Cozumel Holidays:Virgin de Guadalupe

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Festival de Guadelupe

by Susan Welk de Valdez


It’s all right to be an atheist in Mexico as long as you believe in the Virgin of Guadalupe

December 12 is arguably the most important day of the year for millions of Catholics across Mexico as they honor a figure that is considered to be the centerpiece of the Catholic faith in their country.

According to tradition, the Virgin first appeared to a peasant by the name of Juan Diego in a rural area not far from what is now Mexico City .

The story says that she identified herself as the “mother of God” and told Diego to ask the archbishop of Mexico to build a shrine on that very hillside from which she would preside over those “who love me and trust in me.”

Some who question the legend believe that it is more than coincidence that this particular spot was also the place where the hard-to-convert Aztecs worshipped Tonantzin, the mother of all gods.

Tonantzin, Aztec "Mother of All Gods" ( toNATzin)

In any event, the Indians of Mexico responded enthusiastically to the arrival of the brown-skinned goddess who spoke their language and were content to have found a replacement for objects of worship that had been taken away by the Spaniards.

Over hundreds of years, the Virgin of Guadalupe has evolved into much more than a symbol of the Catholic Church. It is the icon that led the country’s revolution and gave birth to Mexico ’s independence, becoming a symbol of national pride and strength.

Veneration of the Virgin came to Cozumel via the Yucatecans who were introduced to a similar image known as Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception by the Franciscan order of the Catholic Church in the state of Yucatan . Ceremonies honoring the Virgin were cleverly designed to complement the pagan rituals that were part of Yucatecan culture at that time.

Today Cozumeleños worship through in-home services and novenas consisting of traditional songs and recitation of the rosary, beginning December 1 st and continuing through December 12 th. During this period the ever-present statues and shrines built as integral parts of most Cozumel homes are decorated with flowers, lights and candles. On these twelve days many followers organize street processions where participants dressed in white are often accompanied by sound systems so that neighbors and bystanders can join them in song and prayer.

On the eve of the feast day, thousands gather at Cozumel ’s Virgin of Guadalupe church for prayers and blessings before beginning a pilgrimage that will last far into the night. Their journey takes them to the east side of the island, then to the southern tip and back again to San Miguel and Corpus Christi church. The majority of the participants are organized groups consisting of families, service clubs, unions and company employees. While the route is generally covered on foot in a relay fashion, others make the journey in decorated cars or trucks as well as the occasional bicycle.

While the main purpose of the pilgrimage is to honor the mother of God, in most cases the passage also serves as an opportunity to formally offer promises and petitions to the Virgin of Guadalupe for the coming year.


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