The opera "El Nino" tells the story of the world's most well known miracle, partially through the lens of Hispanic culture. Director John La Bouchardiere uses the South American tradition of religious imagery as inspiration for the Spoleto production.
According to the Vatican, 41.3 percent of Catholics are in Latin America, making it the most Catholic continent in the world. Throughout the continent, Christmas is a time of absolute celebration, so the bigger and more natural the nativity display, the more devotion there is in the household.
When I was a child growing up in Colombia, there were many models of the nativity scene in my house, most on display year-round. Some were tiny and made of hay, others made of glass with a more elegant touch, but the best creche was handmade by the family. My dad, brother and I took over a year making it. The base is as big as the table and had a mountain, a river and a lake. The three kings are on their journey up the hill and small animal figurines surround the protagonists of the nativity, Mother Mary, Joseph and infant Christ.
In Latin American Catholic families, Santa Claus does not leave as many presents under the Christmas tree as El Nino Dios, or Baby Jesus.
This Hispanic tradition is a way to interpret the miracle of birth beyond the literal, and is part of Las Posadas or Las Novenas Navidenas. This oral narration of the nativity takes place throughout the month of December. It brings families and friends together in prayer every night until Dec. 24 at midnight, when Baby Jesus is then added to the manger.
It is like a competition for adoration mixed with a prayer to Baby Jesus for your personal miracle.
Figures are important to religion, especially as a child. Making the creche was more fun than playing with other toys. The figures, which at the time were the most important dolls in the household, were magical. They told the story that I had heard since birth, but I could interact with them and as a result, I understood the journey of El Nino Jesus.
Alejandra Acuna is a Goldring Arts Journalist from Syracuse University.