There are virgins everywhere, ladies adorn street corners, ladies that greet you as you enter hotels and houses; The Virgin Mary and all her apparitions are loved in Mexico. December is a special month for Virgins, we have given love and prayers to the Virgins of Juquila, Guadalupe and Soledad.
When the Spanish conquistadors arrived in Mexico their Roman Catholic monks and priests bought the stories of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus. The indigenous people fell in love with the holy family and the Catholic religion flourished.
Religion is a tricky subject to discuss and one I didn’t think I would write about in my travel journal but I am seeing religious icons pretty much everywhere and everyday. There are plenty of fiestas with loud fireworks celebrating beloved Virgins and Saints. I am what people likely call a ‘fallen Catholic’ having been raised Catholic and observing my religion probably up to the age of about 18 but then the temptations of the wide world called and my religion was pretty pushed aside.
However when I’m in Mexico my childhood memories are pulled back to my mind with sight of these daily deities. Visits to St John Fisher church with my family on Sunday mornings reading the mass from my white leather bound missal. Wearing a handmade white silky dress and carrying a posy of roses from the garden for my First Holy Communion, being confirmed by Father Tarbuck with my primary school friends. Being taught by Nuns at my secondary school Cardinal Wiseman, which was adjacent to their convent. Lessons in how to make cakes, to underline psalms in the bible in different coloured pencils, how to hit hockey balls by nuns with their veil blowing in the wind as we ran up and down the fields on wintry days. We all gained ‘O levels’ in Religious Education and attended residential Retreats. The ‘retreat’ had daily prayers, masses and what I can only remember of as a ‘therapy style group sessions’ but overall we had great fun. One memory I won’t forget was of a clothes swapping Tracy H wearing Sister Eleanor’s full habit, seeing the very strict Sister Eleanor in civvies, smiling and sporting a very short haircut!
There are so many atrocities in the world with radical groups hiding behind religion for their own barbaric purposes, religion therefore can seem like ancient fairytales to many people. Scientists rely on factual evidence, with so many advances in technology the creation of the universe is explained and the story of God manufacturing the world in 7 days becomes just a nice bible story.
Religion now to me isn’t about attending weekly church services and saying words in mass that now longer mean much (Sister Eleanor wouldn’t be happy..) but my religion is one that has become personal, one that is about being positive everyday, trying to be a good person, giving thanks for our lovely life, loving the people that are in my life and being truly happy. So the Virgins I see everywhere remind me I do still have my own religion and I’m happy to be called back to prayer for our continual safe journey.
And yes Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus I’m coming to visit you on Christmas Eve…
Peace be with you!
Read more about Feast days for Mexican Virgins in December: December in Oaxaca