By Lupita Peimbert.
(Culture) – It is the most revered religious figure for Mexicans and Latinos, and it has turned into popular culture.
La Virgen de Guadalupe, Madre de Mexico, Madre de America.
Every December 12th, thousands of people in Mexico and neighboring countries wake up early and go to church to celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is part of our soul. It is popular religiosity. It is culture. But most of all, it represents the hope and comfort of knowing that someone cares for you and that someone will support you during your quests and hardships. It works for many, myself included.
When you were raised believing that someone was watching you from the sky, you felt it, feel it, and will feel it, forever. When you were brought to church many times and you saw one or both of your parents praying for a miracle, and celebrating later because the miracle happened, believing in La Virgencita becomes part of your psychological makeup. And when you did it too, –pray to La Virgen, and you felt accompanied, comforted, and you sensed that everything would be okay, and sensed that you were not alone, and experienced this feeling of hope, you believed in her presence, real or imaginary. It was like a chip in your brain: “La Virgen de Guadalupe es milagrosa.”
When you were raised believing that someone was watching from you from the sky, you felt it, feel it, and will feel it, forever.
Official Catholic teachings tell us that on the rise of December 12th, our Lady of Guadalupe, mother of Jesus, descended to earth and appeared to Juan Diego for the fourth time; Juan Diego was an Indian converted to Catholicism. This happened in El Cerro del Tepeyac, December 12, 1531.
“No estoy yo aqui que soy tu madre?”
(Am I not here, I who am your mother?)
The fervor about this religious figure, Catholic that is, has crossed the borders. Mexicans and Latinos living in the United States celebrate “El Día de la Virgen.” Just go by any Latino neighborhood on December 12, and see how people bring flowers to a Catholic temple, gather outside, take part in a procession.
You may hear them singing:
“Desde el cielo una hermosa manaña,
Desde el cielo una hermosa manaña,
La Guadalupana, la Guadalupana,
la Guadalupana bajó al Tepeyac.”
Many of us know that this figure was invented, with all good intentions, by Catholic monks to “convert” the native-Mexicans (los inditos). Many of us understand that, if La Virgen had spoken she would have had a Spanish accent (from Spain – pronounced Edz-pain!. Many of us know that first, the Spanish monks brought from the sky a lighter-skin lady, and when the Mexican natives did not respond to it, the monks called for a darker skin lady to come from the sky.
Talk about Marketing: “Could you produce one a little darker please?” – The monks would say within their religious teams. “Still sweet and ethereal, but not as pale; we are not getting any response, this product needs that little improvement. Make her skin a little darker, it will do it.”
And so, La Virgen appeared to Indio Juan Diego again, brown skin, and everybody loved La Virgen Morena. Many Catholics, and in general, people who can discern myth from fact, understand this was great storytelling. And yet, that religious figure, real or not, sparks love, compassion, and faith on those of us who believe that this figure somehow exists. Los Guadalupanos. We believe in that figure in such capacity that we believe she can help us move mountains.
Many Catholics, and in general, people who can discern myth from fact, understand this was great storytelling. And yet, that religious figure ,real or not, sparks love, compassion, and faith on those of us who believe that this figure somehow exists.
Popular religiosity. Cultural blindness. Innocent fervor. Strong sense of faith. The myth of ignorance. The strength of faith over reason.
I still call upon her protection or pray the “Ave Maria,” and “La Magnifica,” when I feel vulnerable. I pray in a hurry like I did when I was 6 years old, or 7, or 8, or 15, reciting the prayer, asking for a miracle, and believing that she is with me, like a mother, the Mother of America. I am not alone in this, millions of men and women, do the same.
Happy Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe!