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Milagros or "Miracles" from Mexico, Peru & Europe

(also called Exvotos or "Offerings" in Europe)

Milagros are small metal religious charms found in many areas of Latin America, especially Mexico and Peru.  The word “Milagro” means “miracle”.  They are also used in Europe, where they are often referred to as Exvotos (Offerings).  These small charms, often depicting arms, legs, praying people, farm animals and a wide range of other subjects are typically nailed or pinned to crosses or wooden statues of various saints like the Virgin Mary or Christ, sacred objects, pinned on the clothing of saint statues, or hung with little red ribbons or threads from altars and shrines.  They are also carried for protection and good luck.  Ranging in size from less than 1/2 inch to several inches, they are as unique as the cultures that produce them.  Zanzibar always stocks a large selection of contemporary (new), vintage and antiques Milagros and Exvotos in any number of sizes, materials and price ranges. 

Typically, a believer will make a vow to a saint or to a sacred object, and later they will make a pilgrimage to the site of a shrine or church and take a Milagro there and leave it as a sign of gratitude and devotion. People also carry Milagros for protection and good luck. As the variety of Milagros is nearly endless, there are images of arms, legs, animals, praying figures, houses, books – you name it.

Milagros of animals often are asking for help healing sick livestock or asking for fertility; a Milagros of a body part such as a leg might be used as part of a prayer or vow for the improvement for some condition associated with a leg - such as arthritis. Or, it might refer to a concept such a travel, the leg implying walking. Similarly, a heart might represent a heart condition that one is praying for a cure or more often as a thank you for answering the prayers of the lovelorn.

In Mexico, the use of Milagros is connected with an institution known as the “manda”. This where a person will ask a favor a saint, and then, in order to repay the saint after the favor has been granted, one must make a pilgrimage to the shrine of that saint, and take a Milagros and leave it there. These Milagros are typically pinned to some object of devotion in the shrine, and often a small prayer of thanks is added, written of a piece of paper, typically.

People also might carry a Milagros with them in order to get its benefit. For instance, a curandera - a spiritual healer - might bless a Milagros and recommend that the person carry it in her pocketbook or on her person, in order to cure a physical ailment or to ward off evil, or bring about a change of fortune.

Milagros can represent specific objects, persons, or even animals, or they might represent concepts that might be symbolized by the object represented in the milagro. For instance, a head might represent a person, a person’s head, the mind, the spirit, a condition such a headache, or whatever concept that the owner or that a curandero or curandera might assign to it.



Here are some typical milagros that are commonly found, and their basic, potential meanings (always up for individual interpretation):



HEARTS, SACRED HEARTS, HEARTS WITH SWORDS

These can represent the human heart, and it might be connected with cares of worries over a heart condition. Or, it might represent the love that one person feels for another. They can also represent the Sacred Heart of Jesus or the Sacred Heart of Mary.


EYES, DOUBLE EYES, GLASSES
The milagro of the eyes is often connected with a popular Mexican saint - Santa Lucia - who, in her popular image, is shown with a tray with two eyes on it. People pray to her - and make mandas to her - about eye conditions. The eyes can also represent the concept of watching. One practice is to attach the milagro to the frame of the image of a deceased person, in the belief that this might represent the concept that the spirit of that person is watching over us, and helping to defend us from spirits from the land of the dead, or pleading our case before the saints and the angels.

BODY PARTS (LUNGS, EARS, KIDNEYS, ETC)
Various body parts, such as kidneys, livers, lungs, ears, noses, breasts, lips/mouth as well as the better known arms and legs are usually used when asking for help with a particular ailment of the identified part (ie Lung cancer, Kidney stones, hearing loss, etc.)

AUTOMOBILES, CARS & TRUCKS
As pictured above, cars, trucks and automobiles as well as tractors and other farm machinery is occasionally used.

BOOKS, PENCILS, NOTEBOOKS
Students will often use milagros of books, notepads or pencils.



PRAYING FEMALE FIGURES
This popular milagro can represent a woman, such as ones' mother or wife, for instance, or any other woman who is perceived as being faithful and fervent, or it might represent the prayers of a woman, or ones own prayers or posture of prayerfulness if one is a woman. It can also represent any female saint, such as the Virgin Mary, for instance.



PRAYING MALE FIGURES
This milagro can represent a man, such as ones father or husband, for instance, or any other man who is perceived as being faithful and fervent, or it might represent the prayers of a man, or ones own prayers or posture of prayerfulness if one is a man. It can also represent any male saint, such as the San Isidro, for instance, who is always shown in a praying posture.



WOMAN’S HEAD
A milagro of woman’s head might represent a woman, a woman’s head, a woman’s mind, a woman’s spirit, a condition such a headache, or whatever concept that the owner or that a curandero or curandera might assign to it


MAN’S HEAD
A milagro of man’s head might represent a man, a man’s head, a man’s mind, a man’s spirit, a condition such a headache, or whatever concept that the owner or that a curandero or curandera might assign to it



YOUNG GIRLS
This popular milagro might represent one’s female child, or a niece, a grandchild, or any other girl. It might also represent the childlike qualities in anyone, such as oneself, in the sense of nurturing ones inner child, for instance. It can also be connected with a manda to a saint, wherein one might have prayed to give birth to a baby, and as a result of these prayers, a girl child was born.



YOUNG BOYS
This very popular milagro might represent one’s male child, or a nephew, a grandchild, or any other boy. It might also represent the childlike qualities in anyone, such as oneself, in the sense of nurturing ones inner child, for instance. It can also be connected with a manda to a saint, wherein one might have prayed to give birth to a baby, and as a result of these prayers, a boy child was born.



ARMS
The milagro of the arm might represent an arm itself, and some condition associated with it, such as an injury, or, say, and arthritic condition. It might also represent ones strength, ones ability to work - and hence ones job - or some related concept. It might represent an embrace, and physical demonstrations of affection that involve embracing. Any part of the arm might be the focus of the prayers or the magic, such as the hand, for instance.



LEGS AND FEET
This milagro might represent ones leg itself, and some condition associated with it, such as an injury, or, say, and arthritic condition. It might also represent ones strength, and the concept of travel, such as, not only walking, but a journey, or even the idea that one might be safe driving back and forth from work everyday.



HOUSES
This represents, normally, ones own home, and the blessings that might be had on it, and on the family that dwells there. It can also represent the hope of having one’s home when one has not yet achieved that, or it can represent someone else’s home, wherein one prays or hopes for blessings and well-being there - say, at ones parents’ home. It might also represent any other building that is like ones home away from home, if one sees such a place as being such - such as ones workplace, or school, even. When traveling, it can be a charm to insure that one will arrive safely home again, or it can establish a connection between the traveler and the loved ones at home.

HENS, ROOSTERS & CHICKENS
The hen is actually a very powerful symbol, as are all of the animal milagros. This one, like the others, might represent ones own hen, with one seeking blessings so that she might always lay good eggs. Or, it might symbolize human qualities like those of a mother hen - the concept of mothering.

BULLS, COWS
The bull might symbolize strength, husbanding, protection, stamina, endurance.

HORSES
The horse might symbolize the qualities of a man in being a workhorse, or it might symbolize travel, and be involved in a prayer about a journey.

MULES
The mule, like the horse, might symbolize the qualities of a man in being a workhorse - being able to "work like a mule" - or it might symbolize travel, and be involved in a prayer about a journey. It might also be involved in a prayer or a charm to overcome stubborness, in either in oneself or in another.

SHEEP, LAMBS, GOATS
The sheep could symbolize any of the Bible verses about sheep, such as the parable of the Good Shepherd, or the Agnus Dei - the Lamb of God. It could also symbolize the concept of togetherness, the fealty one feels for ones groups, or family. It might also be used a charm to try and erase the effects of behavior that is typically described in a negative way as being like that of a sheep - such as giving into peer pressure with negative results, or, say, the concern of a parent that her child my be involved with a harmful cult or some other group that one does not approve of.

DOGS
The family dog milagros could symbolize loyalty. It could also symbolize protection, such as what a sheep dog affords the herd.

PIGS
The pig could symbolize nourishment - "bringing home the bacon". It might also be used a charm to try and erase the effects of behavior that is typically described in a negative way as being like that of a pig, such as perceived lack of control in ones eating habits.


Zanzibar offers small, assorted Mexican Milagros for sale - $1.00 each (only available in store) or 12 (1 dozen assorted)/$10.00
(assorted only - we apologize, but we cannot fulfill web order special requests as our inventory is always changing and we may not have those pictured - plus, we usually have thousands and to spend 15 minutes to look through these for one specific one just doesn't make sense - you are welcome to come into our gallery and choose)  These are sold to us as "vintage and antique", however many are in like-new condition. 

Assorted Mexican Milagros are also available in bulk - $260 per kilo (approx 800+/- assorted designs)

We offer SOME milagros in sterling silver - inquire to our current selection and what we have available.

Larger, contemporary, vintage and antique Milagros in copper, nickel, and other metals available from Peru, Germany and Mexico available - many are one of a kind and our inventory is always changing.  Prices range from $4.00 and up, depending on rarity, size, complexity, material, etc.  Contact us and we'll be happy to photograph some styles for you. The pictures below are just a SAMPLING of what we have...

Above, contemporary Milagros and Exvotos from Peru and Germany

Contemporary Copper Phalluses and breasts from Peru (other styles available)

The above are recent pieces in the Exvoto style, from Peru

Above, Vintage/Antique pieces from Peru in the Exvoto style

Above, Vintage/Antique pieces from Peru in the Exvoto style

Above, Vintage/Antique pieces from Peru in the Exvoto style

Above, Vintage/Antique pieces from Peru in the Exvoto style

 

Assorted German Exvotos made from Pewter  - other styles, including people, body part and animals available.