“It was a dark and stormy night …” The crack of thunder and a bolt of lightning stir you from deep slumber.
You open your eyes to find your home and neighborhood plunged in darkness. If you’re inclined to get up to report the blackout to the CFE (electric utility) you’ll need a tool to illuminate the way to the phone.
During the rainy season I keep a couple of useful items on my bedside table just for such occasions: a flashlight and a veladora, one of the typical Mexican votive candles contained in a glass. In fact, before the rains commence I stock up on a bunch of veladoras to distribute all around the house. One for each room, and a few more to light the stairway between the ground floor and second story.
One good thing about veladoras, compared to flashlights, is that you don’t have to worry about battery wear-outs. Also, they are inexpensive and readily available at nearly local grocery outlets. And, unlike regular candles, melted wax won’t drip onto your furniture.
Veladoras can be purchased in a variety of sizes. The smallest ones will usually last for an entire night, while giant sizes can burn continuously for a couple of days. While most commonly found in glass receptacles, they may also be come in plastic or metal containers. All of these can be used again with the replacement of refill candles sold in appropriate sizes. On the other hand, you can clean out used glass ones with boiling water and recycle them as drinking vessels.
The reason veladoras are so common in Mexico’s marts of trade is that their main purpose is for devotional customs among the Roman Catholic populace. Folks place them in churches and on home altars as offerings in acts of prayer and as symbols of faith in Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary and a slew of popular saints.
Among the votive candles that stand out as big sellers are those adorned with images of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Sacred Heart of Jesus and San Judas Tadeo, patron saint of hope and impossible causes. These usually come with a prayer printed on the back side to be recited when lighted with the intention of bringing divine succor to oneself or another person, or sometimes in completing a vow to give thanks for favors received.
Huge quantities of veladoras are employed in a number of the country’s religious festivities. In early November, during the Dia de Muertos celebrations in remembrance of the dearly departed, dozens of candles are used to light up memorial altars and gravesites. They likewise appear on doorstep shrines local families set up for La Virgen de Dolores (Virgin of Sorrows) on the last Friday of Lent, Dia de la Cruz (Day of the Holy Cross) on May 3 and Día de Guadalupe, December 12.
Of course, there’s no impediment to buying veladoras simply to enhance your home décor or for practical needs when the power goes on the blink. No guarantee that CFE will respond more promptly, but there’s little to lose by raising a plea to Almighty to speed a crew to the rescue.