Like many Mexican-born Catholics, the young mother crossed the border into the United States without the proper papers. Traveling up the arduous and historic Camino Real from Mexico City, she arrived in Santa Fe on August 15, 2008, the Feast Day of the Assumption of the Blessed VirginMary. Known as Guadalupe, she had been scheduled to arrive in this country earlier in the summer, but torturous red tape halted her journey temporarily in July, despite several sponsors who vouched for her good character. Even after a full-body search, immigration agents refused her access to the US.
Finally, though, devotion to her faith won the day, and she and her procession made the journey through Juárez into El Paso, Texas, then on to Santa Fe, pausing for rest and fellowship at Bernalillo and La Bajada.
The young woman without her immigration papers is a powerful symbol for the many Catholics and non-religious alike who worship this manifestation of the Virgin Mary for her qualities of tender mercy and loving protection. She is the patron saint of Mexico, La Virgen de Guadalupe, found in homes and on car dashes and at roadside altars throughout Latin America and in many regions of the U.S. Her triumphant arrival in the physical form of a bronze sculpture at the Santuario de Guadalupe in Santa Fe was, indeed, a blessed event. The Santuario is the oldest church in this country devoted to the Virgin of Guadalupe, so it is fitting that the property now features the newly arrived 4,000-pound, 12-foot bronze sculpture of La Morencita, the “little dark-skinned one,” undoubtedly the most highly revered and openly beloved saint in the Americas. The mother of Jesus, the sacred feminine, a combination of Aztecan and Western iconography; however you hold her, odds are you do so with reverence and delight.
Similarities between the narrative of Guadalupe’s journey from artist Georgina Farias’s studio in Mexico City and the actual difficulties immigrants face in crossing the border were noted by Archbishop of Santa Fe Michael J. Sheehan during the sculpture’s dedication mass and ceremonies, attended by thousands. In fact, Sheehan went so far as to suggest that, as a mother embraces her most troubled child closest, so does Guadalupe love her undocumented immigrant people, for they need her most. In Santa Fe, a “sanctuary” city for immigrants without papers, Guadalupe has an enormous task before her, as the city struggles with issues of the generally invisible fourth culture in northern New Mexico: undocumented workers.
Every day since her arrival, scores of roses, the signature flower of the Virgin of Guadalupe, have surrounded the sculpture on its base facing Guadalupe Street—signs of faith and hope. It’s almost as if the pre-Columbian goddess Tonantzín herself were back on her hill in Tepeyac, awaiting a miracle.
Photo by David Alfaya