Austin’s Virgen de Guadalupe celebration ties tradition with prayer

Austin’s Virgen de Guadalupe celebration ties tradition with prayer


Dozens of people gathered in Austin neighborhoods on Sunday for the Dia de la Virgen de Guadalupe celebrations, commemorating the sighting of Mexico’s patron saint, the Virgin Mary, in 1531.

The event, rooted in Roman Catholic tradition in Mexico, marched through parts of East Austin on a sunny, cool day after celebrations were canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Older and young children were among those who walked miles from the Dolores Catholic Church on Montopolis Drive in southeast Austin to East Ninth Street, where the Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church had purple ribbons around its pillars and flowers with the image of Our Lady was adorned by Guadalupe.

Many observers carried the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe on a picture or on a banner with the glowing words “Reyna de Mexico”. Music played from a loudspeaker, and many in the procession strummed guitars, beat drums, or sang. Neighbors stood in front of their apartment doors or on their verandas to see the move.

The organizer’s mother, Maria Cuellar, Victoria Ruiz, and other family members founded the celebration around 30 years ago in Austin. Cuellar went with the procession in a yellow reflective vest and helped hold the procession together.

“It started with my mother, her grandmother and her sisters. We’re parishioners from here, the Guadalupe Church, and that’s something really traditional in Mexican culture,” said Cuellar.

Members of Danza Guadalupana and fellow parishioners march through East Austin to celebrate the annual celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe on Sunday.

Many parishioners and matachines – dancers who worship the Virgin Mary – asked about a celebration this year. Ruiz worked with other organizers to prepare for this year’s celebration within two weeks. Cuellar said her father recently died of COVID-19, so it would make sense to see the community come together in 2021.

“It means a lot to us, my family and my mother, especially when my father is not here because he was a big part of it,” said Cuellar.

Jocelin Jimenez has been dancing as part of Danza Guadalupana for three years. She wore a red outfit that was hand-trimmed with sequins. The name of their group, embroidered on the vests of the dancers, shone in the sun. They danced with an arco in one hand and a percussive shaker called Sonaja in the other, she said.

“It’s really fun. I really enjoyed it. You meet different kinds of people,” said Jimenez, who started dancing at 18.

Parishioners carry a picture from La Virgen de Guadalupe to Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Austin on Sunday.

The celebration of La Virgen de Guadalupe marks the start of the Christmas celebrations, said Berenice Armas, who works at Foundation Communities, a nonprofit that provides housing services.

She grew up dancing and said her family had many dancers in the procession over the years. She started dancing when she was 10 years old.

Armas hopes they will keep the tradition for culture and family even if the younger generations are not as religious as their grandparents.

As part of the tradition of the Dia de la Virgen de Guadalupe, many parishioners prayed for miracles and blessings.

Every year Violeta Lopez celebrates with her family. Lopez’s granddaughter was diagnosed with leukemia and prayed for her on Sunday. She prays for strength for all of her family members and for blessings after the trials they have gone through this year.

Parishioners with pictures of La Virgen de Guadalupe stand in front of the altar of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Austin on Sunday. The annual procession began at the Nuestra Señora de los Dolores Catholic Church, ended at the Cristo Rey Catholic Church, and ended at the Catholic Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Lopez wore a picture of La Virgen de Guadalupe, and the picture was also on Lopez’s shirt and earrings. Lopez’s grandmother gave her the picture she was wearing.

“It also brought me a lot of memories.” Lopez said, noting that they even passed her parents’ house on the route.

Olga Grimaldo took part in the procession for the first time this year with a bouquet of roses on her arm. She wants to continue the family tradition, especially now that her grandmother has been gone for three years because of cancer.

Grimaldo prays to become a mother soon after a challenging year in 2021 and asks for the blessing of La Virgen de Guadalupe. When she thinks of the feast day and the example of La Virgen de Guadalupe, she thinks of miracles, the scent of roses and beauty.

Members of the Matachines Guadalupanos de Cristo Rey dance in front of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Austin after the 8 km march through East Austin. More than 200 parishioners gathered on Sunday for the annual celebration in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Roxana Aguilar, who previously lived in Austin and now lives in Bastrop, has been attending the Austin celebration with her family for about six years. Her sister Carolina Aguilar and her nieces dance in the procession.

As a child, she celebrated with her extended family in Mexico. Usually the family prays the rosary, listens to mariachi bands, and serves food to family members and neighbors on the holidays, Aguilar said. Celebrating the holiday in Austin helps her feel connected to Mexico and her relatives there.

“A lot of times, especially with the pandemic, you can’t go there (to Mexico) all the time,” said Aguilar. “It’s good to do something, even if it’s super far from home.”

Contact Nusaiba Mizan at Follow her on Twitter at @nusaibla.