The Miracle Mother, The Divine Shepherdess (La Divina Pastora), Siparee/Supari Mai, the Black Madonna
In her church La Divina Pastora at 7 La Pastora Street
Siparia is a town in Southern Trinidad, which was originally inhabited by the Caribs and Arawaks, indigenous peoples of the Caribbean. Christopher Columbus encountered the island on his third voyage to the Americas and named it "La Isla de la Trinidad" ("The Island of the Trinity"), which ultimately was shortened to Trinidad. The Island became part of the Spanish territories of South America until the French claimed it in the late 1700’s. The British took over the territory in 1889, subsequently granting Trinidad and Tobago independence in 1962. Trinidad is sometimes called the “Rainbow Island” in recognition of its cultural and religious diversity. Vibrant communities originate from the Indigenous people, East Indiens, Africans, and Europeans, with religions to match, so that Trinidad is home to Muslims, Hindus, Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and followers of Amerindian and Chinese religions. La Divina Pastora reflects Trinidad’s interfaith tradition in that she is venerated by Catholics, Hindus, and the indigenous Warao people.
The origins of this painted wooden statue are not known. Earliest records in the local Caltholic church archives tell of a Spanish priest, who arrived from Venezuela in the early 1800’s with the Black Madonna, reporting that she had saved his life. The image is called by numerous names and titles, which also reflect the multicultural population of Trinidad: The Black Madonna, The Madonna Murti (Sanskrit: form, statue), Siparee or Supari Mai (Sanskrit: mother of Siparia), Kali (a Hindu goddess, whose name means ‘Black’) The Patron Saint of Siparia, and The Miracle Mother.
Many supernatural occurrences and healings are attributed to this Madonna. The Christian Feast day of La Divina Pastora occurs on the third Sunday after Easter. Locals dress her in white and adorn her with flowers as she leads a procession throughout Siparia. On the Thursday and Friday before Easter (Maundy Thursday and Good Friday) Hindus come to her shrine, offering flowers, rice, oil, and jewelry, while taking collections to help the poor. During this time, both Hindus and Christians celebrate together in a cross cultural event known as Sipari Mai and La Divina Pastora festivals. The Black Madonna of Siparia is an excellent example of interfaith cooperation and religious co-existence.
Post by Ella Rozett with Stephanie Georgieff, author of “The Black Madonna: Mysterious Soul Companion”