Year-long Guadalupe preparations reach height at Dec. 8 event

November 26, 2019

Francisco Hernandez of Danza Azteca Holy Ghost places a headpiece onto 2-year-old Noel Hernandez during the 2018 Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration in downtown Houston. The annual event is set for Dec. 8 and will begin with a procession starting at the Downtown Chancery, located at 1700 San Jacinto St. to the George R. Brown Convention Center off Avenida de las Americas. (File photo by James Ramos/Herald).

HOUSTON — While the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe is Dec. 12, thousands of devoted members spend the entire year practicing dances in her and her Son’s honor, sewing costumes, praying Rosaries and raising funds as part of the Asociación Guadalupana.

Priscella Marquez, a member of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church and current president of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston’s organization dedicated to the Patroness of the Americas, said members are in the midst of praying 46 Rosaries traveling to different homes over 46 days.

The prayers correspond to 46 stars shown in the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe that were constellations in the heavens in the winter of Mary’s apparition in 1531.

For 46 days leading up to Dec. 12, a framed image of the Virgen de Guadalupe leaves the churches and spends each night in a different home.

“If you love what you do, it’s not work. This is our devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe,” Marquez said.

She and other members pulled out the dancers’ traditional outfits back in July and August to sew and repair any torn fabric, missing colorful glass beads and sequins that many of the matachines or dance troupes wear for their performances.

While individual parishes have their celebrations, the general public is more likely to be familiar with the biggest procession in downtown Houston when all the dance troupes assemble altogether. This year’s event is on Sunday, Dec. 8, starting at 9 a.m. with a prayer and processing from 1700 San Jacinto St. to the George R. Brown Convention Center.
Up to 1,000 indigenous folk dancers of all ages, some wearing elaborate feathered headpieces and traditional Aztec-style dress, will swirl to drumbeats and blowing conch shells. After arriving at the GRB, they will celebrate Mass at noon with Daniel Cardinal DiNardo and other priests.


All 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. His native name in Nahuatl was Cuauhtlatoazin (“one who speaks like an eagle”) and in Spanish 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 that this would be the sign 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. 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 Sistine Chapel in Rome.

Scholars studying the cloak recently discovered reflections in the eyes of Our Lady showing Juan Diego, the bishop and several other people present when the cloak was unrolled, revealing the image for the first time. The tiny size of the figures in her eyes requires today’s technology to be seen.

For many Guadalupana members, their devotion is a family affair. Marquez has been involved since her daughter Marisol Marquez started dancing at the age of six years old. Now 20, Marisol is one of the leaders of the Matachines dance group at Immaculate Conception.

Marquez said, “This is a splendid celebration where people are one in faith, but many diversities showing their devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, which has continued for the past 47 years in our Hispanic/Houston communities.”

Lazaro Contreras, director of the Office of Hispanic Ministry for the Archdiocese, which supports the association’s efforts, agrees.

“This celebration joins us in the hope of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is she who says, “Am I not here, who is your Mother?” Contreras said. “We rejoice and unite as one Church, one family with the immense love and divine protection of our Blessed Mother.”