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Celebrating La Virgen de Guadalupe in NYC

December 21, 2010

Towards the end of December 11th and the beginning of the 12,th Mexicans on both sides of the US-Mexico border congregate at their local Catholic church to celebrate the birth of La Virgen de Guadalupe. Also known as the “Queen of Mexico” and “Patroness of the Americas, ” she is said to have appeared to Juan Diego, a humble indigenous peasant, on the hill of Tepeyac, near Mexico City, on December 9th, 1531. Since then La Virgen De Guadalupe has played an important role for Mexicans of all walks of life. During the struggle for Independence and the Mexican Revolution those that fought with Father Miguel Hidalgo or Emiliano Zapata carried banners and wore badges that bore her image. Today, migrants ask her to protect them on their perilous journey to “El Norte,” Mexican-Americans adore their body with her image, and countless others ask her for miracles and to protect their loved ones.

On this December 11th/12th Mexicans from the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan covered the sidewalk between 8th and 7th on 14th street to enter Our Lady of Guadalupe, at 328 West 14th street. As we all made our way to the Church, we passed numerous taco trucks, individuals selling tamales, atole, rosaries, and of course flowers and roses for La Virgen. “Roses for 5 dollars, Roses for La Virgen, just 5 dollars,” and “ One dollar, one dollar for the Rosary, just one dollar” competed with cars honking, the police shouting instructions, a few scattered conversations, and the gentle, but persistent sound of rain hitting the asphalt, New York Yankee hats, and a handful of umbrellas. While there were families with young children, teenagers, and couples in their early twenties, the majority of Guadalupenos (followers of La Virgen de Guadalupe) were males in their late twenties and thirties. Jose, for example, sells rosaries out of a black plastic bag, and arrived to New York City from Honduras about a year ago. When the police don’t confiscate his good, he sells them on the street. Tonight, he seemed to be doing alright.

The four men I found myself walking with, work in a restaurant in upper Manhattan. Two of them live in Queens, the other two in Harlem. They proudly and jokingly told me they were from Nezahualcoyotl, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Mexico City. “We’re Chilangos. Yeah, yeah, you should check your wallet.” “Don’t worry, I’ve been checking it the whole time” I replied. We all laughed and continued walking. When I made small talk about being from Los Angles and hating the winter and the Mexican food in NYC the oldest one said, “Oh man, you are in for it, its not even cold yet. About the food though, don’t worry, just go to Roosevelt and 80th, there you’ll find bad, mediocre, and good Mexican food.”

As we got closer to the steps of the Church and to La Virgen, we heard the priest proclaim, “Que Viva la Virgen” to which the audience responded “Viva,” followed by “Que Viva México,” which received an equally enthusiastic “Viva.” Those on top of the steps took out their cameras and photographed the crowd on the sidewalk, or at least as much as their camera could capture. Those photographing and waiting on the sidewalk quickly turned their attention to the arrival of large white truck, which was followed by young males who carried a 10 by 6 foot banner of La Virgen and rode or walked their lowrider bicycles. They belong to “Firme Rydaz,” a bike club made up of Mexicans born in Mexico and in the United States. This is the fifth year that they walk La Virgen and their bikes from 192th street in the Bronx to 14th street. They walk to honor la Virgen and in the words of Manuel, the main organizer, to “continue with tradition, because we don’t want it to be lost.”

As La Virgen entered the Church and made her way to the altar she was warmly greeted with the song “Himno Guadalupano.”  We all joined in narrating the story of La Virgen’s appearance to Juan Diego and proudly proclaimed its last phrase: “for Mexicans, to be a Guadalupano, is essential.” When I finally arrived to the altar, I placed my roses at the bottom of the banner made and brought by “Firme Rydaz” and asked La Virgen to watch over my carnalito.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Stevie Ruiz permalink
    December 21, 2010 2:02 am

    Nice! Important analysis about the importance of geography, race and religion.

  2. December 23, 2010 8:33 pm

    There is something about the English language in parts of this post that feels a bit out of place.

  3. December 23, 2010 9:14 pm

    Yeah-I wrote for some online newspaper so i tried to use as much english as possible…[fools be dropping french and latin phrases all the time in academic press..i should just drop pochismos…]

    • Nicolas Guzman or Francisca Guzman permalink
      April 30, 2011 7:16 pm

      Ser Guadalupano es algo especial!. Now i know why so many people are Guadalupanos,Now I am one of them! ViVA la Virgen de Guadalupe! gracias por interceder por milagros!

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