Long Live Guadalupe, the Only Queen of México
By Jesús Aguado
“From heaven on a beautiful morning, the Guadalupana came to Tepeyac,” and since that time (1531), she has been the mother, the queen, and the only lady for Mexicans. Our Lady of Guadalupe is the focal point for the 120 million inhabitants of this land.
The virgin of Guadalupe is everywhere, and she can be seen on shirts, wallets, vehicles, in niches of houses, and also in giant murals. Devotion to the virgin is widespread, that she is the queen of vendors, football players, students, entire families and she is even the queen of the most important public servants in the country (regardless the so-called separation between the state and the church). Everybody turns to the “Morenita of Tepeyac” in adversity and success, and that is, according to Monsignor Luis Felipe García, “because all Mexicans are Guadalupanos before being Mexicans.”
Celebrations of the feast of our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico start the night of December 11 and finish on December 18. San Miguel is no exception. The virgin is adored not only in churches and private homes, but also in markets. More than 40 years ago, there was a market at the current Plaza Cívica. After it was demolished, some of the vendors were relocated in the Mercado Ignacio Ramírez and some others received a space in the Plaza Zaragoza. In the center of the demolished market, there was a statue of the virgin with two faces made of quarry stone. When the building was gone, the vendors decided to put the virgin in a niche on the corner of Pepe Llanos and Insurgentes. Later it was taken to the San Juan de Dios Market, where an excited committee prepares the celebration annually. This year Lolita Espinosa is in charge. Don Chayo of the Ignacio Ramírez Market commented that when the vendors from the San Juan de Dios Market took the quarry virgin with them, the Ignacio Ramírez vendors decided to organize bringing a new one from Mexico City. According to Don Chayo, the bishop from Celaya came to San Miguel 20 years ago to hold the annual mass at the market, and with him, as a gift, he brought a replica of the virgin that is displayed at the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City. The statue that the vendors had previously bought was relocated in the market. “It was a surprise,” said Don Chayo, “because the bishop could not come to San Miguel for the mass before 1pm; so we waited, and it worth it because we received the present.” He remarked that on December 12, “The market does not open until we hold the mass.” He said in addition that the form of the virgin does not matter because what is important is the devotion that people have for her.
On December 12, images and sculptures of Our Lady of Guadalupe arrive yearly from 30 rural communities at the parish of St. Anthony of Padua. According to parishioner Antonio González Lara, the procession started 32 years ago, when a woman who was never seen again asked Fermín Loyola from the San Antonio church to hold a procession for the virgin. The event that the mysterious woman requested was to start at el Puente del Fraile with the participation of people from the 30 rural communities and 10 neighborhoods that belong to the San Antonio church. More than 8,000 people walk—some barefoot to repay a granted miracle—from that bridge to the church of San Antonio. Father González Lara commented that all the churches belonging to San Antonio have a Virgin of Guadalupe. The festivities continue at the market of Guadalupe, continue at the market of San Juan de Dios, and end at Mercado Ignacio Ramírez on December 18. Check the whole program in Qué Pasa.
Religion and the virgin were used as an emblem for the War of Independence that started on the early morning of September 16, 1810. According to the official version, Miguel Hidalgo arrived at Atotonilco and took a painting of the virgin to use to encourage the insurgents to fight for their country.
City historian Graciela Cruz comments that the “twin flags” from the Queen’s Dragons Army were fashioned at Ignacio Allende’s command and were used for the first time by the insurgent army in the village of San Miguel el Grande on September 16. The flags, also called “Allende’s Flags,” have two fronts. On one of them is a crowned Virgin of Guadalupe, and on the other is the Mexican eagle on a cactus and an image of St. Michael the Archangel. Those flags were confiscated from the insurgent army in their first defeat in 1811 by Félix María Calleja, who sent them to Ferdinand VII in 1814 as war trophies. They were part of the Army Museum in Spain until May 2010, when the Spanish government decided to repatriate one of the flags to Mexico as a present for the celebration of 200 years of independence.
The Guadalupana image was also used by Emiliano Zapata 100 years later (1910) during the Mexican revolution.
On September 14, 1921, a detractor placed dynamite in a bunch of roses and placed them at the virgin’s altar. The virgin remained unharmed after the explosion.
Benito Juárez reformed the constitution of 1857, and there was a separation between religion and politics. Properties of the church were confiscated by the government. Monsignor García says that regardless of that, Benito Juárez showed a great devotion to the virgin.
On October 12, 1985, the virgin was crowned as Queen of Mexico.
In 1999 the then candidate for president of the republic, Vicente Fox, used the virgin’s image for closing his internal political campaign in León. Before being sworn as president on December 1, 2000, he went to pray at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and repeated the act when he finished his mandate in 2006.
Also in 2006, during the presidential race, hundreds of followers of the PRD party marched to the Basilica to ask the virgin for a miracle against an electoral fraud. Three years later, the Guadalupana image was used in demonstrations by the Mexican Union of Electricians.
The Basílica is the Catholic center most visited in the world with a total of 23 million visitors annually.
Information from the National Register of Population observes that Guadalupe and the combination María Guadalupe are the most common names for women in Mexico. There are more than 1.5 million women with this name.
Apparitions of the Virgin
The native pre-Hispanics were polytheistic and had a god or goddess for corn, rainfall, fire, and, of course, the divine mother, mother of all gods (Tonantzin), who had a small ceremonial center on Tepeyac hill. History says that on December 9, 1531, Juan Diego—named as a saint in 2002—was on his way to mass when he was surprised by the chirping of birds. He stopped and saw for the first time, on the hill dedicated to Tonantzin, an apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who let him know her desire to have a church built on that hill. “In that temple I will appear and will give my love and my compassion to all those that come to me,” she told Juan Diego.
La Guadalupana also asked him to go and meet the bishop to let him know her desire. He went, but the bishop did not believe him and asked for proof of the meeting. On December 12, the Virgin appeared again and told Juan Diego, “Go to that hill and cut some flowers, then take them and show them only to the bishop.” Juan Diego cut the flowers and filled his ayate (poncho made from the fiber of the maguey plant) with roses that he presented to the bishop. When Juan Diego let the roses fall from his ayate, the image of the Guadalupana appeared on it. It is now displayed to the public at the Basilica.