Exploring the Origin Story and Significance of La Virgen de Guadalupe

women walk in a crowd with the virgin of guadalupe in a painting behind them

Latinos have a profound connection to the Catholic religion, an enduring relic of Spanish colonization. Praying, rituals, and generally thanking God are important cultural and religious habits deeply seeded in the culture.

December 12th is a significant religious and cultural celebration in Mexico, which marks the culmination of events told in the famous story of the Virgin Mary appearing to Juan Diego, a peasant, in Mexico City as a dark-skinned woman who spoke to Diego in his native tongue, Náhuatl. The day is recognized as the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the date it is observed with pilgrimages, processions, Masses, and various festivities.

Why did the Virgin Mary Appear before Juan Diego? 

According to the well-told story, Juan Diego, a peasant in Mexico, claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary on the Hill of Tepeyac. She told Juan Diego to instruct the local bishop to build a church in her honor on that site, but when Juan Diego delivered the message to the bishop, he didn't believe Juan Diego, who after all was just a lowly peasant.

Undeterred, the Virgin appeared to Juan Diego again, and this time, she told Juan Diego to gather roses, which were out of season, and present them to the bishop. Juan Diego complied and when he opened his cloak to reveal the roses, an image of the Virgin Mary miraculously appeared on the fabric. This image is now venerated as the Our Lady of Guadalupe.

drawing of man bowing to the virgin guadalupe


The Site of the Virgin Mary Appearance 

The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is located in Mexico City, and it stands on the site where the Virgin Mary is believed to have appeared to Juan Diego on the Hill of Tepeyac in 1531. The Basilica complex consists of the old basilica, known as the Basilica of Santa María de Guadalupe, and the new basilica, officially named the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The old basilica was built in the 1700s, but due to structural issues, a new basilica was constructed nearby and completed in 1976.

the Basilica of Santa María de Guadalupe

The Streets are Filled with Processions 

Many Mexican and other Latin-American households pay homage to the Virgin by hanging photos or building altars of all sizes year-round. During the day of the Virgin, the streets are filled with people vibrating with love for Nuestra Señora Salvadora. The streets are filled with resounding conversations and colorful flowers, and as people find Guadalupe, they walk the streets and honor her presence. In Mexico City, people march the entire street to the Basílica de Guadalupe, singing, surrounded by food stands, and people swelling with love, devotion, and pride of the Virgen de Guadalupe.

The march can be so deeply meaningful to some people that they march on their knees.

A man is on his knees crying with a frame with La Virgen de Guadalupe and Rosarios in his hands.

The Guardian

It's a Celebration

Figures of la Virgen, dancing to the rhythm of the drums, incienso, fireworks, and food can be found in cities throughout Mexico. It's a joyous moment for many families because it’s finally the day to celebrate and thank her for her blessings. You can find la Virgen de Guadalupe paintings on random walls that often get serenaded with rancheras and baladas.

And a Family Affair

The vibe is a community celebration. Children run around dressed as little Dieguitos, with their painted bigotes, sandalias, and sombreros. In churches, you can see people recreating the tale, putting on a big scene of how it all happened: the manto, the flowers, and the mysticality of it all.

People vibrate with pride and love, while many others publicly declare how their lives were changed by miracles la Virgen de Guadalupe created for them.

La Virgen de Guadalupe is now a beacon of hope and light for millions of Mexicans but she's also turned into a cultural icon for many others. Understanding the origin story of the Virgin helps explain why the day is so sacred, but it also helps explain why she's such a staple to Mexican culture, even for the non-religious.

Women in Texas at the National Women's March, rallying against deadly abortion restrictions.
Lucy Flores

The landscape of abortion rights in the United States has become more restrictive than ever in recent history, particularly in Arizona and Florida, where recent developments represent a major setback for women’s reproductive rights. On April 9, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled in a 4-to-2 decision to uphold an 1864 law banning abortion from the moment of conception. The only exception is saving the mother’s life, but there are no exceptions for rape or incest under this law.

Just a few days earlier, on April 1, the Florida Supreme Court also ruled in favor of upholding a 6-week abortion ban, which will take effect on May 1. This further reduced the legal threshold for abortions in Florida, which used to be 24 weeks of pregnancy before Republicans passed a law in 2022 banning abortions after 15 weeks. Both of these rulings have sparked intense debate and outrage about their impact on women’s rights.

Overview of the Near-Total Abortion Ban in Arizona

The Arizona Supreme Court voted to uphold an 1864 law, a law passed even before the state officially was a part of the United States of America, that makes all types of abortion illegal, including medication abortion, from the moment of conception. Though there are exceptions in cases where the mother’s life is at risk, the ban makes no exceptions for cases of rape or incest and imposes severe penalties, including imprisonment, on medical professionals performing abortions.

Medical professionals have spoken out about how dire the situation will become for women with this near-total abortion ban. Dr. Jill Gibson, chief medical director of Planned Parenthood in Arizona, told CNN that this ruling will have “absolutely unbelievable consequences for the patients in our community.” She continued by saying, “Providers need to be able to take care of their patients without fear of legal repercussions and criminalization.”

Representatives from Arizona and other states across the country have also spoken up against this near-total abortion ban.

Video by Shontel Brown Member of the United States House of Representatives on InstagramVideo by Shontel Brown Member of the United States House of Representatives on Instagram

Image by Rub\u00e9n Gallego Member of the United States House of Representatives on InstagramImage by Rubén Gallego Member of the United States House of Representatives on InstagramImage by Rubén Gallego Member of the United States House of Representatives on Instagram

Until this Arizona Supreme Court decision, abortion had been legal in the state up to 15 weeks of pregnancy. The right to abortion via Roe v. Wade prevented the enforcement of the near-total abortion ban, but since a majority vote in the Supreme Court of the United States overturned Roe, those opposed to abortion rights had been fighting to enforce the 160-year-old 1864 law.

This new abortion ban in Arizona is not effective immediately as the court has paused its ruling for 14 days until additional arguments are heard in a lower court about how constitutional the law is. However, the law will likely come into effect in May, a few weeks from now. Planned Parenthood Arizona, the largest abortion provider in the state, will continue serving the community until the ban is enforced.

An Overview of Florida's Six-Week Abortion Ban

The landscape of abortion in Florida has also undergone a significant change with the enforcement of a 6-week abortion ban, replacing the previous 15-week limit. This ban, similar to Arizona's, severely restricts access to abortion care and poses a significant challenge to reproductive rights in the state. Providers are bracing for a public health crisis due to the increased demand for abortion and limited options for patients.

Practically speaking, a 6-week abortion ban is a near-total abortion ban because pregnant people often don’t even realize they could be pregnant by this early stage. Combined with Florida’s strict abortion requirements, which include mandatory in-person doctor visits with a 24-hour waiting period, it’s nearly impossible for those who may want an abortion to be able to access it before 6 weeks. Not to mention that fulfilling the requirements is particularly challenging for low-income individuals.

Video by theluncheonlawyer on InstagramVideo by theluncheonlawyer on Instagram

Moreover, this Florida law also restricts telemedicine for abortion and requires that medication be provided in person, effectively eliminating mail-order options for abortion pills. While exceptions for rape and incest exist in Florida, the requirements are also strict, asking victims to provide police records or medical records. For victims who don’t always report sexual violence for many different reasons, these exceptions don’t make a difference.

The consequences of Florida’s ban extend to neighboring states with more restrictive abortion laws. For instance, residents of Alabama, facing a total ban on abortion, and Georgia, with its own 6-week abortion ban, have relied on Florida for abortion services. That will no longer be an option, further limiting care alternatives.

The Road Ahead

These recent abortion bans in Arizona and Florida are a major setback for women's rights, particularly impacting Latina women who already face barriers to accessing quality healthcare. These bans not only restrict women’s reproductive freedom but also endanger their lives.

Efforts to challenge these bans through legal means and ballot measures are ongoing, but the road ahead is uncertain. While there’s hope for overturning these abortion bans, the challenges of conservative laws and legal battles are formidable. The November ballot in both states will be crucial in determining the future of abortion rights and access for all.

graphic design highlighting Dolores Huerta 94 birthday, the iconic civil rights activist and labor leader.

Today, Dolores Huerta, one of the most important Latino icons within civil rights, is turning 94 years old. This occasion is the perfect opportunity to celebrate not only her robust life but also her immense contributions as a social justice champion. Huerta is a living legend whose tireless efforts have helped transform the landscape of civil rights, feminism, labor rights, farmworkers’ rights, and even environmental justice.

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