Virgin of Guadalupe: Icon of national identity
By Jade Arroyo
Queen of México, Empress of America, Guadalupana, Morenita, Tonatzin (“our beloved mother” in Náhuatl, the Aztecs’ tongue), Lady of the Tepeyac. These are some of the names by which Mexican devotees recognize the Virgin of Guadalupe, what they call her, the name by which they ask her favors—which must be repaid—and sing to her. Simply, they adore her. The Virgin of Guadalupe is often mentioned as a representation of mestizaje, the amalgam of Mexican culture made up of different bloodlines, cultures and beliefs.
According to Mexican custom, this day starts the celebrations known as the “Guadalupe–Reyes marathon.” Mexicans start the party on December 12, continue with the posadas before Christmas, then celebrate Christmas, New Year’s, and finally Epiphany on January 6. Some of the most anticipated dates of the year are just around the corner, because, honestly, nobody can say no to the pozole and the pachanga (party).
Symbolism of the Virgin
The stars in the Guadalupana’s cloak are said to represent the December night sky. She is depicted standing atop a crescent moon; in Náhuatl, the “Mexico” means “navel of the moon.”
The Virgin’s skin is dark, like that of the indigenous peoples of Mexico. Her hands are held together in prayer, representing the bonding of cultures: her right hand is white and larger than the left, which is darker. The flower with four petals (Nahui Hollin in Náhuatl) on her dress symbolizes the presence of God and marks the place in her womb where Jesus is being carried. The word “Guadalupe” comes from the Náhuatl Coatlaxopeh, which means “Lady of the Heavens.”
The myth of Guadalupe and Juan Diego
According to tradition, the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared four times to Juan Diego on the hill of Tepeyac. The tale called Nican Mopohua says that her last appearance was on December 12, 1513. The Virgin told Juan Diego to climb up the Tepeyac, cut some flowers and bring them to her. It was winter, and the soil around was very dry; nonetheless, he found beautiful roses blooming there. He wrapped the roses on his tilma (a sort of poncho) and took them to the Virgin, who sent him to the Bishop with the roses as a proof of her existence. When Juan Diego met with the Bishop he opened his tilma and let the roses fall. On his cloak was miraculously imprinted the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Since then, she has been at the heart of Mexican spirituality.
Celebrations in San Miguel
Many sanmiguelenses in town celebrate this day with fervor. One of the places devoted to this festivity is El Santuario Hogar Guadalupano (better known as Mexiquito), a nonprofit home for orphaned or abandoned children. Mexiquito was founded by the singer/actor José Guadalupe Mójica in 1967. Ever since, this party is a yearly custom. Pilgrims visit the Virgin beginning on December 3, but the special day is, of course, the 12th, starting with mariachi music and the traditional “mañanitas” at 4am, followed by a series of masses at different times. During the day there is a joyful ambiance, and vendors sell Mexican food. All the profits from the sale go to the institution.
In the rural community of Los Rodriguez you can find a church dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the celebration there is grand. A great number of pilgrims arrive to repay the Virgin for favors granted and to show their respect. The party starts the night of December 11, with evening mass at 11pm, followed by the mañanitas at midnight. All day long and the following day there are celebrations with fireworks and live music.
At the market Ignacio Ramírez, the union of merchants also celebrate the Virgin of Guadalupe; however, they celebrate on December 17 of each year. They start on December 16 in the afternoon and first go to the house of doña Consuelo, at Zacateros 35, to pick up the image of the “Virgen Peregrina” (Pilgrim Virgin), and then they carry her through the main streets of town and up to the market while singing songs of worship. This Virgen Peregrina image will remain at the market the rest of the day and all of December 17. The “Mañanitas” with mariachis are at 7am; at 9am a mass is led by Father Francisco Campos. The party extends the whole day, with banda music, mariachis, dances by “Aztec warrior” groups and flowers all over the place.