Vanushca is the unofficial patron saint of unrequited love, here in Xela. Legend has it that she was a gypsy girl who fell in love with a young man from Spain who was visiting family in Quetzaltenango. His family was quite wealthy and upper-class and when they heard that their son had fallen in love with a gypsy girl, the father of the family, a governor, commanded the son to return to Spain and upon his return, sent him off to war. Of course, the young man perished in the war and when Vanushca heard of his death, she died from a broken heart at the age of 17.
Other stories say that Vanushca’s love killed himself in Spain because he could not bear to be without her and when she heard the news of this, she also succumbed and poisoned herself. As with most good legends, no one can say for sure what the actual events were that took place, but the romance and tragic ending of Vanushca’s life has placed her into unofficial sainthood.
Locals and travelers alike pray to Vanushca for the return of their loved ones. It is a custom to light candles and write prayers and petitions on her grave, many offering advanced thanks for the favors she will grant. Some prayers ask for a lost husband to return, while others beg to find the unknown love they seek.
The pictures you see of the green tomb, are pictures of the original tomb, which was cared for and repainted from time to time. At times Vanushca’s tomb was green, at other times, pink or red. There seemed to be someone who would care for it and repaint it on a regular basis, covering all the old prayers and allowing space for new ones. At the end of last year, Vanushca’s grave received a renovation. A figure of Vanushca was placed on top, coats of white paint and a new name plate was positioned in the front. Prayers are still scrawled all over the tomb, but locals seem to have diverse opinions as to if the “new” Vanushca is better than the old one. There is also another major difference…can you spot what it is?