In my quest to learn more about my own Mexican heritage, I’ve studied and have even adopted a few Mexican traditions. One tradition and holiday that I haven’t yet studied enough is the The Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe or Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe. Is it a Mexican holiday? Is it a Catholic holiday? Or is it a Mexican Catholic holiday?
I don’t have all the answers. Here’s some of what I do know.
La Virgencita or The Virgin of Guadalupe
The Virgin of Guadalupe is also known as Our Lady of Guadalupe and often the Virgin Mary. My family often referred to her as La Virgencita. I remember her image from the inside of my grandparents home. She was on walls and on candles. But, I think the first time I learned of how La Virgencita appeared in Mexico in 1531 was when I took my Mexican-American Studies course in college.
The Virgen first appeared to Juan Diego and asked for a church to be built on the hill where she appeared. The hill was a place where Aztecs once worshipped their gods but was destroyed by Spanish conquerors. Juan Diego told the bishop, a leader of the Catholic church that was now in control, what he witnessed but the bishop demanded more proof – a sign. La Virgencita reappeared and ordered Juan Diego to collect many roses in his cloak and take them back to the bishop. He did as she asked and when he opened his cloak in front of the bishop, dozens of roses fell to the floor and revealed the image of the Virgen of Guadalupe imprinted on the inside. This cloak with the image is still on display in the Basilica de Guadalupe in Mexico.
The day of the Virgin de Guadalupe or Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe became a national holiday in Mexico in 1859. Every year on December 12, many people in Mexico travel to the Basilica de Guadalupe to offer gifts, celebrate, and begin the Christmas holiday season. In the United States, there a celebrations across the country as well. Each year, my Facebook feed seems to be more filled with photos and videos of the beginning of this celebration – a beautiful celebration not just of Catholic masses but also the indigenous processions.
La Virgencita is a grand symbol in Mexico of so many things and has a special meaning to so many people both of the Catholic faith and not of Catholic faith. Because of her dark skin color and the fact that her story is told in both Spanish and Nahuatl languages, she is considered to many a blend of both Aztec and Spanish heritage.Today, she is known to many as the Mother of Mexico. Even with that title, I’m finding it difficult to pinpoint what she really means to so many people who hold such different views of faith and identity.
Growing up, half of my family went to a Baptist church and the other half went to a Catholic church. It was confusing and I definitely didn’t learn or understand the meanings of religious holidays and celebrations. As with many things in my life, I want to know more now as an adult than I cared to know when I was younger. I’ve asked some friends earlier this year about La Virgencita and I want to know more. As a life-long learner, I’m also looking for books to read. I’m starting with Our Lady of Guadalupe: Faith and Empowerment among Mexican-American Women and Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civilization of Love. There is so much more for me to learn.
Do you recognize or celebrate this day?
What, if anything, does the Virgin of Guadalupe (La Virgencita, Our Lady of Guadalupe) mean to you and your family?