San Antonio honors an important feminist icon

By Valerie Valdez
Pulse Staff Reporter

Photo of Our Lady of Guadalupe on top of a hill as her followers are looking up at her. Photo Courtesy of capitalbus.com.mx
Photo of Our Lady of Guadalupe on top of a hill surrounded by her followers. Photo Courtesy of capitalbus.com.mx

Our Lady of Guadalupe is a significant figure of hope, faith and identity to the Mexican and Mexican-American community. As the month of December approaches, you see Catholic families gather together to begin to prepare for her important feast day, Dec. 12.  

“We prepare by setting up an altar for her, place all the portraits and artifacts we own of her on the shrine” said Valentin Varela, a Palo Alto College alumni.  

The account goes like this: On the ninth of December, a poor Indian by the name of Cuauhtlatohuac, later known by his baptized named Juan Diego, was walking by a hill called Tepeyac. He suddenly heard beautiful music and followed the sound. He saw an illusion of a beautiful indigenous princess known as Donancin, a name that the indigenous gave her. She spoke to him in his native language, telling him to head to Mexico City to meet a bishop by the name of Juan de Zumarrage, who was to build a chapel at the site where they met. 

Many people did not believe Juan Diego. Why would she talk to him? Mary noticed what was happening and told Juan Diego to pick the roses from the bush she made and take them in his tilma, a blanket-like garment, to show the bishop. On Dec. 12, he got to the chapel, unrolled his tilma and inside was the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe made from the roses. The bishop realized Juan Diego was telling the truth, and he began to build the chapel in Mary’s honor. 

After the appearance of Guadalupe, especially as an indigenous woman, many converted freely to Catholicism. It gave them faith and made them realize that they mattered, despite what the Spaniards said. 

The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe has been around since the 16th century. To this day, Catholic families continue to celebrate this feast day and consider it a major holiday. 

“My mom would always tell me stories about how my grandma would take her out of school to go visit the tilma. It’s a memory that she’ll always remember,” said Julie Cruz, an Education major at Palo Alto College.

Kellie Alcozer, a Communications graduate, said that she and her family have always celebrated the holiday at their church. She even played Guadalupe in both middle and high school plays. 

“…As I’ve gotten older, I cherish the fact I was able to take part in the reenactments because of my culture. It feels good to be part of such a long-standing and sacred tradition,” Alcozer said. 

Families will usually gather at the church in the morning for Mass. Afterwards, some may stay to celebrate and feast, or head home and eat with their families while watching the streaming of the Mass and celebration on Univision. Our Lady of Guadalupe is a very important figure in the lives of Mexican people. 

La Virgen de Guadalupe also holds a deeper meaning than just being an important religious figure. She is a representative for a lot of people, especially Chicana women. She is representative of motherhood and feminism.

 “She is seen as a feminist princess for many Mexican-American girls,” said Magdalena Yznaga, professor of Mexican-American Studies.

Chicana feminists see the Guadalupe as a feminist icon. She is portrayed in ways that Mexican women aren’t usually depicted in, especially in the church. Women use her to embrace their bodies and sexuality. Her image is used to help represent and fight against the oppression of women. 

At women’s rights and immigration rallies, you will see Our Lady of Guadalupe, whether she is displayed on clothing, accessories or protest signs. 

Many families across San Antonio continue to display the Guadalupe in their everyday lives, not only on the feast day. Like Juan Diego, individuals do it to prove how proud they are of their heritage. 

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