‘The Many Shrines Of Mama Cruz’ is a story of faith. Mama Cruz’s devotion to her beliefs is present in every aspect of her life. Jonathan’s narrative is comforting and relatable to many people.

Joelcy Kay | Editor |  Edge of Humanity Magazine



Written by Jonathan Moya


This is not a story about my mother,

not even one about your mother

or grandmother. It’s about Mama Cruz,

someone else’s mother or grandmother.


Mama Cruz believed with all her heart that

Jesus shouldn’t wander far from her sight.

At her small church she was the first to

communion, confession and contrition.


Her only sin, she knew of, was an over

indulgence in candy and her own cooking-

eating Florecitas by the handful from the tin;

baking pasteles by the sheet full—

half for herself, a quarter for the church

potluck luncheon, and the rest for

the homeless with their shopping carts

full of clothes near the bodega;

platanos so golden brown that

the hungry sun jealously toasted her

and starving strays nipped at

her heels for the few burnt morsels left.


Each delicious creation given away

was a miracle in her eyes and was

duly marked with the embossed seals

from a papal ring matrix granted to her

by the diocese for her generosity of spirit,

and her charity work for feeding the poor.


The poor’s food was documented with a seal

depicting the miracle of the two loaves and fish.

Those for the potluck had the seal for the

seven loafs of bread and few little fishes.

She, like all good Catholics, knew the

difference between the similar miracles.

The strays remained undocumented.

She just treasured them in her heart.


Mama Cruz lived in a modest white adobe

dwelling in the San Dymphna district,

a not too loud or crazy part of the big city.


She bought the property because the natural

limestone cliffs all around opened up

into an small overhang that formed the

perfect alcove to house her prized Jesus

sacred heart statue— the half body one

with the red heart on the outside of his chest,

hands on each side pointing to it,

and a merino wool stole gently

draped unbuttoned over his shoulders.


She changed the stole for a different color

one each religious holiday. There was a

a white one for Christmas. A gold for Easter.

Purple was for Advent and Lent, but on the

the third Sunday of Lent and Laetare Sunday

it was pink. Red on the feast of martyrs.

A Greening hope for the rest of the liturgical year.


When she was mourning her lost daughter,

Milagro, Jesus was draped in purple. When

a neighbor died it was time for the black stole,

but just for the day of their funeral.


There were a few weeks in ‘82, during the

height of E.T. mania when the neighborhood

kids swiped Jesus and replaced him with

the heart and finger glowing extraterrestrial.

Mama Cruz’s faith never wavered.

She put messiah locks on the over-sized furbie

and kept up the ritual of the changing color stoles.

She never tired hearing the creature repeatedly

say, “Go Home” and ”I’ll be right here.”

Something about those words touched her core.

When E.T. fell from number one, and the mania

had passed, Jesus was put back where he belonged.


Although, Mama Cruz didn’t believe in garden gnomes,

she did believe in angels, specifically the four archangels,

to guard every direction of her house.

The wisdom and knowledge of Uriel held the North

from Satan’s attacks.

Michael with unflagging truth and courage

watched the South.

Raphael’s body, mind and spirit provided medicine

against the malignant east wind.

Gabriel, on the west side of her line,

coordinated with the other three,

relayed her prayers to Jesus

and occasionally showed her

the Lord’s simple answers

displayed in all the wondrous things

North, South, East, and West.


She drove only back and forth to

the bodega, the carniceria, the Iglesia

in a twelve year old heavenly blue Kia Soul

with the cloud interior.

Not a space wasn’t blessed with

holy water, silver crucifixes or rosaries.

The AC vents had tiny crucifixes

attached by discreetly small binder clips.

Rosaries hung from the rear view mirror,

the steering column, and crawled like

undulating snakes from the dash board

to the passenger side window.

Instead of a dash bobble head

there was a pair of ivory colored hands,

forever praising and grateful,

slipping up and down

to the Lord in ritual prayer.

The sweet floral and wood scent

of holy water all around

finished the heavenly mystique.


Mama Cruz had given up on maintaining

the outer face of her Soul.


The neighborhood kids

took delight in defacing

her few Jesus bumper stickers.

The fish outline on her trunk face

had been stolen and replaced

with one that spelled out Darwin

in the blank oval space

between fish head and tail.

Jesus Is My Pilot

was altered to Jesus is My PeePee.

It eventually was pasted over

with another that Mama Cruz

was sure the kids would

love and never deface:

Do You Follow Jesus this Closely.

Since most where choir and altar boys,

and the priest loved them,

Mama Cruz was always gentle with them.


Mama Cruz’s front and backyard

was full of hidden crucifixes.

They weren’t really lost.

They just had fallen out

of the holes of her dress pockets

to never be seen again by her

amongst the growing tall weeds.


She never searched for them.

She believed that the very earth

beneath her deserved

Jesus’ love and blessings-

more so than every living thing.

She just went to the reliquary store,

a non-profit subsidized by the church,

and bought a new one.


Every time she or anyone

walked across her yards

the snap of wood or plastic

could be heard.

Touch her grass

and plastic pearls

and colored gems

would be revealed,

a whole treasure of things

that had been split

from their precious support.


When Mama Cruz was

doing her usual errands,

the poor girls of the street

would comb her yards

looking for mismatched

crosses and baubles

that could be glued together

and worn with a pin

on the Sundays the church

invited and fed the poor.

The priests called them

“Las Nina’s de la

Simiente Sagrada Perdida-

The Girls of the

Lost Holy Seed.”

The priests considered this

the most wonderful

of all Mama Cruz’s

many unintended miracles.


The inside of Mama Cruz’s house

was simple and unadorned.


Only the living room had a television,

a 45 inch flat screen,

that rested on a plain white

IKEA hip high stand

on uneven legs.

She had spent the day

following the illustrations

and semi-successfully assembled it.

From her crushed blue recliner

she watched

Vatican TV, her telenovelas

and the Univision news.


The kitchen behind

was small and

always smelling of

pork, chicken and spices.


The only other rooms

were the small bedrooms

that were the size of a nun’s cell

which were similarly

adorned and furnished.

Besides the gold

framed Jesus painting

there was icon size pictures

of her deceased Milagro

and her beloved husband Jose-

old fading and hard to make out from

the austere black and white interior.


Centered just above

the flat screen

was an illuminated

haloed Jesus

in his finest clothes

and the customary

praying pose

common to all other

Christ paintings

in all the other houses.


Twenty small tables

each with as many

devotional candles

that they can hold

filled the important

empty spaces around.

Each had the phrases

and wisdom of her

favorite saints

engraved on their face.

Of the more than

10,000 martyrs eligible

Mama Cruz had

narrowed it down to

the 123 she could remember.


A lone table near an open window,

however, contained neither

Jesus, Disciples, saints nor angels.

There was just a fishbowl sans fish,

-the kind of bowl a child would

win as a prize from a county fair-

filled with cool clear clean water

sitting lonely on the table.


Above, two inverted roses hung

from a Spanish lace curtain

made from mantilla cloth.

Mama Cruz knew that

the mischievous choir-altar boys

were responsible for this Satanic joke.

Yet, she didn’t mind and left it alone.


She knew the roses would be

pointing the right way by morning.

She pretended that it was

just another Jesus miracle.


From the shadows every night before

she finally fell asleep Mama Cruz

would hear the rustling of

Las Nina’s de la Simiente Sagrada Perdida

scouring for trinkets of faith.


She was glad they remembered and honored

the times they always played and danced

with her Milagro while she lived.

Honored and blessed, even now,

that they were kind enough to

revert the small mischievous

acts of the world in Jesus’s name-

long after the fish had passed-

after La Milagro had passed.

And all that it took for

the miracle to take hold

was to renew a foul-smelling bowl

everyday with cool clean clear water.


Text © Jonathan Moya


Jonathan Moya


Jonathan Moya lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He is a former businessman, and an aspiring poet and avid moviegoer. Sources of poetic inspiration include his wife Kristen, his dog Cane, and the beauty and injustices of the world. He has published two poetry collections: Like No Movie I Have Ever Seen (Lulu Press) and The Nacre of Cancer (Lulu Press). His poetry has appeared in Mundus Artium and Prism.





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