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Photographs by Yolanda Andrade, Patricia Aridjis, Adrián Bodek, Marco Antonio Cruz, Maya Goded, Rafael López Castro, Eniac Martínez, Francisco Mata, Pedro Meyer, Raúl Ortega, Saúl Serrano, Enrique Villaseñor.

Text by Elizabeth Romero

 

“I entered the chapel. I kneeled in front of Virgin of Guadalupe and, immediately, mi heart became a bird of fire that wanted to come out and fly towards her. Then, I began to cry as I had never done before, and she told me ‘Calm down, breathe, I am very proud of you, and happy with you’ and that is impressive”. Carlos Santana speaks, after visiting Autlán, Jalisco, his natal town, on December, 1999.

He had already won a Billboard award and months later he would get several Grammy awards for the song “Corazón espinado”(Pricked Heart), as well as for his album Supernatural. Thanks to the musician’s fame, such a statement can be taken seriously and can be divulged worldwide.

Some incredulous may doubt; some others can think that it is just an eccentricity of the rock star, but for many people this is a real experience. A believer talks to his god, kneels down, asks for something and offers something in exchange. He asks for health, for protection, for shelter, and he offers a prayer, an action, and a change of behavior. The believer thinks that, thanks to the kindness of his god and to the prayers offered to him, things change: the sick heals, the problem gets solved, the peace arrives.


In Mexico –country and people–, there is a cult that, for its characteristics, its permanence and its extension, stands out in the Catholic world. Beyond the religious aspect, Virgin of Guadalupe has social and political meanings, which include concepts of race, territory, nation, identity, and idiosyncrasy. When Santana affirms that: “my heart became a bird of fire that wanted to come out and fly towards her,” he expresses what millions of Mexicans would like to say, but don’t get to verbalize: tears betray them, old men and children cry, and men and women who arrive to the altar to worship Our Mother.

Pilgrims don’t cry because of fatigue and they’ve walked hundreds of kilometers; they don’t cry because they are hungry or cold, and they’ve been through freezing cold and they’ve been without food; they don’t cry because of the pain and their lives have been an eternal endure. No, their tears have other reasons, they cry for something they don’t understand, they cry because they’re standing in front of the Virgin, and something unexplainable happens: something really sweet seems to calm the heart, something so serene makes feel peace, while at the same time one can feel humbleness and power.

In front of Virgin of Guadalupe we know that we are little -a single creature among millions- and we know we are big -a human being with all its abilities- for the single fact of recognizing

 

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