Austin’s Virgen de Guadalupe celebration links tradition with prayer

Dozens of people gathered in neighborhoods in Austin on Sunday for the Dia de la Virgen de Guadalupe celebrations which commemorated the observation of Mexico’s patron saint, the Virgin Mary, in 1531.

The event, rooted in Roman Catholic tradition in Mexico, drew a procession on a cool, sunny day in parts of East Austin after last year’s celebration was canceled due to the COVID-pandemic. 19.

Elders and young children were among those who walked for miles from Dolores Catholic Church on Montopolis Drive in southeast Austin to East Ninth Street, where Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church was decorated with purple ribbons around its pillars and flowers with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. .

Many observers carried the image of La Virgen de Guadalupe in a photo or on a banner with the shining words “Reyna de Mexico”. The music played from a loudspeaker, and many in the procession strummed a guitar, beat a drum, or sang. Neighbors stood in front of their apartment doors or on the porch of their house to watch the procession.

Organizer Maria Cuellar’s mother, Victoria Ruiz, and other family members founded the celebration in Austin about 30 years ago. Cuellar walked with the procession in a yellow safety vest and helped keep the procession together.

“It started with my mother, her grandmother and her sisters. We are parishioners from here, from the Guadalupe Church, so it’s something really traditional in Mexican culture,” Cuellar said.

Danza Guadalupana members take part in a walk through East Austin with other community members for the annual celebration in honor of La Virgen de Guadalupe on Sunday.

Many community members and matachines – dancers who revere the Virgin Mary – have asked about a celebration this year. Ruiz worked with other organizers to prepare for this year’s celebration in two weeks. Cuellar said his father recently passed away from COVID-19, so seeing the community come together in 2021 would be meaningful.

“It means a lot to us, to my family, to my mother, especially with my father who is not there because he was an integral part of it,” Cuellar said.

Jocelin Jimenez has been dancing for three years as part of Danza Guadalupana. She was wearing a hand-sewn red outfit with sequins. The name of his group, sewn on the back of the dancers’ vests, shone in the sun. They danced with an arco in one hand and a percussion shaker called a sonaja in another, she said.

“It’s really fun. I really enjoyed it. You meet different types of people,” said Jimenez, who started dancing at 18.

Members of the community carry an image of La Virgen de Guadalupe to Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Austin on Sunday.

The celebration of La Virgen de Guadalupe marks the start of the Christmas festivities, said Berenice Armas, who works at Foundation Communities, a non-profit organization that provides housing services.

She grew up dancing and said her family had many dancers in the procession over the years. She started dancing at the age of 10.

Armas hopes that they maintain the cultural and family tradition even if the younger generations are not as religious as their grandparents.

As part of the Dia de la Virgen de Guadalupe traditions, many members of the community prayed for miracles and blessings.

Violeta Lopez celebrates every year with her family. Lopez’s granddaughter was diagnosed with leukemia and she was praying for her on Sunday. She prays for the strength of all of her family members and for blessings after the trials they have been through this year.

Community members holding images of La Virgen de Guadalupe stand in front of the altar at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Austin on Sunday.  The annual procession started at Nuestra Señora de los Dolores Catholic Church, stopped at Cristo Rey Catholic Church, and ended at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church.

Lopez wore an image of La Virgen de Guadalupe, and the image was also on Lopez’s shirt and earrings. Lopez’s grandmother gave her the image she wore.

“It also brought me a lot of memories.” Lopez said, noting that they even passed his childhood home on the road.

With a bouquet of roses on her arm, Olga Grimaldo attended the procession for the first time this year. She seeks to carry on the family tradition, especially now that her grandmother has been gone three years because of cancer.

Grimaldo prays to be a mom soon after a difficult 2021 and seeks the blessing of La Virgen de Guadalupe. When she thinks of the feast day and the example of La Virgen de Guadalupe, she thinks of miracles, the scent of roses and beauty.

Members of the Matachines Guadalupanos de Cristo Rey dance in front of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Austin after walking approximately 5 miles through East Austin.  More than 200 community members gathered on Sunday for the annual celebration in honor of La Virgen de Guadalupe.

Roxana Aguilar, who previously lived in Austin and now lives in Bastrop, has been attending the Austin celebration with her family for about six years. Her sister, Carolina Aguilar, and her nieces dance in the procession.

As a child, she celebrated in Mexico with her extended family. Usually, the family prays the rosary, listens to mariachi groups, and serves food to family members and neighbors while on vacation, Aguilar said. Celebrating the Austin vacations helps her feel connected to Mexico and her loved ones there.

“A lot of times, especially with the pandemic, you can’t go out there (Mexico) all the time,” Aguilar said. “It’s good to do something, even if it’s a long way from home.”

Contact Nusaiba Mizan at Follow her on Twitter at @nusaiblah.

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