Our Lady of Guadalupe lights up Catholic Hispanic community

November 24, 2015

HOUSTON — The organizer of this year's downtown procession and festivities in celebration of the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe expects a strong turn out as more groups of dancers and singers have come on board for the 42nd anniversary.

Pablo Guzman, president of the Guadalupana Association, which is hosting the event, said some 24 groups, including mariachi bands and indigenous dancers known as matachines from churches across the Archdiocese, will participate in the procession and performances that follow at the George R. Brown Convention Center. Among them are Rayito De Luz, Holy Ghost Matachines, St. Gregory the Great Matachines, Rosa de Guadalupe and Guerreros Aztecas dance group. 

Guzman said the event is an opportunity for the Hispanic community to celebrate the apparition of our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 9, 1531 to the peasant Juan Diego just outside Mexico City, as well as share its traditions with the wider community. Juan Diego was canonized as a saint in 2002.

"First for the Hispanic culture we like to show people our traditions with the procession," Guzman said. "But everyone is welcome to be in the procession and join (Daniel Cardinal DiNardo) for the Mass."

For Margie Casarez, the previous president of the Guadalupana Association, Our Lady of Guadalupe is credited for lighting her path towards a better life.

Casarez was living with her family in poverty in a small village in Mexico with no hopes for the future, when as a 16 year-old she had a dream about a women with small hands beckoning her to cross a river. A week later, Casarez, determined to seek a better life, journeyed alone from Romita Guerrero to cross the Rio Grande into Texas. It was 1980. 

"I couldn't stay in my village — we were so poor, and there was no future," Casarez said. "When I got cross the border, it was like a dream come true. She was answering my prayer to grow up and go." 

Casarez initially found work in a flower shop and went on to train as a floral designer, which she continues to do to this day. In the meantime, thanks to President Ronald Reagan's amnesty in 1986, Casarez was able to come out of the shadows as an illegal immigrant and eventually claim citizenship. She married and raised three girls, all of them married themselves with five children between them.

"I was always praying and asking her to lead us and asking, ‘what is the right way to lead our life?'" Casarez said. "She has had a big impact on my life, with my children and the things I do."

In a bid to honor and celebrate the woman who defined her life, Casarez became involved with the Guadalupana Association and eventually took on a leadership role, first as treasurer and then as president.

She said whether or not you're Hispanic, the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe is universal.

"Our Lady of Guadalupe is the mother of Jesus Christ, and if you have a mother you should respect her as the Lord Jesus Christ respected his mother," Casarez said. "It's important for all of us to acknowledge this day and participate." 

Sergio Castillo, director of Hispanic Ministry at the Archdiocese, would agree about the importance of celebrating Our Lady of Guadalupe, not only because of the message she projects, but also to highlight the presence of the Hispanic Catholic community in Houston. 

"It's a way to be proud of our identity, and to do it in downtown Houston — that's an important gesture," Castillo said.

Castillo credited Guzman and the many volunteers who have been working throughout the year to raise the funds — almost $50,000 — to put on the event, which is expected to bring 5,000 or more people together.

"We want to invite everyone to come, not just Hispanics — we want to share this with everyone," Castillo said.