HAA Folklife + Traditional Arts Program Celebrates of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe is getting lots of attention in Houston this year. Along with the throngs of faithful who observe her feast day and construct devotional alters to her, two museum exhibits are set to further explore her story and look at the changing way believers have celebrated her over the last 484 years.  

"La Virgen De Guadalupe: Empress of the Americas" is coming to the Houston Museum of Natural Science (November 11, 2015 to September 5, 2016) next week with artifacts, art and other objects of historical interest. 

And this week, the Houston Arts Alliance Folklife + Traditional Arts program presents Winter Celebrations: The Feast Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, a multimedia exhibit about the local celebrations believers hold annually.

It's not exactly the Feast Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe yet (that's on December 12) but it's not too early to start celebrating, according to Pat Jasper from Houston Arts Alliance’s Folklife + Traditional Arts.

HAA has been documenting the Houston parades, devotions and events for several years now. And they are varied, from a solemn church mass to a family party in a garage. Most observations are family-based but some attract celebrants from across the city. 

“The other day we found ourselves in a parking lot of a strip mall, in front of car parts store in North Houston,” Jasper says. “Some chinelos (dancers) were marching into a nearby trailer park to visit a family.”

The photographs, videos the group has collected along with special garb worn by the chinelos and danzantes (another kind of dancer), are all seen in the exhibit. And because photographs and videos can only capture so much of an event, HAA is also hosting an opening reception with chinelos, danzantes and a banda. “The [dance group] Chinelos de la Familia Lopez and Banda Viento Morelense de los Hermanos Campos will perform.”

The feast day is a Roman Catholic tradition paying homage to the Virgin, considered the Mother of the Americas. Jasper is clear: the HAA exhibit isn't looking at that aspect.

“We're not trying to explain this tradition because it's a very complex and important one. Instead, we're attempting to share the significant [practices] that surround the feast day,” Jasper tells us. “This isn't Virgin of Guadalupe 101. We're not trying to interpret these traditions for anyone; here the community's speaking for itself.”

Observing the Feast Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe is one of a trio of events in the HAA Winter Celebrations series.  Events commemorating the Lunar New Year and the African-American trail riders are also planned.

There's an opening reception 6 to 8 p.m. on December 3. Regular viewing hours are noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday; noon to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Through December 8. MATCH, 3400 Main. For information, visit Free.

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Olivia Flores Alvarez