BY NELLY MONRROY, BILINGUAL EXECUTIVE SECRETARY
There is a special veneration for Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Americas, and especially for Mexicans who feel a sense of pride that our Virgencita Morena is so beloved and venerated by our brothers and sisters in North, Central and South America and throughout the world. On October 12, 1945, Pope Pius XII decreed Our Lady of Guadalupe to be patroness of all the Americas. In Mexico, Our Lady of Guadalupe is not only the patroness, but a symbol of national identity. Most know the story of the humble indigenous man, St. Juan Diego, who Our Lady used as an instrument for her request that a shrine be built on the Tepeyac (now a suburb of Mexico City) in 1531; that in order for the bishop to believe little Juan Diego of her apparition and request, he asked for proof and she appeared imprinted inside of Juan Diego’s tilma surrounded by roses that were not native to Mexico.
Today, the Basílica de Guadalupe stands on the site were Our Lady appeared to St. Juan Diego and draws millions to the shrine. December 12th – her feast day and the day of her fourth apparition to St. Juan Diego and the day she imprinted herself on his tilma, is a national holiday. Hundreds – if not millions make the pilgrimage to the Basilica or to their local churches. Some come walking, some come dancing and singing, while others make the pilgrimage on their knees, seeking the intercession of Mother Mary.
The celebrations begin at sundown on December 11th with serenatas or serenades, followed by dances and presentations usually in the form of dances by matachines (carnivalesque dance troupes usually in indigenous inspired attire) and local musical groups that want to pay tribute to our Madrecita, our mother. And at midnight “Las Mañanitas” are sung to her. Through all the celebrations and tributes, what we remember most is the love of Mary for her son, Jesus, and her love for us.
Her “yes” brought us salvation and her apparition as one of us – to a humble indigenous man, reminds us that she and Christ are with us. For many Catholics in the Americas, and even for lukewarm Catholics, Our Lady of Guadalupe holds a special place in our hearts. We go to her seeking her intercession and her comfort. Because of whom she is and what she represents to millions of Mexicans and “Americanos,” being a “Guadalupano” is essential. She is part of our identity, and it is our honor to venerate her.
Locally, the veneration and celebrations of this important Feast Day to Our Lady have grown. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Virgen de Guadalupe Festival to be celebrated on December 4, 2022, with a procession of dancers, drummers, and Mass at the George R. Brown Convention Center.