Otatitlán and The Black Jesus


Otatitlán is located in the state of Veracruz and is best known for the crucified image of a Black Jesus. It is said that the image appeared floating in a raft on the Papaloapan River in 1597. The villagers considered it a miracle and rescued it. That same year, the construction of Otatitlán Church begun.

Other versions indicate that King Philip II of Spain ordered the creation of three Black Jesus in order to expand Catholicism and convert the natives of New Spain to this religion. One of the images arrived in Otatitlán and the other two were sent to Chalma in State of Mexico and Esquipulas in Guatemala.

Black Jesus in Otatitlán.

The Black Jesus sent to Otatitlán would arrive first at a Mazatec town called Puctlanzingo that was where the Miguel Alemán dam is currently located. There, it was found and later venerated by Chinantecs, Mazatecs and Cuicatecs.

The image did not last long there because that same year the residents suffered diseases, floods and other misfortunes blaming the Black Jesus. Then, the indigenous people put the Black Jesus in a raft on the old course of the Papaloapan River. Because of this event, in February of 1597 the Black Jesus was found by the inhabitants of Otatitlán.

The researchers who study the phenomenon of the Black Jesus believe that the intention of the Spaniards was to replace Yacatecuhtli, God of commerce for the Aztecs who happened to be black. If this was the intention, they succeeded.

During the religious persecution, they tried to burn the Black Jesus in 1931. As it was made of resistant wood (or by a miracle) they did not achieve it and instead they could only behead it. The Black Jesus was decapitated and the inhabitant of Otatitlán carved a substitute head. Only until 1950 was the original head recovered and the substitute head now is displayed in the church.

Substitute head.

The current church of San Andrés (church of the Black Jesus), which is in the main Plaza of Otatitlán, was built in different stages finishing the construction in 1878. The dome has yellow and black mosaics while the facade is green with yellow.

Church of the Black Jesus or simply the Sanctuary.

From April 29 to May 3, the religious festival of the Black Jesus is celebrated. In this celebration, the story of how the Black Jesus arrived on a raft by the current of the Papaloapan River is revived.

The original cross is also displayed in the church.

Original Cross

After visiting the church/sanctuary you can walk through the main square and admire the beautiful casonas with their traditional portals.

Another activity you can do is visit the Papaloapan River and admire the panorama while you feel the breeze. You can also see how the Panga passes from one side of the river to the other, transporting vehicles of all kinds.

How to get there:
Otatitlán is only 30 km northeast of Tuxtepec.