In Catholic tradition, Our Lady of Guadalupe—also known as Mother of the Americas—is the patron saint of Mexico, as well as of North and South America.5
December 12th marks the anniversary of the 1531 miraculous apparitions to recently converted Aztec peasants Juan Diego and Juan Bernardino. This apparition of the Virgin Mary, dark skinned like a young native Mexican woman, requested that a church be built on the Hill of Tepeyac near present day Mexico City. Tepeyac was the site of a former temple of Aztec mother goddess Tonantzin. Juan Diego is said to have brought Castilian roses to the Bishop as proof of Our Lady’s apparition. It was December and the roses do not grow in the frozen soil at that time of year. The tilma (Aztec working apron) in which Juan Diego carried the roses revealed an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe when he opened it to display the roses to the Bishop.6 It is this imprinted image on Juan Diego’s tilma which is displayed to this day in the Basilica built in her honor, and is visited by millions each year.
In Mexico and around the world, the Virgin of Guadalupe is honored on December 12th by holding a procession. Bringing flowers and banners, people pray, sing, and reenact the dramatic events. We visited the Church of the Holy Cross in Pigeon Forge for their evening celebration. Many had met in the early morning as well to sing Las Mañanitas (traditional Mexican birthday song adapted to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe) and pray. Many other locations throughout East Tennessee held similar pilgrimage processions.
Well over a hundred people gathered for a procession down the street to reach The Church of the Holy Cross. Boy and girl altar servers headed the procession, and the Knight of Columbus carried a banner with an image of La Guadalupana on it. A statue of Our Lady was carried by men taking turns to hold it during the forty-minute walk. The church banner followed, and then a sea of singing people stretched out on the street. Two floats depicted live representations of Our Lady’s apparitions to Juan Diego and Juan Bernadino, acted out by children and teenagers dressed in costume. Children and adults dressed in traditional Mexican indigenous clothing in honor of this apparition of Mary, who is believed to have appeared as a native Mexican to protect the human rights of all indigenous people in the Americas.
The Church of the Holy Cross has celebrated Our Lady of Guadalupe for more than five years, since Spanish mass started, according to Ramón Armenta, the director of a local Mexican folk dance troupe. This is very popular event for both English and Spanish speaking parishioners, who walked together in the procession. After a bilingual mass, the celebrants stayed for a potluck dinner of traditional Mexican dishes and dance.
Watch Video 32: Our Lady of Guadalupe procession to the Church of the Holy Cross, December 12, 2011.
Photo 25: Altar boys and girls lead procession on December 12, 2011, in Pigeon Forge. Photo by Rafael Casco.
Photo 26: View of Our Lady of Guadalupe procession to the Church of the Holy Cross. Photo by Rafael Casco.
Photo 27: Girl portraying Our Lady of Guadalupe. Photo by Rafael Casco.
Photo 28: Knights of Columbus guard a banner with Our Lady’s image. Photo by Rafael Casco.
Photo 29: Woman dressed in indigenous attire Mexican places flower by the altar. Photo by Rafael Casco.
Photo 30: Men carry Our Lady statue into the Church of the Holy Cross. Photo by Rafael Casco.
Photo 31: Women dressed in traditional Mexican attire. Photo by Rafael Casco.
6 Father Lovasik, S.V.D., Our Lady of Guadalupe. Catholic Publishing Corp. NJ, 1985