The Virgen de Guadalupe (Virgin of Guadalupe), a.k.a. Nuestra Reina de México, La Empresa de las Americas and The Protectress of Unborn Children, is the most revered religious and political image in México and her feast day on December 12 kicks off the Christmas season in grand style.
So who is the Virgin of Guadalupe? According to Catholic sources, on December 9, 1531, a peasant by the name of Juan Diego, saw a vision on the Hill of Tepeyac, outside of Mexico City. The site was formerly a shrine in honor of the goddess Tonantzin, “Our Sacred Mother” but had been burnt to the ground by the Catholic missionaries. The reported vision was in the form of a young dark-skinned girl and spoke Nahuatl, an indigenous language. She instructed Juan Diego to build a shrine in her honor at this site. Juan Diego went and told the Archbishop this story. Juan Diego insisted that this vision was the La Virgen María (the Virgin Mary), but the Archbishop wanted proof, so Juan Diego returned to the site and asked for a miracle. The vision told Juan Diego to gather flowers, and the apparition arranged them on his poncho. When Juan Diego opened his poncho in front of the Archbishop on December 12, the flowers fell to the floor, and the fabric showed an imprint of the image known today as the Virgen de Guadalupe. (
LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE)
Juan Diego was given sainthood, and the Catholics were given México.The poncho (tilma) is on display in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe behind bulletproof, climate-controlled glass, for any who wish to see but not touch. So basically, La Virgen de Guadalupe is Mary, the mother of Jesus, but not.
Even more than the religious influence, the image of La Virgen de Guadalupe has been a unifying political force in México. The first president of México, José Miguel Ramón Adaucto Fernández y Félix changed his name to Guadalupe Victoria (Victory of Guadalupe) in her honor. Father Miguel Hidalgo, in the Mexican War of Independence (1810), and Emiliano Zapata, in the Mexican Revolution (1910), led their armies with Guadalupan flags emblazoned with an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. El Grito de Dolores, (See Mexican Independence Day) ends with the passionate cry of “Death to the Spaniards and long live the Virgin of Guadalupe. José María Morelos adopted the Virgin as the seal of his Congress of Chilpancingo. All because her blessing guarantees success like no other to a true Mexican.
This holds true for namesakes as well. There is no end to the men and women (Lupes, Lupillos, Lupitas, Lupillas) that carry the sacred name of La Virgen as their personal Saint and enjoy the festivities on December 12 as their Saint Day.
So how is La Virgen’s de Guadalupe’s feast day celebrated? Beginning on December 3, there is a 9-day novena (See La Novena) which ends on December 12th. If you need special intervention for a personal cause, you can make the pilgrimage to México City to lay your plea at her feet during this time. If you are not able to make the trip, shrines pop up all over México, so you still get a chance no matter where you are, although the surest and most direct route for prayer answering remains at the shrine in the Basilica. Don’t worry about oversleeping, fireworks in her honor begin before the sun shines. On the morning of December 12, home and church shrines are serenaded with Las Mañanitas as you would any other Mexican on his or her Saint day and birthday.(
NOVENA A LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE)(
Mananitas a La Virgen De Guadalupe: La Reina)
In Moroleón, the street Tepeyac is closed and a sort of tianguis (See Failing at your own business-Tianguis) street fair is set up. Street vendors sell their things, kiddie rides are available, and at the end of it all, up a long, long flight of stairs, you can attend mass at the templo (church) in Uriangato.