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Chalma (or Chalmita), a renowned pilgrimage site in Mexico and symbol of folk Catholicism, combining elements of indigenous and European faiths. According to legend, in 1539, Augustinian friars found an idol (possibly representing Tezcatlipoca) and evidence of sacrifices to it in a cave at Chalma. Later, when they went to replace the idol with a cross, they reputedly found the image broken in pieces and a crucifix already in its place. The idol had been the object of pilgrimages in pre-Hispanic times; subsequent treks were made from great distances to worship the miraculous new god and the nearby town's new patron, St. Michael, who also came to occupy a place at the sacred shrine. Which deity Oztoteotl (the "cave god"), as the idol came to be called, truly represented, and whether his attributes were transferred to Christ and/or St. Michael in the hearts of the indigenous people, are unresolved questions. Modern pilgrimages are lively events marked by floral displays, song, dance, and fireworks.

See alsoAugustinians .


Erna Fergusson, Fiesta in Mexico (1934), pp. 47-67, and Alejandra González Leyva, Chalma: Una devoción agustina (Toluca, 1991), provide an example of the folklore surrounding the shrine at Chalma. Gilberto Giménez offers details of a modern pilgrimage to Chalma in his Cultura popular y religión en el Anáhuac (1978).

Additional Bibliography

Rodríguez-Shadow, María, and Robert Dennis Shadow. El pueblo del Señor: Las fiestas y peregrinaciones de Chalma. Toluca: Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México, 2000.

                                   Stephanie Wood