Friday, January 8, 2010

Guadalupe: A Virgen de la O

I found another Virgen de la O: Our Lady of Guadalupe. The belt she wears signals this. Anyone indigenous would have understood this immediately. I, however, had to be told. The belt ties above her expanding waist, rather than around it. She is a Virgen de la O, her pregnancy hidden by a cloth that is filled with floral images.

As I mentioned earlier, we found her scattered throughout the surrounding neighborhoods. She can't be colonized by churches and structures; she won't submit to boundaries. She's as at home in a shoe store as on a street corner. She's wherever the people are; she gravitates to the periphery. In short, our Lady of Guadalupe has a great centrifugal force. She scatters well.

But she also has great centripetal pull as well. She draws people to places they would not otherwise inhabit. Earlier this week, on the feast day of the Epiphany, we found ourselves at the Basilica in Tepeyac, where Juan Diego encountered this Virgen de la O. The plaza in front of the basilica was huge -- and it was full of people. Some walked on their knees to see the Lupita; others were out for a family holiday, pushing grandmothers in wheelchairs and pulling tired kids. Photographs with the Guadalupe were available (for a modest fee). People in one of the adjoining chapels said a perpetual rosary. It was a place of enormous energy.

In the center of the square was a large manger scene -- Mexican style. Jesus rested on a pallet in the middle of a barnyard, complete with hens, roosters, and turkeys. Of course the obligatory lambs and shepherds were present, even a few angels, but inexplicably there was an elephant come to visit the Christ Child. Who knew?!

My favorite figure was one of the Magi, nearer the fence surrounding the entire scene. At his feet were pieces of paper, folded prayers thrown at his feet. There were about twenty of them around this single figure in the scene.

Two other images struck me. One was a rough wooden figure of a man, arms stretched out in blessing, next to a side door of the main cathedral. This simple piece stood out in the midst of more elaborate processional figures in baroque cases with gilt frames. A rack of ribbons fluttered in the breeze beside him. On one side of these brightly colored ribbons was the stamped name of one of the city parishes -- and more written prayers.

Close by was a painting of two men sitting with a blue ball at their feet. As I moved in on the piece, I realized the blue ball was the earth. A bird hovered above the men, and the figure on the left had both feet planted firmly on the earth, while the right had one foot on the earth, the other in the air. An image of the Trinity! Jesus was the one with his feet planted firmly on the ground.

And who presided over all of this? The beautiful Guadalupe, another image of the Virgen de la O.


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