Today my mother’s father Hilarion “Julio” Vallee
would’ve turned 90 years old so I just wanted to take a quick moment to say, “Happy birthday abuelo!”
His birthday happens to fall on a day that is very important to Catholics in Panama and is also ardently observed by many followers outside the country as well. October 21st is El Dia del Cristo Negro de Portobelo. People form all over the country journey to the small town of Portobelo to pay homage to the statue of a Black Jesus (one of many found in Latin America) that has resided there since 1658. When he was alive, my grandfather was among the many that would make this trip each year.
Unfortunately, Hilarion did not live past the age of 37. I wonder, would a 90 year old Hilarion still have been making that pilgramage? Judging by how sharp and feisty some of my oldest Medicare clients are, I can definitely say it’s a possibility we can not rule out!
A few fun facts about El Cristo Negro de Portobelo:
- El Cristo Negro de Portobelo is the saint for singers.
- None other than the queen of salsa, Celia Cruz, was known to join this pilgramage on occasion.
- Another great salsero, Ismael Rivera, recorded “El Nazareno” in honor of El Cristo Negro de Portobelo.
You can go here for a short news peice on this year’s gathering at the church of San Felipe in Portobelo.