Under a Sunday cloudy, gray sky and a drizzle of rain, visitors walked among the impromptu Pulse nightclub victims’ memorials at the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center in Downtown Orlando.
Exactly a week after the massacre took place, visitors took in the shrines in silence: photos of the victims, teddy bears, tons of flowers, a bottle of white wine (with cork), a white sofa with dedications and signatures, balloons, signs and a wet Bible opened to the pages of Malachi, which is the last book of the Old Testament.
Dozens of American flags stood upright in the rain. Many more Rainbow LGBT flags flew all around. And one large Mexican flag lay on the ground at one memorial. All apropos of the facts that have come to light about the victims.
Puerto Rican Flag
It seemed odd, then, that no Puerto Rican flags were visible since so many of the victims were Puerto Rican. It’s a well-known fact that Puerto Ricans carry their red-white-and-blue-with-a-single-white-star-on-blue-background everywhere. And I mean Everywhere. Why no bonita bandera here, of all places?
Because so many of the victims were Latino – at least 36 of the 49 victims have Hispanic surnames or 73 percent – the memorials have a distinctly Hispanic symbolic flavor. But you have to know what to look for.
Virgen de Guadalupe
I saw dozens of candles that mamá or abuela would buy in the botánica to pay respects and say prayer directly to their favorite or patron saint. These were no ordinary tea candles or tea lights. These were candles in familiar long glass containers that represent something deep in panHispanic culture, for it is through the patron saints that Latinos speak to God. And each Spanish-speaking country has a patron virgin or saint. Puerto Rico’s, for instance, is the Virgen de la Providencia and/or San Juan Bautista (St. John the Baptist).
The Virgen de Guadalupe was heavily represented among the memorials. She is the patron saint of Mexico but, really, the Virgin of the Americas and therefore all Latinos. At the shrine to the Virgen de Guadalupe in Mexico City worshippers walk to the cathedral on their knees in fulfillment of a promise. An amazing sight to see.
Also presente is San Judas Tadeo (Judas Thaddeus), a disciple of Christ who is appealed to in desperate and difficult times – or sometimes so that situations do not get worse. This saint also is a Mexican favorite.
Another common candle is Angel de la Guarda or Guardian Angel, whose prayer reads:
“Guardian Angel, sweet company, do not leave me neither night or day. Do not leave me alone for I would be lost. Neither live nor die in mortal sin. Jesus in life, Jesus in death, Jesus forever. Amen.”
Other Patron Saints
Below are the names and significance of other candles of patron saints spotted at the Dr. Phillips center victims’ memorials. Which ones did you notice?
• Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre – the patron saint of Cuba.
• Virgen de la Milagrosa – dates to the Sisters of Charity of France.
• Nuestra Señora de San Juan de los Lagos – patron saint venerated by Mexicans and Texans.
• Sagrado Corazón de Jesús – represents Jesus’ heart and His divine love for humanity.
• San Martín de Caballero – St. Martin of Tours, a Roman soldier who turned in his armor to do battle in the form of acts of love and charity.
• Oración del Señor – The Lord’s Prayer
• Oración de Justo Juez – Prayer to a Just Judge: Hear my pleas and petitions, bless me in all my anguish and afflictions.
• San Miguel Arcángel – St. Michael the Archangel led God’s armies against Satan’s forces.
˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor