It comes up now and again in conversation when talking about my former life south of the Rio Bravo. Mexicans are Catholics, right? Yeah. They are. Sort of. Well. Yes, they are I guess, but…you see, they’re kinda like Catholics. Actually no, they aren’t. Some of them. Shucks, who knows.
Mexicans are Catholics like marsupials are mammals. Almost the same. But not quite the same. They do have very distinct differences. Many Mexicans identify themselves as Guadalupeans, after the rather famous virginal patron* saint of the country. The story of the good lady is here. Then there’s Santa Muerte, the Saint of Death. He’s a favourite of the criminal fraternity of Mexico, who will go to offer prayers in the hope of a successful heist. The Vatican doesn’t approve. What do they think about the increasing number of exorcisms? There is Day of the Dead, another quasi-Catholic festival.
Then there’s San Judas Tadeo. If you’re in Mexico City on the 28th of the month, you’ll see a constant stream of young guys and gals carrying their statues on the way to a church not far from Belles Artes, on Avenida Reforma. When the Catholic faith travelled to foreign waters from its European heartland, there was bound to be a bit of assimilation of local beliefs and customs. I couldn’t honestly say whether the rest of Latin America has as distinct a variant of Catholicism as Mexico. Perhaps other expats can clue me in. But for sure, Mexican Catholicism is a unique, separate, even cultish offspring of the original.
The point of this story? Today is Guadalupe’s big day. Millions upon millions of people will go to the Basilica de Guadalupe on an annual pilgrimage. It’s quite the spectacle. Parades of banner waving groups walk miles upon miles to get there. Many will crawl on their knees. Some will do so just for the last stretch. Others for far longer distances. You can visit the Basilica any day of the year and you’ll see some scraping skin off their legs.
You should visit the Basilica by the way, if you happen to be in the vicinity. The churches and the gardens are both worth the trip to this northern part of the city. I went several times. Here’s a short video I shot the last time I went, which was too long ago. It’s one part of Mexico’s Catholic-ish faith. There are lots of other facets. Some surprising, others bizarre. Some are charming or even enchanting. Other parts are plain nuts. But none of it is ever boring.
*I’m not Catholic, not much of a believer in religious virgins, and I do know the cure for those who are afflicted with that particular condition. Normally I can’t resist cracking a gag, and be damned with any offence I cause. But hey. It is her big day. So I’ll pass this opportunity up, just this once…