You Too Can Have a Blue Jesus for $80,000
Cochabamba is home to what is claimed to be the largest statue of Jesus in the world, El Cristo de la Concordia. It is, supposedly (I haven’t personally measured it) just a few centimeters taller than the Jesus statue in Rio de Janeiro. Legend has it than when the Brazilians complained that the Cochabamba Jesus should be no more than exactly 33 meters tall because he died at 33, the Cochabambinos are said to have replied, “If he was born in December and died in April he was really 33 and a little more, so we made ours 33 meters and a little more.” So goes the legend.
The statue is by far the largest icon in the city. Its only rival, a short-lived one, was a massive inflated Ronald MacDonald that used to sit atop the roof of the MacDonalds here before it closed. I dreamt once that the Jesus statue smote the enormous red-haired clown with lightning and he popped. But I am pretty sure I dreamt that.
For years since its construction (which was supposed to be for the Pope’s visit to Bolivia in 1988, but the city ran out of money and for years we just had Jesus’ feet) the giant savior has been illuminated at night by bright white lights. Sitting atop one of the taller hills in the city, it makes Jesus look like it is floating in air.
This week all that changed when the city invested $80,000 to have an Italian firm equip the son of God (depending on your outlook, of course) with a menagerie of colored lights that alternate every ten minutes or so. Look up one minute and Jesus is a faint yellow. Take a few bites of your hamburger at a corner stand and look up again and he is purple. And shooting out from his head like a broadband connection to the heavens is a beam of light that matches the color of the moment.
I just walked to the store a few minutes ago and Jesus was a bright blue, the shade of a dimly lit aquarium.
So now, in addition to being able to debate Evo, coca, land reform and gas nationalization, we can debate whether a city that’s poor should have spent 110 annual minimum wage salaries to make Jesus glow. And if we tire of debating that, we can argue whether mauve is more marvelous, or blue is more blessed.
Meanwhile, I will ponder what odd observations of Cochabamba from on high Jesus might be sending to heaven up through that purple-beamed broadband connection. Those might well be worth $80 K.