A milagro can directly be translated to “miracle” in English. For many Latinos, those shiny charms are meant for more than just decorations. These religious folk charms have traditionally been used throughout Latina America for healing purpose or as religious offerings. Early accounts of milagros tell the story of Hernan Cortez of Spain who offered to the Lady of Guadalupe a gold pin shaped in the form of a scorpion representing his survival of a scorpion bite. This gold charm actually contained the body of the scorpion inside of the charm and was given to the Lady in thanks of her protection.
Since then, a milagro has become part of the popular Hispanic devotion known as la promesa or “the vow.” La promesa is a custom in Mexico, several Latin American countries, as well as within the Hispanic population living in the United States, where a promise is made to a religious figure like the Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ or a saint in exchange for a miracle. This promise depends on the person and can be anything from going on a pilgrimage (a religious journey) to giving a donation to the church or making a personal sacrifice.
Milagros are often represented in the form of a small silver pin or charm in the shape of a saint, body part, animal or object of significance. All of these represent different kinds of miracles and forms of luck or good fortune. For example, a very popular charm is the heart. The heart can actually represent the human heart or actually symbolize a heart condition that one faces. It could represent the love that one has for another or illustrate the sacred heart of Jesus or Mary. These charms are often seen on the clothing of a person as well as on or near the statues of saints in churches.
A milagro is one example of the many ways that people show their devotion and faith and is a great part of the Latino culture. It shows dedication and persistence in exchange for a miracle.