the Virgin of Guadelupe


We arrived in Patzcuaro in time for December 8, a festive day of the Virgin of Guadelupe, a particularly Mexican saint of which much is written among other places on the Internet, who stands high above the Altar in the dome of the Vasco de Quiroga Basilica, which along with side chapels has many golden niches in which Jesus, in various stages of his life, saints, monks, and some others are presented in full relief.

Our friends took us to the 4 AM to 8 AM Service, about 3:20 AM so we could get a seat after a bit of hot fruit Ponche outside, made by indigenous women. The noise from Town of drumming and a local variety of rock music downtown, which broke for an occasional thirty seconds now and then, pretty much assured we stay up all night, as far as I can figure, along with the whole town, the night before.

This mass is specially for protection of health during the coming year, healing and travel. An entire drum and bugle corps started the ceremony and then a full Mariachi band joined in, assisted by a lot of firecrackers outside.

Indigenous people from the surrounding Pueblos, among others, come to the service, apparently some walking three miles or more, and the Basilica was filled to full capacity, not even standing room, before long, the entrances of various groups sometimes heralded by balloons, drums or other festivity. I am told that the layering of Roman Catholicism of Mary, mother of God, onto the local earth or maize Goddess is a fact and the maize Goddess retains significance among the indigenous.

As I remember from years ago, the Mexican churches are very welcoming and open, children play, and many folk sit at or walk to and around the altar. A goodly number of women and some males prostrate themselves and walked the aisle on their knees to the chancel around the altar throughout the service. One stately very straight backed woman with ancient features as if out of Mongolia is clad with a floor length green cape hand embroidered with golden stars. The faith and music is touching and eventually brings tears to my eyes. I am unchurched but think the Virgin of Guadelupe is also called Stella Maris, the star who guides sailors and mother of God who intercedes even for non Roman Catholics over seas, but what I don’t know is immense. This perhaps reflect that I don’t undertand more than a few words in the service.

Only one local dog showed up for the service but seemed to have an excellent time strolling about. After the service, very impressive horses, ridden by local Vaqueros pranced and danced in front of the Basilica and Mummers some eight feet or twelve feet tall also danced outside and then into the Basilica. A second mass under the supervision of the junior priest was about to begin.

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