Happy New Year! Although faith seems intangible, it can actually be felt at the Basilica of Guadalupe as thousands of people visit the grounds today (and everyday for that matter). January 1st marks the first major liturgical celebration of the Virgin Mary on the Roman Catholic calendar. The Church celebrates the 8th day of Christmas by commemorating Mary’s motherhood of Jesus. And since the Basilica of Guadalupe is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, special Masses are being held there as well as at other Catholic churches today.
Watching people crawling on their knees, bearing armloads full of flowers, carrying heavy religious statues, lighting row after row of candles, walking kilometers in the name of the Virgin is an impressive site for believers and non-believers alike. Whether the Virgin truly appeared to mazehual Indian Saint Juan Diego 481 years ago or not is irrelevant.
Her daily miracle is that of keeping generations of Mexicans going, and weaving a sense of unity in a country splintered by marked socio-economic and cultural differences. Mexico is home to the wealthiest man in the world (Carlos Slim), yet children still die in the countryside from diarrhea; the far-right and the far-left clash verbally, and often physically, on a daily basis; 22 million people vie for space and time in the chaotic capital city. Dozens of indigenous and European languages mix in this urban sphere. Without a doubt, the Virgin is the sole force that unites the Mexican people, rural or urban, rich or poor, liberal or conservative, autoctonous or European. Her existence goes unchallenged even in 2012.
The grounds of La Villa of Maria de Guadalupe are complex, dotted with buildings of varying ages, some dating back to the 16th century, others unfinished. It is an ongoing project. There are excellent examples of baroque architecture and paintings as well as modern-day solutions to bear the burden of overwhelming crowds.
Stay tuned … tomorrow we will visit the most important buildings at the shrine.