Vir­gen de Guadalupe Catholic im­age of hope

Lo­cal Ro­man Catholics will cel­e­brate Feast Day in her honor to­day.

Austin American-Statesman - - FOOD MATTERS - Byjuan castillo jcastillo@states­ TINEZ / amer­i­can-states­man GUILLERMO HER­NAN­DEZ marCon­tact Juan Castillo at 445-3635.

To­day, Frances Martinez will rise be­fore the roost­ers, make her way to Cristo Rey Catholic Church in her East Austin neigh­bor­hood, and be­gin a day of de­vo­tion. Just the thought fills the 70-yearold Martinez with al­most child­like gid­di­ness.

“It’s awe­some,” said Martinez about the prospect of ris­ing at 3 a.m. for the re­li­gious ob­ser­vance she holds dear to her heart, the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Across Austin and the Amer­i­cas, Ro­man Catholics will join Wed­nes­day in cel­e­bra­tions of La Vir­gen de Guadalupe, an ap­pari­tion of the Vir­gin Mary who be­liev­ers say spoke to the in­dige­nous peas­ant farmer Juan Diego on a hill near what is now Mex­ico City in 1531. Mary asked that a church be built there. Her ap­pear­ance is cred­ited for lead­ing to the con­ver­sion of mil­lions of in­dige­nous peo­ple to Chris­tian­ity.

For many Lati­nos and Mex­i­can Amer­i­cans, the day res­onates with pride and cul­tural sig­nif­i­cance be­cause Mary was dark­skinned, dressed as an In­dian and spoke Náhu­atl. That Mary ap­peared in a vi­sion that re­sem­bled their own peo­ple of­fered hope to the Aztecs, who had been con­quered by the Spa­niards, the Most Rev. Bishop Joe Vásquez of the Dio­cese of Austin said.

“The sig­nif­i­cance has al­ways been that Mary brings a mes­sage to San Juan ( Juan Diego was later can­on­ized a saint) about hope,” Vásquez said. “She brings a mes­sage of Christ and hope for the peo­ple. She her­self be­comes the sym­bol of moth­er­hood for the en­tire na­tion and for peo­ple who are look­ing for God.”

Be­gin­ning at mid­night and con­tin­u­ing through­out the day and night on Wed­nes­day, Catholics will cel­e­brate with spe­cial Span­ish and bilin­gual Masses, pro­ces­sions, Aztec dances, food, song and dra­matic in­ter­pre­ta­tions of the ap­pari­tion. They will adorn al­tars with red roses and join mari­achi mu­si­cians at predawn prayer and mu­sic ser­vices in full-throated ren­di­tions of the tra­di­tional “Las Mañan­i­tas.”

A long­time com­mu­nity ac­tivist and a re­tired city of Austin em­ployee, Martinez planned to be at Cristo Rey be­fore dawn to help her fel­low Guadalu­panas, the women’s re­li­gious char­ity and ser­vice group to which she’s be­longed for 30 years, pre­pare af­ter-Mass re­fresh­ments of hot choco­late and Mex­i­can sweet­breads, and to put fin­ish­ing touches on flow­ers and dec­o­ra­tions in the al­tar, pews and win­dows.

Catholics be­gin bring­ing flow­ers to church in the days lead­ing to Feast Day ser­vices. By Wed­nes­day, al­tars are re­splen­dent and over­flow­ing in roses. The sig­nif­i­cance, said Maria Elena Ramirez, an­other Guadalu­pana, is that roses mirac­u­lously ap­peared on the hill­side in De­cem­ber af­ter a lo­cal church of­fi­cial doubted Juan Diego’s story and asked for ev­i­dence of his vi­sion.

Martinez cred­its Mary with her health and with twice bring­ing mir­a­cles in the health of her son, Je­sus, first when he was 16 and more re­cently four years ago. “I pray to her all the time be­cause she’s never failed me,” Martinez said.

The Ro­man Catholic church knows of count­less mir­a­cles which oc­curred “through the in­ter­ces­sion of Our Lady,” Vásquez said.

The im­age of La Vir­gen ap­pear­ing be­fore Juan Diego has emerged around the world as an iconic sym­bol laden with re­li­gious and cul­tural sig­nif­i­cance, found on Tshirts, tote bags, jew­elry, works of Chi­cano art and other ob­jects.

In the U.S., artists find the im­age ap­peal­ing be­cause it is beloved by the masses and be­cause it strikes cul­tural chords, par­tic­u­larly with Mex­i­can Amer­i­cans, artist Blas Lopez said.

“We just grew up with the Vir­gen ev­ery­where,” said Lopez, who lives in San An­to­nio. “What older rel­a­tive didn’t have a lit­tle al­tar with a can­dle, or a pic­ture of her in the liv­ing room? Maybe the glass was bro­ken, but they had an im­age.”

From left: Maria Elena Ramirez, Frances Martinez Manuel Lopez and Fausta Cornejo, place a flower ar­range­ment in front of an im­age of Our Lady of Guadalupe in­side of Cristo Rey Catholic Church in East Austin.

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