Editor’s note: December 12 is the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, observed by Mexicans of the Catholic faith and many others, during which celebrations and fiestas are held in her honor. In Mexico City, those venerating her make pilgrimage to the Basilica of Guadalupe where her image is displayed. Here, Jim Griffith shows us her presence in northern Mexico and the Southwestern U.S.
The Virgin of Guadalupe accompanies Mexicans wherever they may be. Her legendary first appearance was to the Indian Juan Diego in 1531 on a hill outside Mexico City – a hill sacred to the Aztec mother goddess Tonantzin. That was taken as evidence that she cared seriously about both Spaniards and Indians. Her image was fixed for all time when Juan Diego, attempting to convince Bishop Zumárraga of the truth of his mystical experience, gathered roses from the desert hill and dumped them at the Bishop’s feet. His tilma or wearing blanket was revealed to bear the image of the Virgin, a dark-skinned woman robed in stars, standing on a crescent moon, and surrounded by a halo. This image, “not made by the hand of man,” helped spread the devotion to the virgin morena (dark virgin) throughout the Mexican world.
Over the years different groups of Mexicans identified her as their special patron. Indians, mestizos, nationalists struggling for independence from Spain, Mexican laborers seeking better wages in the United States, Chicanos fighting for civil rights—all these have marched under her banner. It is no wonder that her image appears in such a wide variety of places and cultural contexts. This photo essay concentrates on a few of those places and contexts in Arizona and Sonora.
All photos by Jim Griffith:
Brading, David A. 2001. Mexican Phoenix. Our Lady of Guadalupe: Image and Tradition Across Five Centuries. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Dunnington, Jacqueline Orsini. 1999. Guadalupe: Our Lady of New Mexico. Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press.
Dunnington, Jacqueline Orsini with Charles C. Mann, photographs. 1997. Viva Guadalupe! The Virgin in New Mexican Popular Art. Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press.