Today is the Virgin’s Day in Mexico, and this explains the ‘gun shots’ all night for days on end, actually they are firworks. Luckily.
This is what I know about the Virgin of Guadalupe which I have taken from a gratis tourist guide for the city of San Miguel de Allende:
According to legend, a beautiful dark-skinned young woman appeared surrounded by light to a young native Aztec, Juan, who believed her to be the Virgin Mary. The site was Tepeyac, home of a temple to the Aztec Mother Goddess Tonántzin, which Spanish conquistadors had razed. Speaking in Juan’s native tongue Náhuatl, the virgin asked Juan to build a temple on that site in her honour, and in return she would always care for and protect Mexican people. Juan asked the Bishop but the Bishop did not believe him. The virgin appeared three more times, and again and again the Bishop did not believe him.
On the fourth time, the virgin asked Juan to go up a hill and gather roses growing there. It was the middle of winter, but Juan found roses blooming that he had never seen before. He presented them to the Bishop who recognised them as Castillian roses that grow only in Spain. Then the roses started to cascade from Juan’s cloak, and the virgin herself appeared. The Basilica de Guadalupe now stands where the virgin asked Juan to build the church. And Juan’s cloak, made from agave fibres, is still intact which is also considered a miracle.
And now, to directly quote the tourist guide:
‘The Virgin of Guadalupe unified two disparate worlds. The native Mexicans identified the dark Virgin who spoke the native language Náhuatl with the goddess Tonántzin, who they could once again honour and worship within the Catholic Church. The Spanish identified her with the Virgin of Guadalupe from Extramuda in Spain, who had been venerated by the faithful since 1300. The Church acknowledged Our Lady of Guadalupe as the Patroness of Mexico. Her image, neither purely Indian nor purely Spanish became a symbol for the united Mexico, a country born of the melding of the two. Her blend of indigenous and European features is the face of modern Mexico and modern Mexicans.’
Today millions of people set out from all over Mexico on foot, donkey, bus, plane to make a pilgrimage to the Basilica (and apparently cause havoc downtown). We drove to San Miguel and I was disappointed not to see any pilgrims, although my friend, who was driving, was not.
The likeness of the virgin adorns taco stands to t-shirts, so I’m on the lookout.
Postscript: The BBC has a photo-series of pilgrims gathering to honour the Virgin of Guadalupe.