Ex-voto is a testament of gratitude. Translated from Latin, the word ex-voto means “promise of,” “the miracle of,” “the vow made,” and consists of small tin plates depicting scenes of suffering individuals praying for one or more saints to intervene during moments of hardship such as accidents, sickness, or disasters. It refers to the payment of a vow, made in a moment of vicissitude, by means of offering to the divine figure of the intercessor a painting or objects related to the grace received. If the supplicants’ requests are answered, they commission small plates of tin depicting the miraculous event. These votive offerings are composed of pictorial and written sections: The painted scene on the upper three quarters of the space convey the divine intercession and, a written band in the bottom section describes the miracle received including names of mediators, petitioners, persons in distress, locations, and dates. The pictorial section combines scenes of divine and earthly zones: the image of the mediator is represented floating in the clouds just above the terrestrial scene with elements related to the petitioner and the scene of distress.
These tins are offered to pilgrimage sites dedicated to that specific devotion and randomly displayed on walls from floors to ceilings as public acts of faith and as witnesses of the power of the divine mediators. The Retablos Santos follow the canons of European art and Catholic iconography leaving very limited freedom for individual creativity, whereas the retablo Ex-Voto depends primarily on the artist’s ingenuity and spontaneity. Those folk objects are painted by amateur artists, known as retableros or milagreros, who serve as intermediaries between the donors and the votive offerings.
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