Today is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Only 13 years after the Conquistadors marched into Mexico, less than 40 years after Columbus sailed the ocean blue, the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego, an Aztec convert to Catholicism, and requested that he ask the Spanish bishop that a temple be built to her there on Tepeyac Hill. When the bishop asked for a sign, Mary asked Juan to pick the roses on the hill, which were blooming despite it being December, and arranged them in his tilma with her own hands. When Juan returned to the bishop and let the roses fall from his cloak, they revealed an image of Mary, rich in Aztec and Catholic symbolism. The bishop had the chapel built. The Franciscan missionaries who had sailed with the Conquistadors had made little headway into the Aztec culture in the decade of their ministry; within ten years of the apparition, nearly nine million Mexicans -- practically the entire population of the country -- had converted to Catholicism.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patroness of the Americas, but Mexicans, understandably, have a great devotion to her. One of the reasons I love watching this rendition of La Guadalupana is the incongruity of seeing two huge pop stars singing a Marian hymn with actual conviction. Perhaps the closest equivalent we'd get to that in America is seeing country singers belt out Amazing Grace, and even then it would be more of a personal statement of faith than a national expression. There's something so compelling about the Mexican devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe that it almost makes me wish I had some of that heritage, so she would belong to me in some more visceral way than the universal Catholic appeal. (I felt the same traveling through Italy, envying my Italian friends their link to the land that I couldn't share.
Also -- and as I've come to depend less on artificial cynicism, I'm not ashamed to admit it -- Juan Diego here always makes me a bit misty-eyed.
Reading Notes: What I read in June
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