Lived Religion – Relating to Our Lady of Guadalupe
Lived religion is a sociological term for the way people behave on a day to day basis. Santa Clara University sociologist Maria del Socorro Castaneda Liles has written Our Lady of Everyday Life an ethnography of Mexican American women and their relation to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Joe Rodriguez, a columnist for the San Jose Mercury News has summarized this research in the title of his article with the words Mother, Friend, Lawyer. Pesonally, I would not have used the term “lawyer” because it has a more legal, technical connotation than the word advocate. The Spanish term “abogado” is used for both.
These interviews documented something familiar to most of us who share a Mexican heritage. There is more of a casual, friendly, and intimate conversation between devotees and the Virgin, as opposed to a more ritual relationship embodied in formalized prayers or devotional manuals. The interviews also show that women and their sense of themselves is changing.
Younger women felt that Our Lady could relate to their economic struggles as single mothers and to their decisions to control the number of children they have. In Guadalupe, they find the Mother of God as strong, resourceful, and capable.
This theme of empowerment might seem new and contemporary but it is at the heart, literally the heart, of the Guadalupe experience for the conquered indigenous people of Mexico and the “Gran Mestizaje,” the resulting nation of people created by the blending of European, African, and indigenous American groups.
The appearance of Mary, pregnant and dark complected as the advocate and protectress of the lowly, the powerless, is also an act of heavenly recognition of human dignity and worth.
From a purely secular standpoint this is a startling phenomenon. The general pattern in times of such social upheaval and distress is the development of revitalization movements which attempt to go back to earlier better times, to plead with the gods who have abandoned a civilization, or in some cases to engage in “ghost dances” to render themselves invisible.
In many respects, the name Guadalupe is an attempt by the Spanish to claim the apparition as that of one of the black Madonnas from their homeland who was also a patron of Christopher Columbus. Yet, people who know her real name call her “Tepeyac” from the hill on which she appeared.
While it might be tempting to equate her with Tonantzin, the Aztec goddess of the dawn, the woman who appeared to Juan Diego and her subsequent cult had none of the darkness and blood that characterized the Aztec and Meso-American pantheon.
The slide show from the online version of the same article conveys the intimacy of a people and their “Patrona”.