Sunday, December 4, 2011

Honoring the Virgin of Guadalupe

December 12 is Virgin of Guadalupe Day, one of the most important holy days in the Latino Catholic calendar. Between now and then there will be thousands of processions at churches across Latin America and in Latino congregations in the US to honor the Virgin, also known as the Empress or Patroness of the Americas. 

The processions started in Phoenix on Saturday. The Phoenix diocese of the Church hosted the sixth annual "Honor Your Mother" day, which included a procession with hundreds of participants and a special outdoor mass to honor the Virgin. 

According to Mexican history, on December 9, 1531 Juan Diego, an indigenous peasant, had a vision of a young woman while he was on a hill in the Tepeyac desert, near Mexico City. The lady told him to build a church exactly on the spot where they were standing. He told the local bishop, who asked for some proof. He went back and had the vision again. He told the lady that the bishop wanted proof, and she said "Bring the roses behind you." Turning to look, he found a rose bush growing behind him. He cut the roses, placed them in his poncho and returned to the bishop, saying he had brought proof. When he opened his poncho, instead of roses, there was an image of the young lady in his vision.

The Basilica of Guadalupe, one of the largest churches in Mexico City, is built on the site close to where Juan Diego had his visions. The poncho he wore hangs in the Basilica. I've been photographing Virgin of Guadalupe observances for about 20 years, since my first trip to Mexico City. It's one of my favorite religious observances.

There are more photos of the Phoenix procession in my archive or available from ZUMA Press.