In Mexico, religious beliefs are very important. Hundreds of years ago, the Mayans worshipped multiple gods, but that changed when the Spanish conquered the region. The Conquistadores were members of the Catholic church and brought that religion with them to teach to—and in some cases force on—the natives as part of the Spanish claiming of the region.
Although the Mexican Indians often resisted being assimilated into this religion, in the 16th century the Catholic Church became highly prominent in the country thanks to Spain’s efforts, which included sending church leaders and missionaries as well as establishing schools for the Indians and mediating between the Indians and the Conquistadores who had taken land and had claimed some of the natives as slaves. Over the next 250 years, Catholicism became the religion of nearly all the residents of Mexico, and today people are very devoted to observances and worshipping.
In the Catholic religion, every day is dedicated to a different saint. During December, the observances are particularly important, since the religion puts a strong emphasis on the Holy Mother, Mary. In Mexico in December, nearly every day includes a holiday or festival, and the most prominent is the Festival of the Virgin of Guadalupe. On Saturday evening, we were able to attend some of the events included in Merida’s version of the Festival.
Earlier in December, Mexicans commemorate the Immaculate Conception, as do Catholics in other countries. This observance includes several days of masses, and pilgrims travel throughout the country to worship and celebrate, and ends with a feast dedicated to the Virgin Mary. A few days later, on December 12, Mexico celebrates their own version of Mary, the Virgin of Guadalupe.
According to legend, in 1531, a young man named Juan Diego, who was of Aztec descent, was traveling to Mexico City when the Virgin appeared to him and asked him to build a shrine in her honor. Needing advice about how to proceed, Juan Diego went to the archbishop, who didn’t believe his story. Three days passed, and the Virgin again came to Juan Diego. This time, she told him to pick roses from a nearby valley. In December, no flowers grew in the valley, but when Juan Diego followed Mary’s instructions, he found roses, which he picked and brought to the archbishop. Please see the next page for more about this legend and the Festival of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
in Merida. They hold a festival in front of this church that goes for
a whole day! The story goes that in the 16th century, a Mexican saw
the Virgin Mary appear in the sky in Guadelupe. So the Mexicans have
their very own "version" of the Virgin Mary.
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