Sunday, December 12, 2010

Virgen de Guadalupe

If I were in Mexico, I would have been up by 4AM this morning. I would have gone to the chapel located at the entrance road of my little town to sing Buenos Días Paloma Blanca to Our Lady of Guadalupe and headed to town with a banda or a mariachi! I would have drank delicious ponche on the way (perhaps spiked! Ha!) Yes, I would have had to attend mass, parents orders and inertia from the walk to town. Then, the day would have continued as any other. Later on, I would go to the plaza with my friends and danced at the baile (a ball with Mexican music) when we were not enjoying the fair... 
Why? Well...
There is a myth that the grand majority of Mexicans, and Catholics around the world, believe in and place their faith on. I am not religious by any means, but when I travel I do tend to visit churches to admire their architecture and decoration. It is a surprise to find images of Our Lady of Guadalupe whenever I am not traveling somewhere in Mexico, but a nice surprise at that. Mexicans do identify with her and though I am not religious as I have just said above, I can be counted there too. Yet, the joy that I experience in these cases does not originate on the religious part of this myth. For me the joy is about seeing a part of my culture, a part of the motherland away from it. I cherish those moments, and they are attached to other items that are self-identifiable as innate to where I come from as well. I am extremely proud of my Mexican origin, so it is only normal that something that holds such an important place in my culture would make me feel like I am home away from home, even if it is of religious nature. But I am hesitant when it comes to actually believing the myth and taking it as more than a motherland identity token whenever I find it. A few reasons for the hesitation below:
  • The skin tone of Our Lady of Guadalupe is more like that of the natives, hence a tool to help the Catholic church to convert the natives.
  • The tilma is far too big for an average person's height, let alone that of a native who were said to be rather short at the time.
  • The image has been examined and the materials that appeared to be the make it up are those that were used by 16th century artists as opposed to having the sort of "magical" composition the church proclaims.
  • The images that appear to be in her eyes are likely to be simply the result of human imagination's ability to form familiar shapes from random patterns.
  • The natives were known to ingest a type of cactus that provoked hallucinations, namely peyote.
Today, December 12, is a national holiday in the motherland as it is the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe apparitions that are said to have occurred almost 500 years ago. The story says that she appeared to (now) San Juan Diego for the first time on December 9, 1531 on a hill called Tepeyac. It is said that she told Juan Diego that she as per her wish she would like a temple erected on that hill and to let the bishop know so her wished could be materialized. The bishop did not believe Juan Diego anything as expected. He asked Juan Diego to return to where he claimed he had seen the lady because he, the bishop, was certain his eyes had betrayed him. Juan Diego returned and Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to him again and told him to go back to the bishop on Sunday. So Juan Diego did as was told, but the bishop told him he needed a signal to prove that he was not lying. So on his way back, Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared again and told him to return the next day and she would give him the signal the bishop wanted.
On Monday, Juan Diego's uncle, Juan Bernardino, fell sick and Juan Diego could not leave his side. On Tuesday, he was headed to the city to find a priest to give his uncle the last rites when he crossed the Tepeyac Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to him again, but Juan Diego was in a hurry and he did not want to talk to her so she asked him what was wrong. He told her about his uncle and she told him not to worry as his uncle had been cured. Then, she asked him to walk a up the hill to pick up some roses. It was not the time of year for roses and definitely not a place where they would grow, but Juan Diego did find the most beautiful roses. He took them in his tilma, a sort of apron that is said to be hanging from Juan Diego's neck to his knees. Our Lady of Guadalupe told him to take the roses to the bishop, but not to show them to anyone else.
When he arrived to bishopric, he told Juan de Zumarraga, the bishop, that he had brought the proof he had asked for. He let go of the hold he had in his tilma and the roses fell to the ground leaving on it the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.


©Copyrighted 2010

p.s. The Pope Pius XII crowned Our Lady of Guadalupe Queen of Mexico and Empress of America in 1945. The devotion she has amassed is now widespread across the globe.

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