Welcome and muy bienvenidos. This is the inaugural podcast of Mexico Unexplained. Robert Bitto, the host, goes into what he would like to accomplish with this series and a little bit about his background and interests. This series will examine the magic, the mysteries and the miracles of Mexico, and will provide information, not affirmation, on a wide variety of subjects.
What are Milagros?
They are small metal charms (the larger ones are called ex votos) in the form of body parts, animals, etc. They are traditionally used as small offerings of thanks but lately have had other uses: good luck charms, bought in anticipation of good things happening, craft decoration, jewelry, adornment for home altars. The phenomenon began in ancient Greece with the tamata, or offerings to the gods. From the Mediterranean world and Catholic Europe, the spread to the New World. People in Hispanic America adopted it and now they are becoming mainstream in the United States, but with anything cultural their use has changed and adapted to our modern world. Many milagros can be quite large and intricately beautiful.
The traditional Milagros have traditional meanings. Most of these charms are self-explanatory. A sick cow = cow milagro. A broken arm to heal properly = arm milagro. A closing on a house = house milagro. Overall health = body milagro, and so on. Generic Milagros are praying people. Sacred heart of Jesus = special appeal to Christ, but it has been co-opted by people to infer love or passion. Is that okay?
Robert talks about his connection to these charms: he has been importing them for sale from Mexico for almost 17 years now and for 10 of those years he had a retail store where I sold these one by one over the counter or in bulk. He has since closed the store and does everything online, but that store made him really curious as to what was going on. Customers would share their milagro experiences through face-to-face interaction in the store and by letters in the mail. Those letters requested milagros or explained know how the charms worked for the customers. Robert showed his folder of mostly hand-written letters to one older nana who used to frequent my shop said and she said, “These letters are your real treasure.” Robert reads some of the letters on the podcast, which are very interesting.
Sources and more information:
Not much has been written in book form. A nice source (with lots of photos) is a book called Milagros: A Book of Miracles by Helen Thompson.
To check out more pictures of milagros, or to buy some, go to the milagros section of the website for Sueños Latin American Imports, here: http://www.suenosimports.com/catalog/index.php?cPath=24&osCsid=20c23888749a81ea655014bba3fbd48b