Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The Virgin of Guadalupe on a pancake grill and other mysteries

Americans don´t really understand the Virgin Mary and her significance to Catholics. So they couldn´t be expected to understand the exponentially greater significance of the Virgin of Guadalupe to Mexicans.

Hillary Clinton, a Methodist, showed her ignorance when she visited the basilica of the Virgin, the holiest shrine in Mexico, which is visited by 20 million people a year.

They come to see the image of the Virgin that miraculously appeared on the cloak of the Indian Juan Diego when she appeared to him in 1531.

When Hillary saw the image, she asked her guide, Monsignor Diego Monroy, “Who painted it?” The priest smiled indulgently and told her what every Mexican knows (but not Hillary´s highly paid Latin American experts): “God painted it,” he said. It was a miracle.

I about choked on my Cheerios when I read Hillary´s question the next day. Some Mexican journalists I was having lunch with took her comment as an insult.

Article from El Universal

The Mexican press let her off easy. They could have beaten her up.

They were actually very restrained when they could have ridiculed her. This example from El Universal was typically restrained. Here is an article in English about Hillary´s gaffe.

People come to the shrine from all over Latin America, many of them approaching on their knees to show their reverence.

Mary is really more important than Jesus in the popular mind in Latin America, I believe. On Dec. 12, the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, kids dress up like Juan Diego, one of the few Catholic saints who was not a priest or a nun. Probably the most significant detail about the Virgin in this story is that she was “morena”, or dark skinned. So the indigenous population of Mexico and Latin America has a special affection for her.
There is a decent article about her in wikipedia.

Rock star status, and the accompanying hysteria

In its extreme form, the reverence for the Virgin borders on the kind of popular hysteria that surrounds rock stars.

This photos shows a pair of wrestlers admiring what is described as an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe on a pancake grill at a restaurant on the California-Mexico border. In a video accompanying the article about this on MSNBC.com, you can see a clear picture of what all the excitement was about.

As a regular viewer of news on Univision, the Spanish language television network based in Miami, I would see stories from time to time of images of the Virgin or Jesus appearing on a tablecloth, on the stained pillars of a freeway underpass or whatever.

A 2008 movie with Luke Wilson, titled Henry Poole is Here, tells of a man who buys a house that is famous with his Mexican neighbors for its image of Christ in some new stucco.

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