Monday, May 28, 2007

Puebla, Mexico: A miracle worked by the Niño Cieguito

The Puebla football soccer team has for many years been a model of ineptitude. In case you don't know how it works here, there are two divisions of football soccer, the 1st Division and the 2nd Division. The 1st Division is considered the "big league" and the 2nd Division is the "minor league". This arrangement also exists in most of the rest of the football soccer crazy world.

Unlike, say, professional baseball in the USA, where a minor league team is and always will be a minor league team, a 2nd Division football soccer team in Mexico or Brasil or Germany can earn its way into the 1st Division, always at the expense of a poorly performing 1st Division team, of course. That is the goal of hundreds of 2nd division clubs and their fans all around the world -- get to the 1st division and then stay there.

It was so bad in Puebla for so many years that, at one point, a new owner, upon taking control of the team, traded the entire team, along with a boatload of cash, for another owner's team that was already in the 1st Division. That would be somewhat akin to the owner of the Toledo Mud Hens trading his team, along with a boatload of cash, to the owner of the Kansas City A's, which could lead to headlines like, "Mud Hens Bury Orioles" or "Tigers Devour Mud Hens" or, whatever.

The seller's outraged fans conducted the usual rioting, blockading and boycotting, but to no avail as the seller was already yukking it up on the Riviera. Whether Mayan or French remains unclear. Alas, the Puebla jinx struck the new 1st Division team and it, too, was soon relegated to the ignonimous Second Division.

The fans and players in Puebla needed to take stronger action. They needed a miracle. They went to the "Niño Cieguito" to get it. The "Niño Cieguito" (blind infant Jesus) resides in the Temple of the Convent of San Joaquín y Santa Ana in downtown Puebla. Fans dressed the icon in a Puebla team uniform and then prayed, a lot.

Puebla's "Niño Cieguito" dressed in team uniform

Sure enough, a miracle was bestowed upon the city and its faithful (to whatever team was in town) fans. The Puebla football soccer team won its final game of the season and had a good enough record to be promoted to the 1st Division in the Mexican Football Soccer league.

A little history might be in order. In 1944 in Morelia, a thief hid himself inside the Convento de La Merced. After the doors were closed and locked, he set about sacking the sanctuary. A statue of the boy Jesus began to weep and cry out. The thief tried to cover the statue'ss mouth to quiet it but to no avail. He then took out his knife and pried the eyes out of the statue but it still would not be quiet. In a panic, he grabbed up the statue and, along with the rest of his haul, fled into the countryside.

The next day, upon discovering the thefts, church officials called in the police who were soon able to capture the thief. He confessed all and related the story as well as the whereabouts of the discarded statue, which he had also broken into pieces. The statue was repaired as well as possible and was moved to Puebla, although still without its eyes as it yet appears today. The Santo Niño Cieguito has been credited by its followers with many miracles over the years.

I might note that there is a church in Puebla devoted solely to the granting of miracles. It is called the Iglesia del Nuestro Señor de los Milagros (Church of Our Lord of Miracles) and I have visited it many times, usually on Wednesdays and Sundays after buying my Melate tickets. To no avail, I might also add.

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