De Colores: The Celebration of La Virgen de Guadalupe

Check out our slideshow from yesterday's Feast of the Virgen de Guadalupe.

The feast day of La Virgen de Guadalupe is celebrated every year on December 12. On that day in the year 1531, it is believed that the Virgin Mary appeared to an indigenous Native American peasant named Juan Diego. The miracles associated with this Marian apparition led to the conversion of millions of indigenous Mexicans to the Catholic faith, as well as the construction of a shrine on Tepeyac Hill in Mexico City where the events are believed to have occurred. In 2002, Juan Diego was canonized and became the first indigenous American saint.

The Catholic community in Houston celebrates this event every year with a downtown procession/parade and special masses throughout the city. The festivities include a sensory overload of visuals and sounds. Some groups rehearse their dance routines for several months prior to the feast day.

Many of the costumes are inspired by the indigenous heritage of Juan Diego, who was a Nahuatl Aztec peasant. The dancers who perform during the feast day celebrations are called matachínes (mah-tah-cheen-ehs). Most groups wear traditional ceremonial dresses adorned with feathers, carrying a faux bow and arrow that also serves as a crude musical instrument. One dancer is usually dressed as an old man (el viejo) symbolizing temptation and/or The Devil.

The image of La Virgen is a marvel. You most certainly have seen it around the city, a brown-skinned young lady standing on the moon, cherub and roses at her feet, draped in a mantle embedded with stars. She radiates light and gives a warm, loving smile. It is easy to see how she is loved by so many. She carries the designation of the Empress of The Americas, and provides hope to the millions of faithful in Latin America and around the world.

The celebrations are both fun and educational, inspiring young and old alike to become involved in this beautiful holiday tradition. The Mexican People are definitely masters of combining religious holidays with Native American traditions, culminating into one big, happy, colorful celebration.

Here are my favorite images from this year's festivities:

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When he's not roaming around the city in search of tacos and graffiti, Houston Press contributor Marco points his camera lens toward the vibrant Houston music scene and beyond.