Today is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, celebrating Maryís apparition to an indigenous man, Juan Diego. This important Mexican holiday represents Godís deep and intimate love for the poor. Mary and Jesus walk with the poor through Juan Diego, calling him by name and recognizing his dignity and the dignity of the Mexican people, who had just been conquered by Spain.
Matilde Mendoza, a CFCA staff member from the town of Villa Garcia, in the state of Nuevo Leon, summed up the importance of the Virgin of Guadalupe to CFCAís sponsored members.
ìThe words of Mary to Juan Diego are the words that CFCA has contemplated: ëAm I not here with you who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection?í
ìMary comes and gives hope, returning the dignity of the people, uniting the cultures. Everyone receives her love. This is CFCA for our sponsored people, making present the words of Mary in their realities.î
The story of the Virgin of Guadalupe
The morning of Dec. 9, 1531, Juan Diego was walking near the Hill of Tepeyac when he had a vision of the Virgin Mary. In his native language of Nahualt, she instructed that a church be built at the site. Juan Diego, an Aztec Indian, relayed the request to Mexicoís first bishop, Juan de Zumarraga. When the Spanish bishop demanded proof of this vision, Juan Diego returned to the hill Dec. 12. Mary once again appeared to him and told him to collect some roses from the top of the usually barren and desolate hill.
He gathered the roses in his cloak and returned to the bishop. As the roses tumbled to the floor, an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe was emblazoned upon his cloak. Here was the proof Bishop Zumarraga needed, and he approved the construction of the church.
Today, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is located north of Mexico City, and 477 years after her appearance Maryís image is still visible on Juan Diegoís cloak, which hangs in the basilica.
Celebration in Villa de Garcia
The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is celebrated from Dec. 3-12. The forms of venerating and celebrating the Virgin of Guadalupe vary according to region, neighborhood, church, city and state.
In Villa de Garcia, home to 270 CFCA sponsored members, Mass is celebrated every afternoon followed by pilgrimages and lectures about Mary or performances portraying the encounters between her and Juan Diego.
Pilgrimages through Villa de Garcia
The pilgrimages weave through Villa de Garcia so that the largest number of people can participate. The Matlachines, indigenous dancers in traditional clothing, lead the pilgrimage by dancing and beating the drum. The people follow and, from time to time, sing and pray.
Serenading the Virgin
On Dec. 11, the pilgrimages end at midnight with mariachi performers serenading the Virgin, and on Dec. 12, after the Mass, people gather†at a big festival†for fellowship and to honor the Lady of Guadalupe.