019.

Aerial view of the celebrations of Santo Cristo during 2019.

As we have already said, Santo Cristo is not the patron saint, but it seems that he was. As we have already said, a mule starred in his arrival, although there are those who say that this narrative is similar to others told in other cities.

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$!Each year, hundreds of devotees join the masses of Santo Cristo.

Every year, hundreds of devotees join the masses of Santo Cristo.

And about miracles, there yes, everyone has to tell their own story. In the end, what is faith if not the certainty that something is true. Oh, and about Santiago, who is a patron saint, we will have to talk in more detail on another occasion.

*With information from Esperanza Dávila, Carlos Recio and Pablo Cuéllar.

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