Pico island: Senhor Bom Jesus Milagroso. The Symbol of the diaspora from the Azores

I’m stunned at the beauty of Pico! It is the first time I’m here and I’m impressed! However many pictures I may have seen, however much I may have read, nothing can describe the feeling of being at the Pico mountain. It’s imposing! It’s really a tall mountain… I’ve already taken more than twenty photos from the very moment I stepped onto the boat on the harbour in Horta, some fifteen minutes ago; it’s photogenic, no doubt! It’s those clouds that almost cut it in two that attract us. Vitorino Nemésio called it “a dirty cotton sky”… He was right. The top of the mountain seems to be suspended from the sky. It’s a spring day but I fear that we’ll have winter weather waiting for us at Madalena harbour. Some really dark clouds are coming. All the four seasons are said to occur on the same day in the Azores and that’s what seems will happen today.

It didn’t rain when we arrived, after all. The clouds disappeared as they had arrived: quickly. Instead of the rain, Father Marco Martinho, the director of the Diocesan Sanctuary of Senhor Bom Jesus Milagroso 15km far from Madalena in the parish of S.Mateus, was waiting for us. The year 2012 is a feast year for the Sanctuary: they celebrate the 150th anniversary of the beginning of worship for Senhor Bom Jesus Milagroso and the 50th anniversary of the rising of S. Mateus Parish Church to the rank of Sanctuary. It’s worth coming here, preferably on the 6th August if possible. It’s the day of pilgrimage and you may join the thousands of pilgrims who come from all over the island and also from other Azores islands, in particular the Central Group ones. The pilgrimage of Senhor Bom Jesus Milagroso is the most important of this group of islands.

Emigrants from the Azores are present in large numbers. Many of them come in their usual month of holidays to thank for being back in their beloved homeland and to promise they’ll come back again next year. There are good reasons for such a close relationship; for Father José Carlos Simplício, S. Mateus’s former vicar, devotion to Senhor Bom Jesus Milagroso “was probably the most present devotion in the comings and goings of Portuguese emigration”. Everything began with some northern emigrants who took the image of the agonizing Christ – Senhor Ecce Homo or Senhor da Cana Verde – to Brazil where it spread under the name of Senhor Bom Jesus. In the coastal village of Iguape, in the state of São Paulo, Francisco Ferreira Goulart, an immigrant born in S. Mateus, became a devotee and decided to buy the sculpture and offer it to his native parish when he went back to the island in 1862.

Worship spread quickly: to other parishes in Pico island, to other Azores islands, to the United States of America, both to the east coast, to New Bedford and Newport, and to distant California where the presence of immigrants from central and western groups is stronger. It even reached Ontario in Canada.

It’s an amazing route: from the north of Portugal to Brazil, from there to Pico Island and from here to other Azores islands and to North America! Worship for Senhor Bom Jesus Milagroso travels beyond frontiers, it’s not local, it connects Pico to the World provided that a native of Pico is there!

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