Strong Faith: Community marks Lady of Guadalupe celebration

BROWNSVILLE — Hundreds of members from different Catholic parishes gathered at Guadalupe Regional Middle School and walked to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe yesterday evening during an event with dances, a parade and a Mass.

Diocese of Brownsville Bishop Daniel Flores said among Catholics — especially here in the Rio Grande Valley — the faith in the Lady of Guadalupe is very strong.

“It’s a celebration of the appearance of Our Lady in 1531 to San Juan Diego, which she announced that she was the Mother of God who was visiting the New World and that she wanted her children to be compassionate and reconciled,” Flores said.

People dressed up in colorful costumes and danced in front of Our Lady of Guadalupe statues while others rode horses carrying portraits of her image.

“(The dancing) goes back to the Indians, the indigenas. That’s what they did for her many many many years ago in Mexico City, where the virgen appeared to Juan Diego,” said Mike Maza, Our Lady of Guadalupe church member. “The virgen appeared up on a hill, where the basilica is and so when the virgen appeared to him, Juan Diego, all of those people that lived with the Indians came up to the hill. And now what they do is they celebrate that every year.”

Many people also refer to Dec. 12 as Our Lady of Guadalupe’s birthday.

“It’s not the day she was born, but it’s the day when you celebrate the fact that she came and visited Juan Diego, who is a very humble man, and she gave him a mission to go out and announce the Gospel,” Flores said.

“So that’s kind of the heart of her ‘birth amongst us,’ so to speak.”

Flores said Juan Diego was a native in Mexico City who was chosen to receive the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe and took a message to the bishop at the time in 1531.

Mary Helen Flores, a Brownsville resident, said she participated because she loves watching the dances and other things that go on in the celebration.

“I’m Catholic,” Mary Helen Flores said. “I was raised Catholic, and it’s just one of the beautiful celebrations in our religion for me. And it’s also part of the Mexican identity. It’s just beautiful.”