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How devotion to Saint Lawrence in Ciudad Juarez came to be

August 10, 2021 Catholic News Agency 1
Bernardo Strozzi’s St. Lawrence Distributing the Treasures of the Church (c. 1625).

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Aug 10, 2021 / 16:25 pm (CNA).

Devotion to St. Lawrence, the third century Roman deacon and martyr, took root in what is now the border area of Mexico and the United States more than three centuries ago, and he is now one of the patron saints of the Diocese of Ciudad Juárez.

The origins of the devotion lay in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, which began on St. Lawrence’s feast day.

“The Spanish crown authorized Don Juan de Oñate in 1595 to colonize the territory that today are mainly the states of New Mexico, Northern Chihuahua and Texas,” related a recent article in the Ciudad Juárez diocese’s weekly, Presencia

Based on annotations of the historian José Mario Sánchez Soledad, Presencia related that the Pueblo Revolt was led by indigenous leader Popé, reacting to harsh Spanish rule. Four hundred Spanish settlers were killed “and the survivors fled to Santa Fe and Pueblo de Isleta,” which are located in what is now New Mexico.

As Sante Fe was besieged by the rebelling Pueblo Indians the Spanish broke their way out of the town and “headed towards the city of El Paso del Norte, now Ciudad Juárez, which then became the (temporary) capital of the New Mexico territory.” 

“Devotion to St. Lawrence grew in this region when the settlers in their flight from Santa Fe, among the few possessions they were able to rescue, were accompanied by a small statue of St. Lawrence (brought from Spain), who protected them from attacks on their way.”

The surviving Indians who had not rebelled, Spaniards, and Governor Don Antonio de Otermín “were received at the Guadalupe Mission in El Paso del Norte.”

“As El Paso del Norte was overcrowded, the survivors of the indigenous rebellion founded a town downstream from El Paso del Norte which they called St. Lawrence,” the current location of the St. Lawrence Shrine.

“Originally the town was closer to the Rio Grande but a flood forced it to be rebuilt further to the south, where it is currently.”

The small statue of St. Lawrence that is currently preserved in the shrine is according to tradition the one that the Spanish managed to rescue after the indigenous rebellion.