LIMA – There’s no room for Santa Claus in the home of Javier Luna because at Christmastime it is filled with the more than 20,000 hand-made Nativity figures he has been collecting for the last 40 years.
Luna is displaying until Jan. 15 at the Palace of Justice in Lima the exhibition “Nativities of Peru and the World,” made up of 200 cribs made by hand in Argentina, Colombia, Ghana, the United States, Guatemala, Russia, Portugal and Italy
“The Peruvian Nativity is a custom falling into disuse as Santa Claus takes over,” Luna said.
The collector, a self-described “jealous guardian of the tradition,” said he wanted the custom of recalling that night in Bethlehem to be maintained because it is an “essential” part of the Christmas holidays.
He got started with his hobby “without even thinking about it,” Luna said.
When he was 20, Luna bought in Cuzco, a city in southern Peru, a representation of the manger in Bethlehem for its artisan quality and because it was signed by Arcadio Choque, a craftsman who created religious figures in the Pacara district of the Puno region, also in the southern part of the country.
From that moment he decided to acquire a Bethlehem stable from every region of Peru – so the jungles, the coastline and the mountains would be represented in his Christmas cribs – until his collection went beyond the borders of Peru thanks to his trips abroad while working at the Culture Ministry.
Luna’s collection contains Nativities from all continents, though he said he is not the biggest collector in the world, nor does he want to be and that he is “not chasing a record” but rather wants “to show that the birth of Jesus is a wonderful image seen round the world.”
Some 60 percent of the creches are Peruvian and the other 40 percent come from elsewhere in the world, though Luna acknowledged a special feeling for those made in Peru, because “they’re marvelous” compared to the others.
The materials vary “from clay to gold,” Luna said, drawing attention to one from Guatemala made of the leaves that sheathe corn cobs, first dried and then carved.
Luna said it is “very hard” to choose his favorite Nativity, but did point with special pride to the oldest in his collection that he keeps at home and which dates back to 1537.