A word of warning: if anyone plans on going downtown this weekend, particularly on the streets just northwest of the Alameda, you might be sitting in traffic for much longer than usual.
Why? Monday, December 12th, is the annual commemoration of the apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe. All the little old (Catholic) ladies go nuts for her. In fact, for many people in Saltillo, Guadalupe Day is a big, fat, hairy deal.
Why? Nearly 500 years ago, Mexico was in the earliest stages of adjusting to Spanish colonial rule. To put it lightly, the conquest was rather devastating for just about everyone involved. Indians were being round up and enslaved. There was even a debate going on about whether Indians had souls–after all, it´s much easier to enslave people if it´s possible to convince others that the people in question aren´t fully people. (Oh, the horrible things people do for power.)
In the midst of all this turmoil, a man named Juan Diego was on his way to Mexico City when he was stopped on top of a hill by a vision of the Virgin Mary. She asked him to go to the bishop and ask him to build her a church. He kept trying to convince the bishop, but understandably, the bishop wasn´t about to build a church for everyone who waltzed through his door. The bishop asked Juan Diego for some miraculous sign. Guadalupe appeared to him again, telling him to go to the bishop one more time. She told him to pick some roses growing on the hill for the sign the bishop asked for. Roses weren´t native to Mexico, were blooming out of season, and had not been planted on that hill–all reason enough to constitute the necessary miracle, right?
Juan Diego gathered the roses in his tunic. When he met with the bishop, he let his tunic fall open, showering the floor with roses. Moreover, everyone in the room could see the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe imprinted on his tunic. All those present noted that this apparition appeared to be of an Indian woman, which effectively ended the debate of whether Indians were to be counted as fully human in the eyes of God. Horrible things still happened to the native population, but at least those atrocities weren´t theologically justified.
Juan Diego´s tunic is still on display in the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City, just about on the very spot where Juan Diego met Guadalupe. However, since she is so popular all over Mexico, Saltillo has a Sanctuary to Guadalupe on Perez Treviño, just west of the Alameda.
So watch out if you´re headed that way! Street vendors, food stalls, matlachines, and pilgrims will be blocking traffic all weekend. But it´s a good time, too. So–for those not faint of heart–come on down! It´s a good time to buy a cup of champurrado and enjoy soaking in some culture.
Matlachines come in and out all day long. Bring earplugs, because I´m sure everyone inside loses a few decibels of hearing when they come thundering in!