The 1770s were a time of great trials in colonial Chiapas. Repeated infestations of locusts decimated crops and threatened famine. In 1773 a major earthquake caused widespread damage, and a series of epidemics, including smallpox, took a heavy toll.
A striking commemorative painting, located in the church of San Francisco in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, refers to and is believed to date from this troubled period.
It portrays San Roque, the patron saint of protection against the plague, standing with arms crossed in the mode of blessing and wearing the brown habit of the Franciscan order. His pilgrim's hat and staff lean against the wall behind him. An angel tends to his wounded leg while the saint’s faithful dog, bread in mouth, looks up to him.
A poignant inscription below reads, “The victims of the plague, entreat with faith their patron San Roque that they retain their health.”