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La Virgin de Guadalupe

The Virgin of Guadalupe is the country┬┤s patron saint; her image can be found watching over all aspects of modern Mexican life, from churches, houses, taxis and buses to gambling dens, bull rings and houses of ill repute.

The Lady┬┤s banner, which shows the Virgin, hands clasped and surrounded by light, has been fought under since the War of Independence, by generals such as Miguel Hidalgo and Emiliano Zapata.

The Virgin, or Nuestra Se├▒ora de Guadalupe, is considered the symbol of all Mexicans. The Noble Prize laureate Octavio Paz summed up her importance to the nation in 1974 when he noted: ÔÇťthe Mexican people, after more than two centuries of experiments, have faith only in the Virgin of Guadalupe and the national lottery.ÔÇŁ

According to the legend, an indigenous Christian man, Juan Diego, was walking from his village to the city centre when he saw a vision of the Virgin at the hill of Tepeyac. The girl was dark skinned and spoke to him in Nahuatl, ordering him to go the bishop Juan de Zumarraga and tell him to build a church on the hill. The bishop was skeptical and demanded a better sign.

On December 12th the Virgin reappeared and told Diego to climb the hill and collect some roses for the bishop, despite it being an un-seasonal December. This time the bishop was duly impressed, especially when he opened the shawl containing the holy blossoms and found an image of the Virgin imprinted there.

When La Basilica de Nuestra Se├▒ora de Guadalupe was built, the cloak hung above the altar. Today, modern tourists and pilgrims are carried past the object on a kind of conveyor belt. The December 12th anniversary is honored every year with a national holiday, when thousands of pilgrims visit the shrines. The festival is also the unofficial beginning of the Christmas celebrations, and an excuse for Mexicans of all ages to celebrate until dawn.

05 Jan 2009

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