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6366 - Pilgrimage as an example of devotion of native Mexicans to Our Lady of Guadalupe

Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City represents the central point on the map of Mexican catholicism. As the most important sanctuary in whole country atracts masses of pilgrims every year and during the feast day of la Guadalupana (December 12th) there are millions of them. There are lot of virgins in Mexico but only Our Lady of Guadalupe acquired the position of national saint that is the consequence of policy of independent Mexico since the War of Independence in 19th century. As Mexican virgin which comes from Mexican land she became the symbol of new nation. But we can observe two major lines in her cult – the oficial one which considers the virgin to be Virgin Mary, and the native one which consider her to be Mother Earth and patron of Mexican Indians. Native line of this cult is the result of religious syncretism which mixed original devotion to pre-Hispanic Nahua goddess Tonantzin (deity of fertlity and Mother Earth) and catholic Virgin Mary (Mother of Christ). Famous apparition od Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1531 took place on the hill of Tepeyac where the ancient sanctuary of Tonantzin had existed before the conquest. And this sactuary had always been visited by countless number of indigenous pilgrims from far away as Bernardino de Sahagún, Franciscan missionary and first anthropologist, testifies in his famous chronicle (de Sahagún 2000: 1143-1144). The Indians identified new virgin with their traditional deity and continued to pilgrimage to the same place as they did before. Replacing of native deity by catholic saint was common in catholic missionary practices, especially in the case of maternal goddesses which almost always were replacing by Virgin Mary. That is why the native Mexicans accepted Our Lady of Guadalupe and considered her to be their mother and patron. And one of the biggest demonstrations of their devotion to her are pilgrimages which were common in pre-Hispanic religious practices as well as in catholic tradition. To pilgrimage to basilica is considered to be great honour and millions of pilgrims leave their villages for Tepeyac every year to prey for prosperity of their families and entire community. Thus pilgrimage connects their community with religious center of the country and with their mother and patron.

Keywords: Guadalupe, pilgrimage, native Mexicans, syncretism

Author: Hlusek, Radoslav (University of SS. Cyril and Methodius in Trnava, Department of Ethnology and Non-European Studies, Slovakia / Slowakei)

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