The Iglesia de Guadalupe is considered one of the most beautiful and sacred churches in all of southern Mexico, resting high on Tepeyac hill, with panoramic views of San Cristóbal, where we will center many of our activities for this course. People from all over Chiapas and southern Mexico will run to San Cristóbal arriving on December 12 to pay homage to the Virgin.
Young and old will enter San Cristóbal wearing the traditional clothing of Juan Diego, who had a vision of the Virgin in 1531, on Tepeyac Hill outside of Mexico City. Their uniform is a headscarf, white shirt and long white pants; others will wear a painting of the Virgin on their chest or back. Some of the runners are barefoot as Juan Diego, a poor farmer, who did not own shoes. The leader of the runners will be carrying a lighted torch, thus the name of the runners “antorchas.
The torch has two significant meanings, one as a way to light the path while the runners pass throughout the nights and two as a memory of their homes and as a method of sharing with the Virgin their love and the respect and devotion of those in the communities who could not be a part of the blessings to the Virgin de Guadalupe on her feast day.”
The photographic opportunities during this festival are grand, with color and black and white film being ideal to capture the passion, the joy, the traditional dress of the indigenous people and the colors of the festival. One will have ample occasion to practice shooting under a variety of conditions. We will work hard in the darkroom to produce a show of our images to display on the church wall in Barrio de Cerrillo to share with San Cristóbal our work during the week.
The story of the Virgin is now told briefly.
In the winter of 1531, Quauhtlatohua, an Aztec Indian, baptized as Juan Diego, 58 years old, was walking barefoot over Tepeyac Hill on his way to mass in the small village of Tlatelaco, when suddenly he was surprised by a dark skinned apparition of the Virgin who instructed him to visit the Bishop of Mexico City, ten miles away, and ask him to construct a church in her honor on Tepeyac Hill. Juan Diego, who, being a poor farmer, was unable to gain an audience with the bishop, Juan Zumarraga.
The second day, as Juan Diego once again crossed the hill, the Virgin asked him to once again attempt to see the Bishop. This time Juan Diego was successful but the Bishop demanded concrete proof that the Virgin did indeed speak directly to him. Juan Diego visited the hill daily until on the 12th of December, the Virgin once again appeared to him and instructed him to climb the barren slopes of Tepeyac Hill to collect the roses growing there.
Even though roses had never been known to grow on the rocky slopes and it was the dead of winter when roses would not flower, Juan Diego found the hill covered with blood red roses and returned to the Virgin with his arms overflowing. The Virgin, who smiled down on him, filled his cape with the roses and bid him to visit the Bishop. Juan Diego was admitted to the inner sanctum of the church and in the presence of the Bishop, he unfolded his cape, amazing all in attendance for instead of roses tumbling to the ground, a beautiful painting had been miraculously painted on his cape.
The Bishop and his associates were astounded and immediately admitted a miracle had taken place. The intricate and stunningly detailed painting was placed in the cathedral of Mexico City until a suitable church could be built on Tepeyac Hill. In 1532, the church was completed and the image was transferred to the holy shrine.
The image of the Virgin on Juan Diego’s cape was dark of skin and with Indian features. Because of these details the Virgin was easily accepted by the indigenous peoples of Mexico, easing significantly their conversion to Christianity.
In 1754, the Virgin of Guadalupe was recognized by a Papal bull, allowing the Virgin to become the Patroness of Mexico and her cult subsequently grew into the most popular and powerful in Mexico. An interesting note is that the apparition of the Virgin on Tepeyac Hill is the exact location where an Aztec shrine stood to the goddess, Tonanatzin, the MOTHER OF GOD.
Our group will be limited to only six students so each will have individual attention. Road trip to run with and photograph the “antorchas”. Nighttime exercises: photography of the festivals and the church of Virgin de Guadalupe.
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