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UU Service

Ricardo Castillo

By Jon Sievert

Two myths form the foundation of Mexican Catholicism as we know it today. One is the apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe in 1531, and the other is the advent of the Christmas fiestas called posadas. At this Sunday’s Unitarian Universalist Fellowship service, Ricardo Castillo explains the indigenous roots of the two events and how they came to be important worship events practiced by Mexicans and a sizeable amount of Latin America.

UU Service
“Mexican Catholicism and its Indigenous Roots”
By Ricardo Castillo
Sun, May 14, 10:30am
Posada de la Aldea, Ancha de San Antonio 15
uufsma.org

Over the centuries after the Spanish conquest of Mexico that ended in 1521, the Vatican launched a pompous campaign to Christianize the native dwellers of the Americas. It took the Catholic priesthood several years to discover the religious mentality of the Aztecs and a myriad of other tribes that worshiped ‘gods’ represented in stones. They were not very successful at first.

A great opportunity came when, out of his imagination, native Aztec indigenous farmer Juan Diego came upon an apparition of a dark skinned Virgin Mary on a hill in northern Mexico City, who asked that a shrine be built in her honor atop the hill. This sequence of magical events tells the astounding story of the miracle of Guadalupe. The cult of the Virgin of Guadalupe was promoted by Dominican archbishop of Mexico, Alonso de Montúfar, seized on the story as a miracle of Catholicism.

Posadas are community celebrations that take place on each of the nine nights leading up to Christmas, from December 16 to 24th. The word posada means “inn” or “shelter” in Spanish, and in this tradition, Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem and their search for a place to stay is re-enacted. The Augustinian friars of San Agustin de Acolman, near Mexico City are believed to have celebrated the first posadas. The Aztecs had a tradition of honoring their god Huitzilopochtli at the same time of year (coinciding with the winter solstice), and they would have special meals in which the guests were given small figures of idols made from a paste that consisted of ground toasted corn and agave syrup. The friars took advantage of the coincidence and the two celebrations were combined. In this manner of integrating indigenous religious practices, Mexico’s unique form of Catholicism was molded.

Castillo, a bilingual journalist for the past 50 years, writes daily columns for The News, the leading English-language newspaper in Mexico City for the past 65 years. He earned a diploma from the Columbia University Graduate School of Broadcast Journalism on a Ford Foundation grant. As a freelance journalist in Mexico City, he did research interpretations, and interviews on topics as diverse as arts, industry, politics, and sports. He also studied sorcery with anthropologist and Najual Carlos Castaneda, and has been active with Unitarian congregations in Porterville and Berkeley, California

The UU Fellowship meets every Sunday at 10:30am at Posada de la Aldea, Ancha de San Antonio 15, and welcomes people of all ages, races, religions, sexual orientation, and gender identity. The room is wheelchair accessible. For more information, visit our website at uufsma.org.

 

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