Mexico’s most beloved figure is the Virgen of Guadalupe. She is more than a Catholic icon, she is “the heart of Mexico” Her image and her legend have supported the faithful through many personal and national crises and she has comforted her “children” since 1531.
The international community of Merida participated in the celebration this year. We began with a presentation on the story of Guadalupe and what she means to the people of Mexico.
Lorna Gail Dalin told us the story that began in Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital, just twelve years after the “Conquest of New Spain”. The indigenous population had been decimated, their places of worship were razed, their gods banned and their way of life outlawed. The Mexica were a broken people. But on December 9th 1531, the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego a poor peasant. Her message was of love and comfort. She met Juan Diego on top of the Hill of Tepeyac, a site that was sacred to Tonanzin, the Aztec mother goddess. Like Tonanzin, Guadalupe is dark skinned. She has a mestiza face (of indigenous and European lineage) and her image (that was miraculously emblazoned on Juan Diego’s cloak or tilma) is one of quiet consolation.
The image has been subjected to every scientific test and its origins cannot be defined. Our next presenters, Susana and Carlos Melendez who are from Mexico City, explained that to the people of Mexico, no proof is relevant or important. They believe that she is their mother. She offers them hope and solace. Susanna told us how unquestioning, basic faith gives the Mexican people their ability to withstand hardship and celebrate with joy, even when they have very little in terms of creature comforts.
Mexicans are known for their capacity to see the positive side of any situation. When there is a feast day, they have a party! Usually it is as splendid as they can possibly manage… Sometimes to our western minds, this seems like bad judgment. But they do not look at it in this way. To Mexicans, life is to be enjoyed as much as possible. The anticipation of the next festivity is what often carries them through very meager times.
Their relationships are intimate and nonjudgmental. Although they may gossip and wage all out feuds, in their hearts they bear great acceptance and affection for friends, family members and outright strangers.
Later, this generosity was very obvious. Following the presentation, we walked in procession to the Church of San Cristobal, the Guadalupana temple in Merida. (in every city in Mexico there is at least one church that is dedicated to her) There we met the antorchistas, people who travel (in open trucks, on bicycle or running in relays) from all over the peninsula to pay their respects and sing to Guadalupe. We spoke with groups who had come from Tekit, Ciudad del Carmen, Mamita and other villages. Their joy was contagious and when we went into the church, some of us were moved to tears at the wide-open display of love and hope. Two young Canadian girls gave our group’s flowers to one of the sacristans and they joined the thousands of other floral bouquets lying at the foot of the altar.
“We can learn so much from this”said one member of our group. “About what?” I asked her. She replied, “About humility, grace and gentility.” In our often cynical and overly materialistic world, La Virgen de Guadalupe invites us to return to basics and help our troubled world achieve the peace it so badly needs.
Additional information can be found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Our_Lady_of_Guadalupe
For press coverage of the celebration at the church of San Cristobal (in Spanish) visit: http://www.yucatan.com.mx
For press coverage of the celebration at Mexico City’s Basilica de Guadalupe, visit: http://www.daylife.com/topic/Mexico_City
*** Note: I have been unable to take my own photos lately because I have lost my battery charger. Does anyone who reads this blog have a Fugi XP digital camera? If you live in Merida, would you be willing to let me use your charger a couple of times through the Holidays? I will ask a friend to bring me a new one when she visits next month. Thank you