Everyday Miracles: On display at the Ramirez Library through June 16

Ex votos at the Ramirez Library

 Child with bandaged legs, 1977.  Oil on tin, Mexico, courtesy of Historia Antiques.

In many cultures, an ex-voto is widely recognized as a devotional painting that is created when an individual’s prayers for healing are answered. After praying to a saint or deity, an individual would commission a local artist to create a small painting that would be hung in a local church as a public testimony of that individual’s faith and gratitude for a miraculous healing.

Typically, ex-votos consist of three basic elements: the depiction of the event, a short description, and an illustration of the saint or deity.  Ex-votos also document the treatment of diseases such as tuberculosis, smallpox, and cancer throughout history.  Special emphasis is usually placed on severe symptoms and suffering in the patient .   The well-known Peres Maldonado ex-voto, which is included in the exhibit, shows a woman undergoing breast cancer surgery in 1777.

From May 7th – June 16th, the Mario E. Ramirez, M.D., Library and Lower Rio Grande Valley AHEC are co-hosting a traveling exhibit from the National Library of Medicine called Everyday Miracles: Medical Imagery in Ex-Votos.   The exhibit includes examples of ex-votos in both the Italian and Mexican traditions.

An online companion to the traveling exhibit can be viewed on the National Library of Medicine exhibitions page at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/exvotos/.  The online exhibit includes a brief history of ex-votos as well as an online gallery representing a variety of traditions and time periods.

Library staff in Harlingen have taken photographs of ex-votos and devotional images in locations throughout the Rio Grande Valley as a complement to the display.  Library resources, including books and articles which address spirituality in medicine are available for viewing in the exhibit area.

Kathy Carter, Ramirez Library Librarian