Virgen de Guadalupe Fiesta

Published: December 15th 2011
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San Cristobal de las Casas

On December 4th we arrived in San Cristobal de las Casas. We knew that Virgen de Guadalupe fiesta going on until the 12thof December. For those unfamiliar with the Virgen de Guadalupe fiesta, like me, please read the following paragraph from Wikipedia.

Two accounts published in the 1640s, one in Spanish and the other in Nahuatl, tell how, during a walk from his home village to Mexico City early on the morning of December 9, 1531 (the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in the Spanish Empire), the peasant Juan Diego saw a vision of a young girl of fifteen or sixteen, surrounded by light, on the slopes of the Hill of Tepeyac. Speaking in the local language, Nahuatl, the Lady asked for a church to be built at that site in her honor, and from her words Juan Diego recognized her as the Virgin Mary. Diego told his story to the Spanish Archbishop, Fray Juande Zumárraga, who instructed him to return and ask the Lady for a miraculous sign to prove her claim. The Virgin told Juan Diego to gather some flowers from the top of Tepeyac Hill. It was winter and very late in the season for any flowers to bloom, but on the hilltop (which was usually barren), Diego found Castillian roses, and the Virgin herself arranged them in histilma, or peasant cloak. When Juan Diego opened the cloak before Zumárraga on December 12, the flowers fell to the floor, and in their place was the Virgin of Guadalupe, miraculously imprinted on the fabric.

Our hotel was located on Real de Guadalupe, which has a pedestrian walkway, or andador, that goes on for about three blocks. The Church of Guadalupe is at the end of the Real de Guadalupe. After dinner we decided to take a walk on the andador to see what was going on. We realized that we heard a moving car alarm coming toward us. A car alarm? Driving on the andador? We moved out of the way, just in time for a float to pass us by. On the float was a live “Virgen de Guadalupe”. It was quite ethereal. Too bad we didn't have our camera.

Saturday parents dressed their babies as either Juan Pedro or the Virgen de Guadalupe and brought them to the church. We sat on the side, taking pictures on the sideline. We wanted to be a part of the festivities, yet not be too intrusive. I think David took a bunch of great pictures!

Sunday the church was even more crowded. There were masses of humanity running up the stairs in a parade formation, shouting and cheering, holding both pictures of The Virgen and torches. Outside the church there was a stand so one could place their torch whil going to church. Going to church in Mexico is nothing like the staid and stuffy churches of the United States! I think I can safely say that in all my teenage years going to different Catholic churches, I have never seen people cheering (as in - give me a G, give me a U!), dancing, laughing, even fireworks in the middle of the day! We were amazed at all the fireworks going off; they almost sounded like bombs! And they were going for about 15 minutes. Sir Isaac Newton was right with his first law of motion, or, what goes up must come down. I got hit in the head by a spent firework! It was a hot, heavy metal spring and it hurt like heck!

Monday was the final day of the festival. It was a holiday, so just about everybody in town was at the church. The church was just too packed, so we headed down the steps. There were tons of people down there, too. We tried to get on a roller coaster, but it was crazy. There were so many people that were making the parade route; one teenage girl fainted right in front of us! We decided to get out of the crowd and walk down Real de Guadalupe to the Zocalo.

Even the Real de Guadalupe was packed with worshipers, runners, and the curious, like us. We decided to have a glass of wine/beer in an outdoor café and watch the world go by. Right next door to us was a shop owner who was having her own family party. Every time a group of runners came by, the family would clap for the runners and throw pink and purple confetti at them. You could imagine that some of these runners have been running for days and they’re finally in the home stretch where they can see the church. Now imagine strangers cheering, clapping and throwing confetti at you. What a rush!

So, the festival’s over, the street is quiet; the only thing that remains is the purple stain from the confetti on the sidewalk. It seems almost anticlimactic. But wait, Christmas is just around the corner! Friday begins another round of festivals and celebrations, Las Posadas and nacimientos. But that’s another blog!

I could only put in a few of our San Cristobal pics; if you want to see more, please go to Flickr:

Additional photos below
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