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Posts Tagged ‘Virgin of Juquila’

December seems to be el mes de las vírgenes (the month of the virgins) in Oaxaca.  Early this morning cohetes (rockets) and church bells announced the first of the month’s three virgin days; the feast day of la Virgen de Juquila.  And, this afternoon, on the Alameda in front of Oaxaca’s cathedral, a small procession gathered.

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According to legend, in 1633, when a fire burned the small Chatino village of Amialtepec to the ground, a small wooden statue of the Virgin Mary was rescued amidst the ashes.  She was undamaged, save for her light skin color, which was permanently darkened by the smoke, causing her to more closely resemble the Chatino people, who live in this remote mountainous region.  Local priests declared her survival a miracle and she has been venerated ever since.

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Alas, that wasn’t the end of the story; the priest in the village of Juquila convinced the “powers that be” that she should be moved to the bigger and better church in Juquila.  She, however, had other ideas and returned to Amialtepec.  This back and forth continued another three times.  Finally, in 1719, La Morenita (the dear dark one), as she had come to be known, gave up her traveling ways and agreed to call Santa Catrina Juquila her permanent home.

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The faithful make pilgrimages to both her old and new mountain homes (about four hours southeast of Oaxaca city).  They come year round on foot, on bicycle, and in all other manner of transport, to make offerings and pray for miracles, but especially during the days leading up to December 8.  October 8, 2014 marked her crowning achievement; in a grand ceremony, she received a papal coronation, joining her previously crowned (1909) Oaxaca sister, Nuestra Señora de la Soledad.

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The bells, bands, and booms have been soundtrack of the city for a week — the virgins are being celebrated!  First in line, on December 8, for chiming church bells, processions, and fireworks was the Virgen de Juquila and third will be Oaxaca’s patron saint, the Virgen de la Soledad on Dec. 18.  However, in between the eighth and eighteenth, all of Mexico honors the Virgin of Guadalupe.   Today, December 12 is her day but, like the others, the festivities began days in advance.

Scenes from last night in front of the Iglesia de Guadalupe in Oaxaca city…

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Now on to Teotitlán de Valle for this afternoon’s Día de Guadalupe performance of the Danza de la Pluma.  We have been told the festivities will last all night, as the community will also be saying “adios” to this group of dancers — their three-year commitment is at an end.  It will be a miracle of the Virgin if we can party hardy until even midnight, but we will give it the old college try!

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No doubt, tomorrow I will be awakened, long before the crack of dawn, by the cracks and pops of cohetes (rockets — all bang no bling) and the seemingly non-stop clangs and bongs emanating from the bell towers of the countless churches that surround me in Oaxaca city’s historic district.  And, I’m sure, I will hear the sounds of a procession — December 8 is the feast day of the Virgin of Juquila (La Virgen de Juquila).

Man painting a banner on a flatbed truck

Flatbed truck on Constitución in Oaxaca city, Dec. 6, 2012.

According to legend, in 1633, when a fire burned the small Chatino village of Amialtepec to the ground, a small wooden statue of the Virgin Mary was rescued amidst the ashes.  She was undamaged, save for her light skin color, which was permanently darkened by the smoke, causing her to more closely resemble the Chatino people, who live in this remote mountainous region.  Local priests declared her survival a miracle and she has been venerated ever since and her image appears throughout Oaxaca.

An image of Juquila along highway 175.

Image of La Virgen de Juquila along highway 175.

In 1776, the Bishop had a new temple built for La Virgen de Juquila in the nearby, but larger, village of Santa Catarina Juquila.  Today, pilgrims continue to come, not just on her feast day, often making the arduous journey up into the mountains by bicycle or even on foot.  They go to La Capilla del Pedimento in Amialtepec to fashion images from its clay soil — replicas of wished for items (cars, houses, healed body parts, etc.) to lay at her feet.

La Virgen de Juquila painted on side of building

Side of a building in residential neighborhood of Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán, Oaxaca

According to this morning’s Noticias, the Archbishop of Antequera Oaxaca has called upon Catholics, as part of tomorrow’s feast day, to pray for reconciliation and peace in Oaxaca.  That’s a tall order.  The miracle of her survival has given La Virgen de Juquila the power to bestow miracles — such is the faith of her believers.  We shall see…

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December seems to be quite a month for the Virgins of Oaxaca.

December 8, I was awakened by cohetes (rockets… all bang, no bling) at 4:45 AM.  They continued sporadically until about an hour later, when wildly clanging church bells heralded a non-stop barrage of more cohetes for several minutes… they eventually faded away, but a banda was heard in the distance.

It was the feast day of the Virgin of Juquila (La Virgen de Juquila), one of Oaxaca’s own.  According to legend, in 1633, when a fire burned the small Chatino village of Amialtepec to the ground, a small statue of the Virgin Mary was rescued amidst the ashes. It was a miracle; she was undamaged, save for her light skin color, which was permanently darkened by the smoke… causing her to look more like the Chatino people, who revered her.

Here she is, in a field alongside La Virgen de Guadalupe, almost at the crest of the new carretera between Oaxaca and San Martín Tilcajete.

Brown fields next to highway at crest of hill

La Virgen de Guadalupe on the left and La Virgen de Juquila on the right.

Sand paintings of the Virgin of Guadalupe and the Virgin of Juquila on a mountainside.

The Virgin of Guadalupe had her day only four days later, on December 12.  La Virgen de Guadalupe is known as the Queen of Mexico and Empress of America, and is the patron saint of México.  Reports estimate that 5.8 million of the faithful made the pilgrimage this year to Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City to honor the dark-skinned virgin who appeared to Indian peasant Juan Diego on Dec. 12, 1531 near what is now Mexico City.

In Oaxaca, worshipers flocked to the Chapel of Guadalupe at the north end of Llano Park and a carnival filled the park for all the little Juan Diegos and girls in period costume to be entertained.  However, I headed out to Teotitlán del Valle to see this Zapotec village honor La Virgen de Guadalupe with their traditional Danza de la Pluma.  Several of the Danzantes (dancers) were wearing capes woven and embroidered especially for this day…

Virgin of Guadalupe embroidered on the back of the cape of a Danzante.

The weaving and embroidery were spectacular!

Closeup of the Virgin of Guadalupe on the back of Moctezuma's cape.

And, at least one of the Danzantes had an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe in the middle of his corona (feathered headdress).

Feathered headdress with image of the Virgin of Guadalupe  in the center.

Malinche and Doña Marina also had similar images on the skirts of their dresses.  To see those and several other photos of the dancers, you should take a look at what Chris has posted at, Oaxaca-The Year After.

Next on the “Virgin” calendar is December 18, the feast day of La Virgen de la Soledad (the Virgin of Solitude), Oaxaca’s patron saint.  Stay tuned…

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