La Reina de Mexico: Celebrating the Virgin of Guadalupe

I’ve been corrected. The Virgin of Guadalupe is not a saint. She is Our Lady of Guadalupe, giver of miracles. In reality, she is the quintessential symbol of Mexican syncretism, combining indigenous roots/beliefs with Spanish Catholicism. In reality, she is more indigenous than Catholic receiving much more attention than the Virgin Mary or Jesus.

A few of the many Virgins created on Virgin Play Day 2019

As a spiritual symbol, Guadalupe, or Lupita as many call her, sings to us. Especially women. She is Queen. She is Corn Goddess. She is Mother Earth. Protectress. She is Tonantzin.

A Virgin in the making
San Martin Tilcajete woodcarvers and painters made Virgins, too

To celebrate her, regardless of religious beliefs or spiritual disposition, is therefore easy and fun.

Virgins come in all sizes, shapes and genders
And, now for the finishing touches.

In the spirit of fun-ness, I participated in a Virgin Play Day at the home of Linda Hanna, who has been hosting this event for years. This was my first time and it was a glorious respite from my routine (whatever that is).

Our host Linda Hanna with the Virgin she created
Don’t miss this Virgin of Guadalupe exhibition in Mexico City, organized by Linda Hanna, there until April 2020
Purely Mexican Goddess, the Virgin of Guadalupe

About forty women, extranjeras and Zapotecas, gathered in the courtyard to create our own version of the Divine Lupita. There was a wood form which we would spend the day breathing life into.

Calavera Virgins are a popular theme this year
I’m with ceramic artist Angelica Vasquez, Grand Master of Oaxaca Folk Art

Creating a goddess icon was easier for others than for me. Too many choices of bric-a-brac, magazine images, cloth, glitter, paint, and every other creative type of decorative materials you could imagine. I managed to burn my fingers using the glue gun, another first for me.

Four Virgin Versions
Ruth came from Philadelphia to participate

I was reminded about how important it is to take a creative day away from the everyday. It was good to catch up with women I rarely have the opportunity to be with. And, of course, the potluck interlude for lunch was over-the-top! There are a lot of good cooks in Oaxaca — even extrajeras!

Virgin of Guadalupe altar, Teotitlan del Valle church

Then, to put a cap on an already glorious day, at the end of the day I returned to Teotitlan del Valle. In the church courtyard, Los Danzantes de la Pluma were paying homage to the Virgin with their traditional Dance of the Feather. As evening descended into darkness and warmth turned to chill, the village gathered here in celebration of ancient traditions. Pre-Hispanic traditions.

Guadalupe, Queen of Mexico, honored in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca
Taking big leaps for the Virgin of Guadalupe, Teotitlan del Valle
Doña Marina and La Malinche twirl in honor of the Virgin
This is her first year of a three-year commitment

14 responses to “La Reina de Mexico: Celebrating the Virgin of Guadalupe

  1. Hola Norma,
    Enjoyed the way you summarized my Virgen Playday. Actually there were over 50 women this year which was first. Thanks!

  2. A great post, Norma! I’ve lived in both northern and southern New Mexico for over 40 years and it’s still so interesting to see the difference in the barrio shrines and even roadside shrines between the two areas of the state. The northern New Mexicans are very proud of their Spanish heritage and the shrines are usually of the Virgin Mary. It is much more common to see Our Lady of Guadalupe shrines in the southern part of the state where residents will proudly tell you what part of Mexico their family is from.

  3. How does the Virgin of Soledad relate to the Virgin of Guadalupe and the Virgin Mary? Somehow I thought the Virgin of Soledad was specific to Oaxaca. Also, I thought that both Virgins were the equivalent of the Virgin Mary. In Mexico you see either the Virgin of Guadelupe or the Virgin of Soledad at the altar. You don’t also see the Virgin Mary which led me to believe that they were a likeness of the Virgin Mary.

    • This is a BIG question, Tim, and I’m not a religious scholar, only an interested appreciator of Mexican iconography. Yes, the Virgin of Soledad is the patron saint of Oaxaca. Beyond that, I’m unqualified to answer. Any research I do to answer your question could be done by anyone else doing a Google search. When you find out the answers, please post here. Readers would be interested in knowing more. Thank you for reading. Norma

      • Norma,
        Based on your article on the Virgin of Guadalupe I had asked the following questions of you:
        “How does the Virgin of Soledad relate to the Virgin of Guadalupe and the Virgin Mary? Somehow I thought the Virgin of Soledad was specific to Oaxaca. Also, I thought that both Virgins were the equivalent of the Virgin Mary. In Mexico you generally see either the Virgin of Guadalupe or the Virgin of Soledad at the altar. You don’t also see the Virgin Mary. This led me to believe that they were all a likeness of the Virgin Mary.” In addition to these questions I have been interested in understanding better how religious faith has evolved in Mexico and the impact, not only on “socio- religious identity” but also on the culture, politics and economy of Mexico.
        After doing a little, and I do mean little, research on the subject at your suggestion, I have the following unscientific observations:
        1. An article from the “International Journal of Frontier Missiology” which provides an interesting discussion of the origin of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The article is entitled “The Virgin of Guadalupe: A Study of Socio-Religious Identify.” Type in the search area of Google international journal on frontier missiology Virgin of Guadalupe and you will see a PDF of the article.
        2. My original limited understanding of the subject was that the Virgin Mary is the Virgin Mary regardless of the name ascribed to Mary. The article attached points out that: “The fact that nearly every Latin American country has its own version of the Virgin shows that the conquered people all desired an image with whom they could identify. In Cuba, she became known as the Virgin of Caridad del Cobre; in Bolivia she is Our Lady of Copacabana; in Brazil she is Our Lady Aparecida; in Nicaragua she is Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception of El Viejo; and in Venezuela she is the Virgin of Coromoto.” I also add that in Oaxaca there is the Virgin of Soledad as well as the Virgin of Guadalupe.
        3. I subscribe to the article’s point of view that while Mary is Mary, there may be differences in how Mary is perceived by country or region, or region within a region, based on each region’s need to identify with
        someone who can understand and relate to their specific issues. For example, in Oaxaca, there is a celebration of the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe on December 12th and a celebration of the Day of the Virgin of Soledad on December 18th each year. Each represents an adoration of the Virgin Mary but each is accommodating different needs of segments of the population.
        4. In Catholic Churches I have attended in the US or Europe, the focal point of the altar is Jesus Christ nailed to the cross. In the churches I have been to in Mexico the focal point is the Virgin of Guadalupe or the Virgin of Soledad. The attached article points out that the Virgin, in some ways, has a greater status that Jesus Christ in Latin America for several interesting reasons identified in the article.
        5. As another variation on the subject, in a town near Lake Chapala in Guadelajara, Cajititlan, there is a church where the three kings are the focal point of the alter, not the virgin.
        6. In a church in the village of Chamula, outside of San Cristobal in Chiapas, the formally Catholic Church now practices the indigenous faith of the region, not the Catholic faith. There are also some villages outside of San Cristobal that are so fully invested in the Catholic faith that the village encourages people with other faiths, such as evangelical or protestant, to leave the village even to this day.
        7. Relative to the subject of your blogs (i.e. Mexican arte popular, culture, etc.), the Catholic Church, via Bishop Vasco de Quiroga was appointed Bishop of Michoacan in 1537, was somewhat responsible, on the upside, for arte popular and crafts in Mexico. The skills Quiroga implanted among Purépecha of the Pátzcuaro region have been passed down to their descendants, who some consider among some of the most skilled craftspersons in Mexico. Quiroga’s method of specialization by community continues to this day: Paracho produces guitars, Tzintzuntzán pottery, Santa Clara copper products and Nurío woven woolens.

  4. What a beautiful dance . What a magical way to end the day.

  5. Norma,
    I would love to buy an embroidered shirt con La Virgen like Linda Hanna is wearing. Do you have any suggestions on how I could do that?

  6. wow! Linda Hanna’s embroidered shirt con La Virgen- takes the prize! lovely.

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