Latin America

Koki Ruiz, author of the portrait of Chiquitunga

Omnes-June 15, 2018-Reading time: 3 minutes

Artist Koki Ruiz works on the portrait of Chiquitunga that will be exhibited at her beatification. A portrait made with rosaries. Pope Francis has donated the rosary he used in Paraguay.

Text - Federico Mernes, Asunción (Paraguay)

The name of Koki Ruiz and his work are linked to the cultural rescue of the beautiful religious tradition of Holy Week in the town of Tañarandy, in San Ignacio Misiones, Paraguay. A land evangelized since ancient times by the Jesuit missionaries in their extraordinary experience of the colonial era in South America.

Koki Ruiz's creativity and hard work with the community where he lives, in the interior of the Guarani nation, has turned that region into a tourist attraction, where every year thousands of people come on pilgrimage to appreciate the representations of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. He is now working on a portrait dedicated to ChiquitungaMaría Felicia de Jesús Sacramentado, the future first Paraguayan Blessed, which will be exposed next to the altar at the beatification ceremony, which will take place on June 23 at the Cerro Porteño stadium.

Koki Ruiz was the author of the famous altarpiece that aroused the admiration of pilgrims during Pope Francis' visit to Paraguay in July 2015. The altarpiece prepared by Koki for the Mass of that Sunday, July 12, in Ñu Guasu (Campo Grande, in Guarani) had a base of 40 meters by about 20 meters high and was decorated with agricultural products of the country. Thirty-two thousand ears of corn, 200,000 coconuts and 1,000 pumpkins were used.

Messages in the coconuts

In addition, all the people who came days before the Mass had the opportunity to write messages on the coconuts on the altar. Many of those requests were for the beatification of Chiquitunga, the beloved Carmelite Sister, whose brain is incorrupt and to whom many Paraguayans have great devotion. The artist begins by pointing out that "Tañarandy began as creative art in 1992 and now it seeks to reach popular piety... In the past, ideologies were discussed and Marxism, liberation theology were mixed with religion... The priest used to say: if it makes you a better person, it is good for you. But today what is sought to express is religiosity, which is believing for the sake of believing without the need for reflection. I am concerned that Tañarandy is lived with spirituality and that it is not just a question of tourism... Popular piety is transmitted from parents to children and grandchildren, that is what we must take care of.".

This is how he met the Carmelite nun

He is now working on the portrait of Chiquitunga, which is made from rosaries. "My first contact with Chiquitunga was a lady who was very devoted to her. When I was making the Pope's altarpiece she came to put names on the coconuts of 20,000 people, she wrote and we had to close and she kept writing and asking for the beatification of Chiquitunga; in the end she gave me two books of Chiquitunga that I kept.

Then they called me from the Carmelites asking me to do something for the beatification, I remembered those two moments: the lady who was writing and the nun who wanted to kiss my hand. I read the books and I was impressed, I fell in love with Chiquitunga, the sublimity of that love, she became very close to me. I read her intimate diaries and that surrender to always pray for others and sometimes that dialogue with God of 'I still love Him but I give everything to you God', it is the surrender, it is to go through that human love and make it more sublime for Him, for God and that's how I fell in love with Chiquitunga.".

Behind every rosary, a story

"Behind every rosary there is a lot of history." -adds the artist-."I remember one who, when he brought his rosary, said that this rosary saved two lives: that of my wife who had cancer and mine, that if my wife died, I would die. My daughter died 20 years ago and I asked Chiquitunga, but she never left, she always hugs me, and she came with several friends to make 700 rosaries.".

"In Tañarandy this year's Holy Week celebration around Chiquitunga was more spiritual.", comments Koki Ruiz. "The people kind of came looking for something and asking for something. Chiquitunga was an instrument of God to bring people closer to God. I remember my mom telling me once when I was in the second year of TañarandyYou have a lot of talent, that is a gift from God and the danger is vanity. Your daily prayer must be one of humility.

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