Peru: Sacrilegious Theft in Motupe

Update (Wednesday July 6, 2011): the Holy Cross of Motupe was found without its gems, cut in five parts and with burn marks.

On Tuesday, July 5, 2011, Peruvians woke up to shocking news: the popular and very well-known Holy Cross of Motupe [es] had been stolen.

The Holy Cross of Motupe, from the district of Motupe in the region of Lambayeque, north of Peru, dates back to 1860. It is celebrated annually every August, and the central point is a cross that, according to the tradition, was made by Fray Juan Agustín de Abad, a Franciscan priest.

It is said the much-beloved priest left all of a sudden, without a trace. Previously, he had let some people know that in Cerro Chalpón, Cerro Rajado and Cerro Penachí, he had left behind huge crosses made with his own hands out of wood from the guayacán [es] tree; those crosses were to be found and considered the protectors of the whole area. Many people tried unsuccessfully to find the crosses.

Prayer notes left at the Holy Cross of Motupe. Image by Flickr user joestrada (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Prayer notes left at the Holy Cross of Motupe. Image by Flickr user joestrada (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Some years later, on August 5, 1868, a 22-year-old villager named José Mercedes Anteparra Peralta found the Holy Cross hidden in Cerro Chalpón, embedded in a sort of grotto or cave. The Bishop of Trujillo named Anteparra First Superintendent, a position he kept until his death, on April 10, 1921.

This is how some bloggers reported the robbery.

The blog Tu docente [es], by teacher Jaime Quispe Casas, republished from La República [es]:

La Cruz de Motupe, simbólico objeto venerado y admirado por miles de fieles y peregrinos no solo de Lambayeque sino de todo el país fue robada en la última madrugada. La misma, se encontraba ubicada en el cerro Cruz de Chalpón.

[…] unos ladrones llegaron al lugar y, tras golpear y atar al vigilante, no tuvieron el menor reparo en cometer el sacrilegio.

The Cross of Motupe, a symbolic venerated object, admired by thousands of parishioners and pilgrims not only from Lambayeque but from the whole country, was stolen last night, during the early morning. It was located at Cerro Cruz de Chalpón.

[…] some burglars got to the place and, after attacking and tying up the night watchman, had no qualms about commiting the sacrilege.

José Zeña del Valle, the blogger from Del Valle para todos [es], added some more details:

Con el repique de campana la población de ha desplazado a la gruta de Chalpón para buscar en los alrededores la posibilidades (sic) abrigando la esperanza que los sacrílegos después de arrebatarle sus prendas presionas la hayan dejado tirada en un de los profundos barrancos que existen en el la cordillera del cerro de Chalpón.
Este hecho toma mayor interés en la feligresía católica creyente en la Cruz de Chalpón de Motupe por el hecho que el 25 del presente mes se inicia la feria patronal anual.
With the pealing of bells, the residents have gone to the cave of Chalpon to look around, hoping it may have been possible that the sacrilegious [robbers], after ripping off the [cross’] precious garments, had left it in one of the deep precipices around the mountains of Cerro Chalpón.
The event has captured more interest from the Catholic believers in the Cross of Chalpon of Motupe, due to the fact that on the 25 of this month will marks the starting of the [associated] patron's saint day.

The cross is covered with silver and white gold, which makes it attractive for burglars.

On Twitter, the hashtag #cruzdemotupe became a local trending topic. User Aurelio Mata (@AurelioMatta) said:

Que maleados, se robaron la @cruzdemotupe. Que se roben el cristo de @gordovago mejor

How mean is this, the @cruzdemotupe was stolen. They'd better steal the Christ of @gordovago [alluding to a recently installed statue of Jesus Christ and relating it to Peruvian President Alan Garcia in a disrespectful way]

And Jorge Campos (@jorgelpotter) tweeted:

#cruzdemotupe Cortina de humo? Al margen de las creencias, el robo de la #cruzdemotupe muestra que en el pais ya no hay respeto a nada…

#cruzdemotupe Smoke screen? Beliefs aside, the theft of the #cruzdemotupe shows that in the country, there is no respect for anything…

Kandy Fuentes (@kandydfg) was saddened with the news:

Este año no pude ir a la #cruzdemotupe a cumplir mi promesa =( me siento muy triste

This year I wasn't able to go to #cruzdemotupe to keep my promise =( I feel very sad

And Alian Molina (@aliomp) said:

Alcalde de Motupe sobre robo de la #cruzdemotupe: “No hay señales de forcejeo”

Mayor of Motupe about the theft of #cruzdemotupe: “There are no signs of struggle”

About the robbery, the blog El Perú Ra-rá [es] tells us:

El Cmdte. PNP Alesandro León Roque, a cargo de las investigaciones pidió paciencia. “Pido a los periodistas que tengan un poquito de cuidado al respecto, las investigaciones son reservadas. Lo que quisiera es que mantengan la calma, déjennos un poquito trabajar”, exhortó.

PNP [National Peruvian Police] Commander Alesandro León Roque, who is in charge of the investigations, asked for patience. “I ask journalists to be a little patient about this, investigations are reserved. I'd like to you to be calm, let us work”, he urged.

Unfortunately, this is not the only sacrilegious theft reported in Peru in recent months. For example, last October, M. Antonio Agapito Manco, from the blog Poder Político [es], posted:

Hermosos trabajos de orfebrería distinguia al altar del SEÑOR DE LOS MILAGROS, el valor material supera los $ 30,000.oo dólares, fueron aportes de vecinos y personas lleno de fe, también fue obtenido mediante muchas actividades social-religiosa.

Rich goldsmithing characterized the altar of LORD OF THE MIRACLES, with a material value over US$ 30,000, which were contributions from neighbors and faithful people, purchased through many social and religious activities.

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