Moseying: Living La Vida Llanero
La Virgen de Guadalupe
August 20, 2003
When Deborah and I are out bebopping around, we often drive through the neighborhoods of our regional towns, admiring gardens, masonry, murals, architecture, and yard art. We do it so we get to know how others have adapted to life in the hot and dry country seeking out the folkways of our neighbors. We often admire grutas and nichos, or small religious altars that can be found in the yards of every town. Often as not, the figure of La Virgen de Guadalupe is the central focus.
The pantheon of the icons that define the country of Mexico includes Moctezuma, Cuauhtemoc, Father Hidalgo, Benito Juarez, Emiliano Zapata and the Virgin of Guadalupe. The ruling party (until the election of Vicente Fox) the PRI, was supremely aware of the importance of creating a symbolic mythology to serve as a unifying force in a very diverse society. The most conservative segment of the nation, a fundamentalist Catholic movement often called El Movimento Guadalupano, seeks to reestablish the Catholic Church as a dominant force in Mexican culture.
In the United States, la Virgen became a symbol against racism, carried by Chicano activists as a statement of cultural pride. Cesar Chavez, the leader of the United Farmworkers Union, carried Her banner in his struggle for economic justice.
La Virgen is usually represented as framed by the sun, with 62 rays on her right side and 77 rays on her left. He facial features are that of a mestizo woman, (la Morenita) announcing the foundation of a new race. Se wears a black sash around her waist to signify that she is pregnant. Under her is a crescent moon, a symbol of the Aztecs, now trampled by the power of the new queen. Upon careful examination, in the reflection of her iris, is the figure of a human. The stars on her turquoise mantel are the constellations arranged in the position they held on December 12, 1531, at 10.40 p.m., the time of her miraculous apparition to Juan Diego. Her image was miraculously recorded on a tilma, a coarse fabric woven from maguey (or the agave, from which tequila is made,) in which She instructed Juan Diego to gather roses blooming in a barren winter landscape
She appeared four times to Juan Diego on the summit of Tepeyac Mountain, the former abode of the Aztec goddess Tonantzin. She asked five questions of Juan Diego Am I not here, your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protections? Am I not your foundation of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need? She identified herself in five ways; the Mother of the True God, the Mother of the Giver of Life, the Mother of the Inventor of Humanity, the Mother of the Lord of the Near and Far, and the Mother of the Lord of Heaven and Earth. Her voice sounded like music never heard before, of such melodic tenderness as the singing of birds, singing of beauty and truth.
For Her faithful, Our Lady of Guadalupe manifests God as mother, Gods compassion, divine power and might, the presence of God and as a source of recreating energy. She became a symbol to the vanquished Aztecs, restoring the peoples reason to live. She activates the power of poor people. She stands for justice, the power to endure suffering, the power of caring, and the power of risk as long as she is beside me, Im going to keep trying. She is filled with gentleness, loving kindness, and forgiveness, offering unconditional love.
Poet Ruben Martinez writes, La Virgen is at the center of the Mexican soul. She is painted on neighborhood walls, on storefronts, and emblazoned on sweatshirts and baseball caps. Her portrait hangs in living rooms and in every barrio church many more prayers are offered up to la Virgen than to the Son of God. Author Luis J. Rodriguez states, She is the eternal which anyone can possess, proof we are never truly conquered, never truly defeated. La Guadalupana wishes for us to open up our hearts and minds, to reconnect with and to enter the world, guided by a spirit of justice. The legendary Mexican author Octavio Paz says, She is the Mother of orphans, the consolation of the poor, the shield of the weak, and the help of the oppressed.
Almost every year there is a miraculous apparition of la Virgen de Guadalupe on the wall of modest homes somewhere from Texas to California. Four million people a year make the pilgrimage to Tepayac on December 12th, and the site is the safest place on the planet to be who would dare diss Lupe by committing a sin? Pilgrims approach the cathedral on their knees, rosaries in hand. The faithful come to pay Her tribute, and to petition her for help, the tradition of the mandas. They leave walking backward, crying Adios, Madre de Cielo (Mother of Heaven.)