The stress that had suddenly appeared Tuesday evening would just as quickly disappear for Jorge Alonzo the second he laid eyes on the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
As he trailed behind the nearly 50 people that took part in a procession in honor of the Virgin, a feeling of peace would descend on him, he said.
Such peace is what he has come to anticipate from a lifelong reverence and devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe.
“She will always be my patron saint,” the 42-year-old Imperial resident said.
The procession, which ended at Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in El Centro, was part of a nine-day series of processions in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe’s feast day, Dec. 12. It was also just one of a number of processions that took place throughout the Valley.
Alonzo said he is very familiar with the story of how the Virgin appeared to Mexican Indian Juan Diego in 16th-century Mexico as he walked along the countryside.
The Virgin had appeared to him in a vision requesting that a church be built at that very spot in her honor. Later, when a skeptical local bishop asked for proof, Juan Diego was commanded by the Virgin to cut some nearby roses to take to the bishop. In place of the roses that Diego had wrapped up in his tunic, the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe was said to have miraculously appeared.
“I would’ve liked to have been him,” Alonzo said.
Today the tunic is displayed at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. The iconic image remains one of the most visited Catholic shrines in the world and is closely tied to Mexican heritage.
Although her work schedule had prevented her from attending all of the nightly processions, Olivia Ruiz said she has participated in many processions in her lifetime.
By setting aside a space devoted to the Virgin at home to say prayers, Ruiz said she is also continuing a tradition she learned from her mother.
“For us Mexicans it’s a source of pride to have her with us,” Ruiz said. “She helps us stay faithful and strong.”
As the crowd slowly made their way to the church singing songs of reverence, others would continue to join the crowd, which had started out with a dozen faithful.
El Centro resident Patty Orozco said she had taken part in the all nine nights of the processions in El Centro. A regular churchgoer, Orozco said she first heard the story of Juan Diego’s encounter with the Virgin of Guadalupe during catechism classes as a 12-year-old.
Along with her family, Orozco said she has taken part in the yearly processions ever since she can remember.
“It is a way to show respect,” she said.
Maria Diaz has been part of the processions for the past 40 years and was deeply touched to see more youth participating in the processions this year. She said that it was very significant that the mother of God would appear to someone such as Diego.
“She’s always appearing to humble people,” she said in Spanish.
The Virgin is a transformative image that may represent many different things to individuals, said Alberto López Pulido, an ethnic studies and sociology professor at the University of San Diego.
The fact that she appeared as having dark skin and spoke in the native Nahuatl tongue also highlights her close association with the indigenous peoples of Mexico, he said.
“She’s more than a frozen image that’s presented by an institution,” he said, noting that institutionalization removes a lot of its significance.
“If the church were to end, the Virgin of Guadalupe would continue.”
Staff Writer, Copy Editor Julio Morales can be reached at 760-337-3415 or at email@example.com
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