December 16, 2005

Our Lady of Guadalupe in popular culture: Celebration in Baja California’s Culture Institute

By Luis Alonso Pérez

On December 12, millions of Mexicans celebrates one of the most important holidays of the year, the 474th anniversary of the Virgin of Guadalupe’s apparition to Juan Diego on the Tepeyac hill.

This is one of the deepest rooted traditions in Mexican popular culture, celebrated by Catholics and non-Catholics, because her image goes beyond a religious symbol, and because throughout the years it has become a national symbol, a banner for unity that has entered Mexico’s history and culture.

The tradition has transcended religious praising and celebration, it has evolved into a social phenomenon that attracts an annual crowd of over 20 million to the Tepeyac temple, and to celebrations all over the world, organized by Mexicans far away from their homeland.

With the objective of spreading the popular tradition and exploring its origins, and at the same time celebrating this special holiday in a festive and familiar atmosphere, the Baja California Culture Institute (ICBC) organized a multidisciplinary event called “Our Lady of Guadalupe in popular culture”

On the morning of December 12, the ICBC’s front yard and multi forum hosted a series of cultural and artistic events like the presentation of the Virgin’s altar, the singing of Las Mañanitas, a presentation of the Matachines dancers, and a conference called “Our Lady of Guadalupe in popular culture”.

Festivities began at 10 am. Some of the people there began celebrations earlier that day, because they sang the Mañanitas in Tijuana’s cathedral, or some even participated in the pilgrimage that began on the prior night.

The first part of the event was a conference called Our Lady of Guadalupe in popular culture, by Oscar Ariel Mojica Madrigal, talked about the history of the Virgin of Guadalupe’s apparition to Juan Diego in the Tepeyac hill, communicating to him through his native language Nahuatl, and the final apparition in his cloak filled with roses.

After the conference everybody sang the traditional Mañanitas, followed by a presentation of the Matachines dancing, a “Mestizo” dance with a deep religious meaning, in which pre Hispanic praised their Gods. The dance was interpreted by the Matachines group of Colonia Baja California of Mexicali, and directed by Sabino Herrera Solís.

The dancers interpreted four pieces: La Vaquilla, El Caracol, El Apache and the Mañanitas. Every dance has a particular meaning and a history behind it. The two matachines lines were made out of men and women of all ages, from small children to grown ups, proudly wearing their shiny costumes, tall crests and the Virgin of Guadalupe on their capes.

In the end, there was a popular celebration, where the participants and the spectators enjoyed tamales and the traditional champurrado.

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