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The blessing of la Virqen de Guadalupe: explore the mystery and magic of the queen of Mexican tradition.

On December 12, 1531, just twelve years after Hernan Cortes first set foot on Mexican soil, a miracle happened in Mexico. A poor Indian, Juan Diego, was walking on a lonely road north of Mexico City, looking for water for his uncle, He was surprised by a vision of a beautiful woman who directed him to a spring of fresh, cool water. In the same spot a few days later, the vision appeared to Juan Diego again. This time, she told him to go to Mexico City to tell the high church officials to build a church in her name on that site. But why would the ecclesiastical officials believe the poor Indian man? Surely the Virgin Mary would not appear to someone so lowly.

They insisted on proof.

So, Juan Diego returned to the hillside to visit the Virgin again, and asked her for a sign. Immediately, beautiful red roses sprang up from the ground, even though roses do not normally bloom in that area in December. He picked them and wrapped them in his rough Indian tilma (blanket), and brought them to the church officials. When he opened his tilma for them, they fell to their knees in veneration and amazement, for they saw a beautiful image imprinted on the Indian's blanket. It was the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, just as Juan Diego had seen her. It is said that the image is so perfect that one sees the image of Juan Diego in the pupil of the Virgin's eye.

The Catholic and the Indigenous in Mexico

When the Spanish conquistadors brought their Catholic faith to the shores of Mexico, the intensity of their religious zeal made the conversion of hundreds of thousands of Indians an important goal. The first phase of their conquest brought with it destruction of indigenous temples, forced conversions, and mass baptisms.

The indigenous Mexicans worshipped the many gods of nature, like rain, corn, and fair winds. Some of their most powerful gods were Quetzalcoafl (patron of the arts and learning) and Tlaloc (god of rain). Conversion to this strange new religion was not easy for them. The story of Juan Diego's experience with the Virgin of Guadalupe inspired mass conversions to Catholicism across the country, as the native people incorporated their indigenous beliefs into the new structure of the Catholic faith. Modern Mexican Catholicism is unique in the special importance of the saints and the veneration of the la Virgen de Guadalupe.

Poor and the rich of Mexico alike venerate the Virgin of Guadalupe. Her image is alive in small shrines in humble homes in remote villages, in every Church and cathedral, in businesses, markets, buses, taxis, parochial schools, and many homes.

On December 12 each year, the day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, celebrations and processions take place throughout Mexico, events that weave indigenous dances and traditions into the worship of the Virgin. Thousands of devout worshippers make pilgrimages to the huge Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe, in northern Mexico City. They view the image of the Virgin on Juan Diego's blanket and worship with Catholics from around the world. Pilgrims also visit the small shrine that was built on the hillside where Juan Diego first saw the vision. The Virgin of Guadalupe represents the spiritual essence of Mexico, the fusion of Catholic Spain and indigenous Mexico.

Reference: Pajewski, AnneMarie and Luis Enriquez, Teaching from a Hispanic Perspective: A Handbook for Non-Hispanic Adult Educators, The Arizona Adult Literacy And Technology Resource Center, Inc., Phoenix. (http://www.literacynet.org/Ip/hperspectives/)

RELATED ARTICLE: The day of the Virgin de Guadalupe.

By Reyna Casco, translated by Ymerli "Mili" Perez

In Mexico, the twelfth of December is a very important holiday for the Catholic Community. Nowadays, people have the option to take this day off from their jobs. The celebration begins one day before, on December eleventh. Some people even start one week before! This is because in each different state they organize the relay event.

For this event, a group of people gets together and rides on a big truck following one runner who is carrying a torch. Then every fifteen minutes, another person replaces the runner, and they keep doing this until they finish the route to La Basilica de Guadalupe.

Outside of the church there are people performing traditional dances, the same ones their ancestors performed in honor to the gods of war, rain, fire, in the times before the Spanish conquerors.

In the temple, the Mariachis are playing Las Mananitas, a beautiful song that is usually sung to a person on their birthday. There is an image of the Virgen de Guadalupe; she is worshipped by the Mexican people. The Mexican

history says that the Virgen de Guadalupe appeared at Mount Tepeyac around the Fifteenth Century, after the Spanish conquest. She has been named as La Virgen Morena and Madre y Abogada de los Indios (Mother and Lawyer of the Indian People).

This greatest devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe has crossed all frontiers. Every twelfth of December, Mexican people around the world celebrate, keeping this tradition alive.

On this day, the boys wear mantas y huaraches (ponchos and sandals), they are the "Juan Diego's" because they represent the beatified Indian who once saw the Virgin. Girls wear black skirts and white knitted blouse with huaraches (sandals). In these outfits they are taken to the temple for the celebration.

Reyna Casco is a native of Cholula, Mexico, famous for its churches and pyramids. It is also known as the city of living prehispanic culture. She now lives in Candler, NC.
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Publication:New Life Journal
Date:Oct 1, 2003
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