Aztec-influenced matachine dancers performed Wednesday at special events held to commemorate the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Parishioners at St. Joseph Old Cathedral, 307 NW 4, along with those at several other metro-area Roman Catholic churches, held Mananitas services as early as 5 a.m. to pay tribute to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Many parishes, like St. Joseph, also held evening activities where matachine dancers performed in colorful finery to “awaken” Our Lady of Guadalupe, also called the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is considered the patroness of the Americas. The activities for the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe are particularly popular in Roman Catholic parishes that include a large number of Hispanic parishioners, particularly those of Mexican descent.
According to traditional accounts, an apparition of the Virgin Mary appeared in 1531 to an Aztec peasant, Juan Diego (whom Pope John Paul II declared a saint in 2002), in Tenochtitlan, Mexico, now Mexico City. The apparition, brown-skinned and pregnant, told Diego to tell Roman Catholic Church leaders to build a cathedral for her there in the mountains. When a clergyman demanded proof of the encounter, the apparition, referred to as Our Lady, told Diego to gather roses from the mountainside — in mid-December. When Diego showed the bishop the miraculous roses, the bishop believed him. An imprint of the apparition appeared on Diego's tilma, or cape, in which he'd carried the roses.
The early morning gatherings called Mananitas symbolize the time the apparition appeared to Diego, local leaders have said.
Local leaders have said Diego's encounter with Our Lady was the beginning of a large Christian conversion among the natives in Mexico. Dec. 12 is a national holiday in Mexico, and millions of worshippers participate in public demonstrations of adoration in Mexico City that day.