December 12 is the day of the Virgen de Guadalupe. Across Mexico — and the world — devotees flock to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the heart Mexico City to celebrate and pay tribute to the patron saint that Catholics call the Queen of Mexico and the Empress of the Americas.

Los Angeles is the second city with the largest of population of Mexicans after Mexico City. All Angelenos probably pass by an image of the Virgen de Guadalupe several times in one day. Her image is at supermarkets, corner shops, murals, sketched onto curbsides and in most every Catholic church across the city. Today, December 12, millions of Angelenos celebrate the Virgin of Guadalupe with processions, prayers, mariachis, pre-hispanic dance and more to honor her birthday.

Sonic Trace visited two communities to see how this imported Angeleno ritual played out in Santa Monica and South L.A. Check out our slideshow. Lead producer of Sonic Trace, Anayansi Diaz-Cortes also spoke to KCRW’s Saul Gonzalez on Which Way LA.

 

Photos by Eric Pearse Chávez and Javier Cabral

More on the Legend of the Virgen of Guadalupe:

Legend has it that on December 9, 1531, an indigenous peasant named Juan Diego was walking to his village from Mexico City, when suddenly he had a vision. On a barren hill, called Tepeyac stood a girl of fifteen or sixteen, surrounded by light. She told Juan Diego to tell the Archbishop that she wanted a church built in her honor atop that mountain.

Frightened but adamant, Juan Diego visited the Archbishop to tell him of his vision. He saw the Virgin Mary! The Archbishop dismissed him and told him that he must bring proof. Saddened, Juan Diego returned to Tepeyac to tell the lady that he couldn’t convince the Archbishop.

As he is approached Tepeyac, he noticed a bed of red roses where a day before it had been barren. He lay his cloak and took as many roses as he could carry back to the Archbishop in Mexico City. The Archbishop received Juan Diego on December 12. Juan Diego opened his cloak to show the Archbishop. The roses fell to the ground, and in their place is the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe. They say that this same image is in the Baslica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.

A simple Google search will reveal all kinds of theories about her apparition, Juan Diego’s cloak, the veracity of the story and the Spaniard’s motivation for building the church during the colonial 1600′s.

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