No more war! Immigrants cry out during the Stations of the Cross in the Placita Olvera church

Immigrant parishioners of the Nuestra Señora de Los Ángeles church in Placita Olvera participate in the viacrucis. (Araceli Martínez / La Opinion)

Photo: Araceli Martínez / Impremedia

A stop to the Ukraine-Russia war, migratory relief, no to sexual exploitation, racism, healing of the covid pandemic and an end to helplessness were some of the prayers that the participants expressed during the staging of the Stations of the Cross in the church of Our Lady The Queen of Los Angeles of Placita Olvera, on Good Friday.

“It is a very nice feeling to see that people truly feel the moments experienced by Jesus from the time he was apprehended until his crucifixion,” says Rafael Serrano, a 38-year-old who has been impersonating Jesus for 5 years.

“It is something very personal; and I like to do my bit in the celebration of the Stations of the Cross”.

The station of the cross remembers the immigrant children who were caged by the immigration authorities. (Araceli Martínez / La Opinion)

Rafael is an immigrant from Guanajuato, Mexico who makes a living as a cook in the trucks lunchboxes serving food for TV shows in Los Angeles.

It took him at least a month to prepare for the role of Jesus during the way of the cross.

Pablo del Valle, a father of 4 children, was completely nervous before entering the scene to play the role of one of the soldiers who flog and crucify Jesus.

“I come from a family of many religious. My dad was a sacristan. I have two aunts who are nuns and a nephew is a priest. That called me to be a minister of the Eucharist, and now to participate for the first time in the passion and death of Jesus Christ.”

Rafael Serrano, 5 years personifying Jesus in the viacrucis of the church of Placita Olvera. (Araceli Martínez / La Opinion)

Pablo is originally from Jerez, Zacatecas, and has lived in Los Angeles for decades. He recently had to leave his job as a cook due to an injury that prevented him from returning to the kitchen after 34 years of working in restaurants.

“The pleasure of participating in the viacrucis is inexplicable. I feel ants in my stomach from emotion, ”she confesses.

Ana Aju, an immigrant from Guatemala, who has been living in Los Angeles for 35 years and participating in the Stations of the Cross for 10 years, was the rapporteur at some of the 14 stations that make up the Via Dolorosa.

“It is a great opportunity to give the message in each station. Personally, it gives me a lot of spiritual peace and helps me to keep Jesus in mind every day of the year and not forget him.”

This is the second year that the viacrucis of the church of Nuestra Señora La Reina de Los Ángeles has been staged inside the temple due to the pandemic. In the year 2020, when the coronavirus broke out, its realization was completely suspended and only some transmissions were made on the Internet.

“Before the pandemic, we did the viacrucis walking from the parish to the City Hall (City Hall building) with the intention of making it very public by expressing the problems of the city and updating the message of salvation”, says Father Arturo Corral, parish priest of the Nuestra Señora La Reina de Los Ángeles church.

“Hopefully next year, once the pandemic is fully controlled, we can return to the City Hall with the Stations of the Cross.”

They asked not for sexual exploitation at the viacrucis of the Placita Olvera church. (Araceli Martínez / La Opinion)

The father recalls that in an atmosphere of prayer, they take advantage of the Stations of the Cross to talk about the vital problems suffered by the Hispanic community in Los Angeles.

“Migration is a vital point from which we do not want to take our finger off the line. But also the biggest concerns have been losses from covid and not having good health insurance.

“People only have emergency insurance; and during the pandemic they had nowhere to take covid patients to quarantine and isolate them. They were painful challenges, of losses and confinement. We hope that in a few months, the law that will give medical insurance (MediCal) in California to undocumented immigrants becomes a reality.”

This year – he says – the Stations of the Cross also placed special emphasis on asking for peace in the world and that there be no war.

“It is an immense pain what the Ukrainian and Russian communities are experiencing. That is why we ask Jesus Christ so that they find peace, instead of violence.”

The Stations of the Cross was an opportunity to shed light on pressing problems in Los Angeles. (Araceli Martínez / La Opinion)

He comments that a strong problem that affects the city is the population that lives on the streets.

“There is an urgency for the homeless to find a place in society. Although there is a large budget and there have been many attempts to solve it, we do not see progress. We can see it around Placita Olvera. It is a serious problem because many also suffer from mental health disorders; and in some cases, they represent a security problem.”

Father Corral says that despite all the challenges of the past two years, he is happy that the Church has become a healthy time of escape and community gathering.

“It has served to make people feel that they are not alone in the midst of this health crisis.”