Appearance of the Virgin of Guadalupe (December 12th)
On December 12, 1531, near the capital of New Spain, today Mexico City, a humble Indian named Juan Diego noticed the appearance of a woman. “His garment from her was radiant like the sun; the cliff on which her plant perched, dazzled by the glare, resembled an ankle bracelet made of precious stones; and she shone the earth like the rainbow”. The celestial image also had a very important characteristic, he was also indigenous like Juan Diego. The woman asked him that in that same place where she was perched, a temple be erected for the veneration of her since she was the Mother of God. Juan Diego had no choice but to go to the ecclesiastical authorities to relate what happened with the unusual demand of the “woman who came down from heaven.”
The origin of this celebration dates back to pre-Hispanic times. Fray Bernardino de Sahagun points out that in a hill called Tepeyac, there was a temple dedicated to the mother of the gods that they called Tonantzin, which means “Our Mother”, since then they came from far away, with offerings men and women visited her, solemn sacrifices were made in honor of this goddess. In a document known as Nican Mopohua that translates as “Here it is told”, it speaks of the miraculous appearance of “the perfect Virgin Holy Mary Mother of God, Our Queen, there in Tepeyac, renowned Guadalupe.”
It is said in this document that in the year 1531, a few days in December, the Virgin appeared to an Indian named Juan Diego; and after her the precious Image of her appeared before the recent Bishop don fray Juan de Zumarraga. According to Catholic tradition, Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin was born in 1474 in Cuauhtitlán, then the kingdom of Texcoco, belonging to the Chichimeca ethnic group. On Saturday, December 9, 1531, while he was walking to Tlatelolco, in a place called Tepeyac, he had an apparition of the Virgin Mary, who commissioned him to ask the capital’s bishop – the Franciscan Juan de Zumarraga – for the construction of a church at the place of the apparition. As the bishop did not accept the idea, the Virgin asked him to insist. The following day, Sunday, Cuauhtlatoatzin met the prelate again, who examined him on Christian doctrine and asked him for objective evidence to confirm the prodigy.
On December 12, 1531, as Cuauhtlatoatzin was heading back to the city, the Virgin introduced herself and consoled him, inviting him to climb to the top of the Tepeyac hill to pick flowers and bring them to her. Despite the cold winter season and the aridity of the place, Cuauhtlatoatzin found some very beautiful flowers. Once collected, he placed them on his “tilma” (cotton blanket worn by country men, like a cape, knotted over the shoulder) and took them to the Virgin, who ordered him to present them to the bishop as proof of veracity. Once before the bishop, the saint opened his “tilma” and dropped the flowers while the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared, inexplicably, which from that moment became the spiritual heart of the Church in Mexico.
Since then, the Guadalupana tradition is shaped by the miraculous appearance of the Virgin of Guadalupe to the Indian Juan Diego and the miraculous way in which he painted himself on the Indian’s ayate (tilma) before the Bishop Fray Juan de Zumarraga, in December 1531 as proof of his desire to have a temple in Tepeyac. There are several chroniclers who give testimony of the great devotion that there was towards the Virgin of Guadalupe, whom they called Tonantzin, they describe how people came from far away and from all over with offerings and gifts for Our Lady, as in the past was done with the goddess they also called Tonantzin. Since then, every year on December 12 the Basilica is full of pilgrims, from different parts of Mexico, musicians who come to play the mañanitas, Concheros, people who sell food, images, printed sheets with prayers and praises, etc. In our days this tradition continues very strongly rooted in the vast majority of Mexicans, it has become a fundamental part of our identity.
Of all the saints and festive cycles in Mexico, they stand out due to the number of communities that celebrate them on the day of the Virgin of Guadalupe followed by Holy Week and Carnival. Among the Chontales of Macuspana Tabasco, it is celebrated collectively and for a period that ranges from December 3 or 4 to December 12 of the same month. It is customary to carry offerings to the Virgin in procession and festivals are held every night with dance, songs, music and poetry. On December 12 there are masses, rockets, wind music and a great atmosphere in the temple of the little town and its surroundings. Sometimes the Danza del Caballito is performed. In other Chontal communities it is customary to put offerings accompanied by numerous prayers; occasionally of traditional drummer music.
The festival dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe among the Mixe-Popolucas begins several days before. In the early morning of the main day, the mañanitas are taken to the Virgin with a musical group. At 12 noon they go to the church to witness the liturgical services of the mass and participate in a procession that takes place through the streets of the town carrying the Virgin on a litter. These processions are accompanied by music, praise, rockets, and multi-colored flags. The importance of this festival is reflected in the musical manifestations of the town, such as corridos, songs and songs, dedicated to the Virgin Morena del Tepeyac.