Felicidades a Mis Hermanas: Las Lupitas
Celebrating the feast day of Our Lady Of Guadalupe: Emperatriz de Las Americas
Guadalupe Gonzalez, Contributing Writer
When I learned that festivities for Our Lady of Guadalupe were to be held at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, I hopped into my car, waved a happy goodbye to mi querido, and me arranqué on the Five Freeway. I made it downtown in record time, despite one of my sisters saying, "You are going downtown? You and 500,000 of your closest friends will be there!"
Published on LatinoLA: December 13, 2012
Prepared with cash to pay for my parking, my first pleasant surprise was that there was no fee. No fee! This truly was a special night.
Years ago, my husband and I had been on a tour of Mexico City, where I had relatives and friends. We were taken to the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. There, our guide told us about the symbolism and messages that were sent to the indigenous people through a man named Juan Diego. I kept looking longingly at the tilma displayed in a glorious gold frame at the front of the Basilica. "¿Quieres ir, eh? Acercate." The tour guide had read my mind and answered my unwavering call to see Our Lady up close. I walked quickly to the front, where Nuestra Virgencita is prestigiously displayed.
There, I saw a "people mover" of the sort employed at airports. I suppose the people who run the Basilica do not want people, clustering and standing for prolonged periods of time. I also guess it is a theft security measure. No matter, I stepped onto the moving floor and gazed up at La Virgencita -- her manta a lovely shade of blue, stars scattered on that manta, her eyes, downcast and yet, aware. I began to cry at the intensity of faith and peace I felt emanating from Her.
As I walked back, I became aware of the numbers of people approaching the Basilica...on their KNEES. People of every strata of life moved slowly and, obviously, painfully, toward the Lady to whom they were so devoted. They were there to pay a "manda", a promise that had been made by them in a moment of fear, or panic, or devotion. A prayer for a miracle. And here they were, coming to pay homage to the Virgencita whose benevolence had blessed them. I continued to cry at the simplicity of this devotion, and yearned that it be granted to me, as well.
Mi Papi had always wanted to go to the Cathedral to participate and be one of the danzantes indigenos. This was the first year the Mañanitas Mass was held at midnight. Prior to this, it had been held about dawn. And, each year, as mi Papi became older, he would say, "Ay, como quiero ir a ver a la Virgencita. Pero estoy tan cansado. El año que entra voy. Me voy a preparar."
Papi, anoche yo fui por Usted. I got there in time to see the Indigenous dancers, making their offerings to this magical Lady who had appeared to one of their own. A Mestiza Virgencita, one of their own, as well. Again, I was overwhelmed by the intensity of the feelings I felt, feelings over which I had no control but which seemed to be embedded in my very DNA. Esta era mi Gente. I called my Mami, so she could hear over the phone what I was seeing.
I sat with a lovely couple, Ms. Elsa Gonzalez (no relation) and her compañero, Mr. Bonilla. They charmingly made room for me and we admired, as a group, the grace and tenacity of the danzantes. I spoke with a young gentleman, excitedly setting up the area for Guadalupe Radio/TV. (TV: 54.3. Radio:87.7FM.) We had a bit of a chat, but he was obviously busy and I wished him well. It seemed we were all in high spirits and filled with camaraderie in our united devotion.
Finally it was time to enter the Cathedral, where scores of security people and docents welcomed each person, in English and in Spanish. I felt as if I were on the Red Carpet somewhere. I was able to go into the special chapel dedicated to Our Lady, beautifully rendered in gradations of gold. And there, to her left, was a statue bearing the relic of San Juan Diego's tilma. It is a small square, perhaps 2 inches wide and 2 inches square, held in a splendid rendition of a golden, timeless sun. You must see this Chapel, even if you have just a few minutes.
Mi Papi would have knelt on the tile. So I did, despite my rather aching knees. Kneelers were provided, but I felt that, as I was there for mi Papi, I would do as he would have. Still, I wanted to please him. After I completed my prayers for those whom I love, and those who love me, who are with us, and who have gone ahead in death, I rose -- albeit not so gracefully -- and proceeded to view the lovely renditions of San Juan Diego, which are placed in positions of honor in the Chapel next to la Virgencita. These are not to be missed. Each artist imbued their painting with their honor and respect for la Virgencita and San Juan Diego.
A concert was about to begin, so I found a place and was so fortunate to be in the fourth row. There was a full orchestra, as well as a chorale, and all were in fine form. Various artists from Mexico and the U.S. were presented, singing their praises to the Virgencita and completing their moments by saying, "¡Que viva la Virgencita de Guadalupe!", "¡Que viva Cristo Rey!", "¡Que viva Mexico!" -- to which we all responded, "¡Que viva!"
Finally, the moment I personally had been awaiting had arrived: Los Mariachis "Los Reyes" arrived to lead us all in singing "Las Mananitas" to the Virgen Morena. As I stood and sang the words that I know from my childhood, I knew I had completed something mi Papi always yearned to do.
And what was so compelling to me was that a poor, uneducated man named Juan Diego stood up to the grand authority of the Catholic Church. Because when Juan Diego approached the Archbishop in Mexico City to report what this Lady had told him to say, he was met with, "You have no proof. Bring me proof." Then, San Juan Diego returned to the Tepeyac, where he had seen La Virgencita and asked her for proof. It was then that San Juan Diego, a man of great faith and trust in this Virgencita only he had seen, gathered up his tilma and returned to the Archbishop.
There, he unfolded his tilma, as the Lady had instructed, and a shower of roses fell all about his feet. It was then that the tilma gave up its ultimate gift, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The image that we revere this day, and I will revere until my last breath.
The Virgen Morena told San Juan Diego, "Let not your heart be disturbed...Am I not here, who is your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my fold? What else do you wish? Do not grieve or be disturbed by anything." These words were spoken in Nahuatl, the language of the Indigenous people. What is even more amazing to me is that studies of the manta have shown beyond a doubt that the formation of the stars on that material form the exact placement of the starts in the sky on December 12, 1531.
The numbers of people present last night were phenomenal. I watched, from a spot near the Baptismal font at the rear of the Cathedral, as the various deacons and priests began to line up for the procession up the aisle, again memories of my childhood flooded my being. It was then that I saw Archbishop Jose Gomez for the first time, one of Nuestra Gente, who came here from Monterrey, Mexico. As he passed, we looked at each other. "Gracias por estar aqui con nosotros." He nodded in acknowledgment.
I fulfilled one of my Papi's dreams last night. The third anniversary of mi Papi's death is Friday, the fourteenth of December. Papi, ya cumpli uno de sus deseos mas intensos. Descanse. No hay nada que temer.
Yo me llamo Guadalupe Gonzalez.
Guadalupe Gonzalez, Contributing Writer:
Latina Orgullosa, Escritora e Abogada en La Ciudad de Los Angeles