Our Lady of Guadalupe festival dances on a smaller scale Dec. 5

November 23, 2021

A woman dressed as a traditional Azteca dancer performs during the 2019 Our Lady of Guadalupe procession in Houston. The event returns on Dec. 5. (File photo by James Ramos/Herald)

HOUSTON — With many church events resuming since parishioners have received COVID-19 vaccines, the festival for Our Lady of Guadalupe is gearing back up Dec. 5 with excited organizers and Aztec dancers preparing to celebrate.

But the 49th celebration will be a scaled-down version to commemorate the Virgin Mary appearing as Our Lady of Guadalupe to a humble peasant on his way to Mass to attend the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

Last year the pandemic caused the cancellation of the large event that draws thousands of people. This year as well, no downtown Houston parade of beating drums and swirling Matachine dancers will process to the George R. Brown Convention Center as in the past.

Instead, parishioners from churches across the city will gather Sunday, Dec. 5 at 3 p.m. in the Catholic Charismatic Center, 1949 Cullen Blvd., to celebrate Mass with Daniel Cardinal DiNardo and Auxiliary Bishop Italo Dell’Oro as homilist.

Priscella Marquez, president of the Archdiocesan Association of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which organizes the event, said, “This year’s celebration will be unique due to several new changes. First of all, a new venue, having the new Auxiliary Bishop Italo Dell’Oro, CRS, as concelebrant, a short play and small music program after Mass, and best of all, just being able to celebrate Mass together.”

“Next year, for our 50th anniversary of celebrating Our Lady and her son Jesus, we hope to do a greater and bigger event back at the convention center and downtown with more public involvement,” Marquez said.

Lazaro Contreras, director of the Archdiocese Office of Hispanic Ministry, said “As the Patroness of the Americas … Our Lady of Guadalupe is a symbol of love and understanding, a unifying presence for all of us in the Americas.”

He added, “This event helps families pass on faith values to the younger family members, helping them nurture their spirituality. This event has a history. It is how we express our faith, and it also helps others learn more about Our Lady.”

This tradition honors the time starting Dec. 9, 1531, on a hill near a rural village just outside Mexico City, when the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, appeared to a humble peasant on his way to Mass to celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

His native name in Nahuatl was Cuauhtlatoazin (“one who speaks like an eagle”). In Spanish, he was named Juan Diego, now a saint canonized by St. Pope John Paul II in 2002.

Surrounded by light and speaking in his indigenous tongue of Nahuatl, Our Lady told Juan Diego that she wanted a church built to manifest the love of Jesus and hear the petitions of the faithful. At her request, he approached Bishop Juan de Zumarraga, who doubted the story.

After Juan Diego met with the Virgin Mary again on Dec. 12, she arranged roses within his cloak and told him this would be the sign that he should present to the bishop. When Juan Diego opened the cloak or tilma to show the flowers, the bishop was presented with a miraculous imprinted image of Our Lady of Guadalupe that still exists.

The name Guadalupe is a Spanish version of the Nahuatl word Coatlaxopeuh, meaning “the one who crushes the serpent.”

The Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City, which displays Juan Diego’s cloak, has become one of the world’s most-visited Catholic sites, second only to the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel in Rome. †