La Virgen de Guadalupe


La Virgen de Guadalupe -Patron Saint of Mexico

In Mexico, many holidays are celebrated the night before the actual feast day. For example, the Independence of Mexico on September 16th is celebrated on the night of the 15th. Family fiestas to commemorate Christmas are held on Christmas Eve – a lot of people stay up until dawn – and then sleep most of the 25th.

December 12th is the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe – La Virgen de Guadalupe – the patron saint of the country. But it is on the night of December 11th that the most important festivities are held – Tuesday of this week. 

Every year, I attend the Guadalupana celebration at San Cristobal Church in Merida. I don’t get there until about 10 pm, so my arrival coincides with large groups of antorchistas – the pilgrims who come to this church from towns all over the peninsula – they always look exhausted, but elated.

Many Catholics believe that Our Lady of Guadalupe has the power to grant favours and intercede for them. They pray to Guadalupe for miracles and they often add promises they think will strengthen their pleas. The most common promise is to participate in a relay run from their neighbourhood, town or village to the nearest Basilica of Guadalupe – in Merida this is the Church of San Cristobal – located on the corner of Calle 50 and 69. The Basilica in Mexico City is the second most-visited Catholic shrine in the world. Only the Vatican attracts more of the faithful.

Most pray when a relative is ill, for the safe birth of a child, for the success of a job application, or a salary raise. They believe that public displays of faith and thanksgiving are pleasing to Guadalupe. Theirs is an uncomplicated faith – they do not ask a lot of theological questions – they simply believe.

Because of all the parked bicycles, walking around the atrium of San Cristobal is not easy, and getting into the church itself is next to impossible, except when one Mass lets out and the next has not yet begun. But everyone crowds in nonetheless, in order to leave a flower offering at the altar. I wedge myself in too, and sometimes I wish I possessed the faith of the antorchistas. How comforting it must be to believe with all your heart that the Mother of God is looking out for you.

I ask too many questions. I don’t agree with a host of Church rulings, and I do not make it to Mass every Sunday. I appreciate other religions and sacred congregations. Unlike many of the others who will be at San Cristobal on Tuesday night, I do not feel that the Roman Catholic Church is the one church that “saves souls”. But I was raised in that Church, and the biggest part of my religious allegiance will probably remain stubbornly faithful to it.

On Tuesday night as I place my bouquet with all the 1,000s of others, I will pray that Guadalupe hears our prayers, and bestows the strength to forge a better future for Mexico. La Virgen de Guadalupe is a constant source of peace in my life. She is more than a Catholic icon, she is “the heart of Mexico.”

It is very moving to witness the affirmation of Mexicans’ devotion to her, and the basic faith that sustains them through many hardships. I believe that a country full of people with such deep basic faith is indeed blessed. And keep in mind that faith moves mountains.



Published by Changes in our Lives

I am originally from Canada but have lived in Mexico since 1976. My husband is from Merida, Yucatan and we raised our family here. We both worked for many years at Tecnologia Turistica Total (TTT), the tourism, language and multimedia college we founded for local and international students. Now retired, we enjoy spending time with family and friends, My other interests include spending time with freinds, reading, painting, cooking and travel.

18 thoughts on “La Virgen de Guadalupe

  1. I was raised Catholic (in Canada, so a quite secularized Catholicism), am no longer a believer, and have had many experiences in Mexico where I am awed, deeply moved, but also uncomprehending, at the astonishing demonstrations of faith. I’m left a little unsettled at being apart, but also thankful for the experience of something that remains beyond me. Perhaps it’s not entirely a religious thing, but rather the expression of a society still wedded to ritual and tradition in a way that is largely lost in other parts of the world (and in sectors of Mexican society as well, of course). Mexico’s talent for sustaining such deeply rooted living traditions is what draws so many of us there. Anyway, thanks for another wonderfully observed post!


    1. Hello James, thank you for your comment… Some segments of Mexico’s population consider customs and rituals to be relics of a past best forgotten. But most value their unique traditional beliefs, cuisine, music, colours and art. They look forward to feast days with nostalgia and pleasure. They also know that without continued observance of them, the country would lose much of its identity and charm.


  2. Words and feelings well put. Years ago, we visited the Shrine of The Virgin of Guadalupe along with thousands of others. It was a moving experience. We have visited many religous shrines during our travels and have always felt a sense of faith, hope, devotion and understanding for the people who share and express their belief. Like an open book, their bodies and faces express their needs and their prayers. Thanks for your thoughts, and may your prayers be answered this holiday season.


    1. A unique energy results when large groups of people join one another for a common purpose. The observance of the Dia de Guadalupe is one example. Can you imagine how it must have felt in Mexico City this week? Six and a half million people visited the Basilica… I think that faith in her and the country has been firmly established.


  3. I was raised as a Protestant but I feel much like you do about church, faith and other religions. Like you, I ask too many questions. I was raised that ours was the true way, but I now believe that my Protestant church does not have a lock on being the only way. And I still hold to my faith despite not going to church much and I think that will remain.

    Faith does move mountains. The Mexican people are some of the most resilient people I’ve ever seen. I greatly admire their way for make the most out of something small, and for their abilities to find a work around for nearly any situation. They will rise up.

    God bless you and your family this Christmas season Joanna!


    1. Thank you Joanne, my best wishes to you and your family over the Holidays. Like you, I greatly admire Mexican tenacity, resilience and creativity. Many visitors to Mexico say they don’t undrstand “why” the Mexican culture is so pleasing to them… I believe this is because their own cultures have lost much of the spontaneity, authenticity, raw emotion and stubborn faith that is alive and well in Mexico.


  4. What a beautiful analysis. This display of the power of group synergy and solidarity is an important experience for the young people now making their way to Guadalupe cathedrals across Mexico. May their determination carry over to success in life.


    1. God speed your printed words to the collective consciousness! 2019 will be an interesting year in Mexico. Like you, I hope that the the power of group synergy and solidarity will propel Mexico onward and upward. The time is now…


  5. My dear friend, thanks for sharing both information and also your heartfelt joy celebrating our Virgin of Guadalupe. I have shared with my children the shrine at the basilica and felt the emotion and peace . We are lucky to live in Mexico.


    1. Nancy, you are so right, we are lucky to live in Mexico. You are such a supporter of the people and the culture, and I look so forward to our travels to your beloved San Miguel de Allende in early 2019. We have much to celebrate!


  6. It was very moving the year four of us went together, you, Barb, Auntie Dot, and me, to the Mass, holding our floral branches high so that we did not lose each other, seeing the faith and hope of the throngs gathered for a single purpose but innumerableersonal concerns and pleas.


    1. I remember that year so well, and I felt happy to share the eveing you, Auntie Dot and Barb. You are so right when you speak of single purpose. I believe there is a special energy in places where many gather for the same specific reason – in this case a sacred one. Thank you for your comment Auntie Alice.


  7. Our little block in Mérida Centro holds the Guadalupe celebrations every year at one neighbour´s house and it is so beautifully decked out with many lights. Tonight I just can home from a Mass that was celebrated on an altar set up in front of the same neighbour´s house and it is always so beautiful with the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe, candles, lights and flowers . After the Mass there was an 8 piece mariachi group which is always so enjoyable. Even though my Spanish is sad and I seem to be the only gringa in the block I was so warmly welcomed as I just got here 2 weeks from today and it was so nice to chat with neighbours I had not seen for six months. As for religion I strongly believe no one of the three major religions – Christianity, Judaism and Islam – has a monopoly on eternal salvation and they all have something from their rituals and customs that is very beautiful. How happy the world might be if we were to take the beautiful things from these religions and incorporate them into one.


    1. Generosity is another great virtue in Mexico. Sharing their celebration with you comes naturally to your neighbours, doesn’t it? I feel as you do, the world would be so much better off if we could all show the generosity of spirit, embrace our differences, and share our unique cultural identity. Amen.


  8. Thank you for the insights to this special holiday in Mexico, Joanna. Every year we are invited to attend the service at our local taxi stand Santa Ana. John and I feel very privileged to be invited to this special occasion. We are the only gringos there and are treated with friendliness and respect. We shake hands with all the cabbies and are introduced to wives and children. Then we are invited to share cokes and conchinita. We do not stay as this is their party but are often given “take outs.” We are made to feel truly part of the taxi family and we look forward to being invited every year. Wonderful, warm people the Mexicans.


    1. Like Sharon’s comment, yours illustrates the deep generosity that comes naturally to Mexicans. Maybe you could write out your sentiments in a Christmas letter for the taxi drivers and their families? I could help you to translate it.


  9. What incredibly beautiful comments from such lovely people. (Took away any loneliness I may have felt today.) Joanna, thank you for celebrating this apparition-al feast day with us! Heart to heart, bypassing the head…sometimes you just gotta believe…where two or more are gathered…the sum is greater than the parts…….I always love the image of Juan Diego letting the (false) gold go right on by as he cloaked himself with the real treasure. 🙂


    1. Yes, I think Guadalupe’s image is a beautiful one, and more “real” than skeptics would have me believe. “Real” in the sense that the peace and acceptance she spreads is a “real” force in many peoples’ lives. Certainly in mine. You are not alone…

      Liked by 2 people

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