By Suzanne A. Marshall from the December 2013 Edition
Last year, my husband and I were invited with friends to enjoy an annual celebration in the town of Santiago. The Manzanillo area is like many cities with small towns forming part of the surrounding populations such as Salahua and Santiago. So we pass through these towns to eat and shop as part of the global Manzanillo area. It can make for interesting variations on the celebration of annual events, since there can be a number of them occurring at the same time in the different areas. On this occasion we are taking part in the festivities and traditions celebrating Our Lady of Guadalupe.
“Official Catholic accounts state that on the morning of December 9, 1531 Juan Diego saw an apparition of a young girl at the Hill of Tepeyac, near Mexico City. Speaking to him in Nahuatl, the girl asked that a church be built at the site in her honor; from her words, Juan Diego recognized the girl as the Virgin Mary. Diego told his story to the Spanish Archbishop of Mexico City, Fray Juan de Zumarraga, who instructed him to return to Tepeyac Hill, and ask the “lady” for a miraculous sign to prove her identity.
The first sign was the healing of Juan’s uncle. The Virgin told Juan Diego to gather flowers from the top of Tepeyac Hill. Although December was very late in the growing season for flowers to bloom, Juan Diego found Castilian roses, not native to Mexico, on the normally barren hilltop. The Virgin arranged these in his peasant tllma cloak. When Juan Diego opened his cloak before Bishop Zumarraga on December 12, the flowers fell to the floor, and in their place on the fabric was the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, miraculously imprinted there.” (Source: Wikipedia)
December 12th was declared a national holiday in 1859. Many celebrations take place in the two weeks leading up to this date. With our friends we found ourselves meandering through long streets filled with locals in various costumes, young girls in beautiful dresses, young boys in traditional garb and vendors selling souvenirs, gifts and numerous types of food. Many of the dishes offered were traditional and the atmosphere was one of festivity and joy.
As we poked around the streets that evening there was a stirring of people gathering in front of and in the courtyard of the beautiful and ornate Catholic cathedral complete with wrought iron fencing and open gates inviting the throng. Soon a commotion we were somewhat puzzled about, gave way to a parade of local people dressed in various costumes coming down the street and entering the church grounds followed by a small truck carrying a large statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe. She was then carefully carried into the church. As people filled the courtyard and the church, a Catholic Mass began in her honor.
Having soaked up this wonderful event all evening, we all started to slowly wander back to our parking spots feeling yet more attached to local traditions and happy to have enjoyed such a beautiful event. As we walked, an elderly man approached me and in excellent English asked where I was from. I proudly responded “soy de Canada” with my best possible Spanish accent. The man said smiling in return “you are welcome here” and indeed that was exactly how we all felt. I am truly looking forward to this occasion again this year and invite anyone who has not had a chance, to come down and have a wonderful time with these lovely people. It all happens here in Manzanillo.
Suzanne A. Marshall hails from western Canada and has been living the good life in Manzanillo over the past 8 years. She is a wife, mom and grandma. She is retired from executive business management where her writing skills focused on bureaucratic policy, marketing and business newsletters. Now she shares the fun and joy of writing about everyday life experiences in beautiful Manzanillo, Mexico, the country, its people, the places and the events.