When Christmas of the Andes Arrived at the Vatican

A 30-Piece Nativity Scene of Popular Art

When Christmas of the Andes Arrived at the Vatican
Pope with the artisan Manuel Breña Martinez © Vatican Media

When Christmas of the Andes Arrived at the VaticanWhat did it look like when Christmas of the Andes arrived at the Vatican?

Saint Joseph was playing with Jesus while Mary held Him in her arms. Jesus laughs, so does the Virgin, and Joseph never stops shaking the rattle. This is the Andean print that craftsman Manuel Breña Martínez imagined to mold later the expression of each of the personalities of the mystery exhibited — since December 10 and for 45 days –, in Saint Peter’s Square in the Vatican.

Clothed in multi-colored garments proper to the Chopcca community, a village of the Andean region, this time the Wise Men of the Nativity Scene, guarded by a condor, arrived with llamas, vicuñas and alpacas, explained Manuel, who was present for the inauguration of the Peruvian Nativity Scene, accompanied by four other craftsmen from Huancavelica.

With this masterpiece, Manuel sought to revalue the Chocca textile industry. The Virgin Mary was dressed in a jacket and bodice, said the artist during the interview, because his own mother used to wear that when singing in the garb of a coloratura soprano. She always inspired in her son love of the land in which he was born.

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When Christmas of the Andes Arrived at the VaticanManuel’s heart vibrated when he met with the Holy Father. But he was even happier when he saw the Pope smile and enthusiastic about the two Chopcca dancers that Manuel gave him, which values the idiosyncrasy of this Andean community.

The 30-piece Nativity Scene of popular art and imagery caught the attention of tourists, especially the Latin Americans, who recalled what they lived in their Andean countries.

Motivated also to get the textile industry of the Chopcca people known, the craftsmen made garments of the personalities with multi-colored materials, expressing the iconography of the region, said Manuel.

The Nativity Scene values the Andean expressions of love for the child Manuelito of the Andes, who is now celebrated also in the Vatican.

Translation by Virginia M. Forrester