28 Jan 2008
The Queen of Mexico, … the Celestial Patroness of Latin America, … the Empress of the Americas, … the Mother of God … … the Brown Virgin … all names and attributes of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
She is the object of the faith and adoration of most of the people of Mexico as well as other Latin American countries. Her image is everywhere; … in roadside shrines, … small and large statues along the road, … an emblem on a truck, … proudly displayed on a t-shirt, and … as the central monument in many Catholic churches.
Strange as it may seem, the Virgin of Guadalupe was the powerful unifying force between the Spanish colonists and the indigenous peoples of Mexico. As the legend goes, … on December 12, 1531, a poor Aztec farmer with the Christianized name of Juan Diego was walking to church when suddenly, Mary, … the Mother of Jesus, … appeared to him. In this appearance, … speaking in the native Nahuatl language, … Mary gave her approval for the indigenous people to accept Catholicism. As proof of her appearance, she emblazoned her image, … surrounded by roses, … inside Juan Diego’s cape. With this proof, the Virgin of Guadalupe was declared the Patroness of Mexico by the Catholic Archbishop, Zumárraga,.
The power and influence of this legendary encounter between Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and Juan Diego continues to grow stronger. In 1992, … 461 years after the reported encounter with Mary, … Juan Diego was canonized a saint by Pope John Paul II. In the month of December, the month of the encounter, hundreds of thousands of followers travel to Mexico City where the Basilica of Guadalupe is located. It is a time when they expect to receive a special blessing by just being near the place where Juan Diego received his blessing from Mary.
Each year regional church organizations are allocated a specific month to make their pilgrimage to the Basilica. This time the peregrinos are mostly young people; … some on foot, … some on bicycles, … and others in buses, vans, and trucks. All have the goal of reaching the Basilica in the hope of receiving a special blessing performed by the priest or the bishop. They carry a likeness of the Virgin from their hometown church so that, it too, will receive the blessings of the original Virgin of Guadalupe in the Basilica. This process is believed to give their image more power when they return it to their hometown church. They believe that a greater reward is given to those who make the additional sacrifice to walk part or all of the way. Often the person will do this because they believe that by making this “sacrifice”, they will be reworded with health, a new home, a vehicle, or some other material blessing.
Some make the 70-mile trip from Puebla to Mexico City by walking up and over the 13,000-foot pass near the volcanic crater of Mount Popocatepetl. At the pass, many take the time to stop and rest and to purchase some refreshments at the tourist center. Normally used to haul farm produce, big trucks are enlisted to help with the trip. The trucks, with their decorations and loads of peregrinos … are often seen at this stop.
Taking the truck was not an option for these young men and women who are now returning from their trek of several days. By the time they arrive at their home near Puebla, they will have traveled more than 140 miles. The dusty road down the mountain seems to be of little concern to these who are nearing the end of this journey of commitment. Most will do it again the following year. It is all done as a sacrifice to honor their belief in the power and majesty of the Virgin of Guadalupe. It is done to confirm their belief in the legend of Juan Diego and his encounter with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, nearly five centuries ago; …the belief that Juan Diego was the one who was chosen to bring about the unification of the Catholic Church and the indigenous people of Mexico.
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