Of course, I’m only one Houstonian, but there are thousands of people in this city who are just as touched by Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast day is celebrated every year on December 12.
The symbolic image of the "Mother of God" has been celebrated in Houston for close to a half-century. Lázaro Contreras, the Director of Hispanic Ministry at the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, told Houstonia that next year will be the 50th anniversary of the official celebration here.
People from all across the Houston-area have been coming into the city for years, to attend Virgen de Guadalupe (the Spanish way to refer to Our Lady of Guadalupe) celebrations.
One local parish welcomes people from nearby cities like Porter, Cleveland, Conroe, Tomball, The Woodlands, Spring, and Sugar Land looking to join in on the festivities.
“It is so lovely to see these wonderful traditions passed along from grandparents to their children and grandchildren,” says Maribel Guevara whose been working at Assumption Catholic Church on Little York Road for two decades, and says she’s seen Our Lady of Guadalupe Houston celebrations grow considerably within that time, along with the Latino population.
What the Celebration Is All About
La Virgen, as she’s sometimes called has a deep religious connection to Mexico, that’s celebrated about two weeks before Christmas.
When I was 19, I traveled from Houston to Mexico City to visit her sacred Roman Catholic space with my mom. A private tour of the basilica was the highlight of that trip. I had always dreamed about making that pilgrimage. I was raised in Houston in the Catholic faith, so much so, that I attended Mass every Sunday, starting at Our Lady of Guadalupe on Navigation. Then, to Saint Charles in El Northside. I would go to student Mass at University of Saint Thomas when I went to college there.
And yes, I served as an altar boy for most of my teenage years.
I certainly knew that Our Lady of Guadalupe was an important figure in our faith, but it wasn't until a moment at her basilica in Mexico City, when I realized how truly valuable she was to me, my family, and my culture, and why tons of people in Houston celebrate the day devoted to her on December 12.
The backstory goes like this: In early December 1531, Our Lady--as the Virgen de Guadalupe is also called --- presented herself to Saint Juan Diego as a beautiful brown-skinned apparition, wearing a traditional pinkish-red dress and a green, star-studded mantle, surrounded by angels and roses, standing on the moon and embraced by the sun.
The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a church and shrine commemorating this moment, and built in the 1700s in Mexico City.
That same image of the brown-skinned apparition can be found inside, or outside, millions of Latino/Hispanic/Catholic households. In Houston, you see her painted on businesses, on portraits at the mall, or find her statue in front of any number of churches.
The cloak of the man who first saw her, Saint Juan Diego, is at that basilica I visited with my mom in Mexico City. The first time I saw it was an unforgettable moment for me. As my mother and I inched closer and closer to the sacred cloak, I could feel her hand embrace mine with increasing pressure. I turned towards her and could see tears forming in her eyes and running down her cheeks. She didn't say much to me in that moment, but I could tell that she was experiencing extreme happiness and joy.
“I'm so very happy that you are here to see this with me, mijo,” my mom whispered to me standing near the shrine. Being there filled us with so much emotion, and that will forever be my favorite memory of my mom.
She passed away in 2007, and I still hold on to her rosary as one of my most prized possessions.
That’s just my story of why this image and celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe is so important to people, and why so many flood into Houston to attend special church Mass in her honor. The celebration goes far beyond just attending Mass. It is also accompanied by performances of dance groups called matachines, who wear Native American outfits; music by mariachi bands during and after the Mass, and delicious tamales, pan dulce, and other traditional Mexican food to share with the community afterwards.
Houston Celebrations Are Growing
“Immigrants from all over Latin America bring their traditions to Houston, and ask us to provide the opportunity and space to share their love and devotion of Our Lady of Guadalupe with the new generations,” says Reverend Miguel Solorzano, a Mexican-born priest and current pastor at Saint Charles Borromeo Parish on Tidwell in El Northside. “And, it’s not only people from Mexico, but also from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Cuba, and many more.”
In Houston, the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe has grown tremendously in the last couple of decades. This can be attributed to the growth of both the immigrant Hispanic and U.S.-born Hispanic population in the area.
“The celebration revolves around prayer and devotion to Jesus and his blessed mother, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and it allows for unity and fellowship within the community, ” says Guevara from the church over on Little York.
The feast day of Our Lady Of Guadalupe is the perfect way to kick off the holiday season. From delicious food to beautiful music, traditional dance performances and community unity, Houston is one of the best cities to experience this amazing celebration. Church officials told Houstonia that anyone who wants to, can learn more, and anyone can visit, and participate in celebrations being held at several well-known churches.
Where to Celebrate in Houston
Saint Charles Borromeo
There will be Mass with mariachis on Dec. 11, starting at 11 p.m. It’s followed by an Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration from midnight to 4 a.m., with matachines, performers and singers. There will be another Mass with mariachi again at 5am. A parking lot procession is planned for 3pm.
Saint Charles is located at 501 Tidwell Road, visit their site for more information.
Assumption Catholic Church
There will be a procession starting at the corner of E. Canino Road and Van Ness Street on Dec. 11 starting at 8 p.m. Serenades and rosary starts at 10:30 p.m. It will be followed by Mass with mariachis and matachines at 11:30 p.m.
Assumption is located at 901 E. Roselane St., visit their website for more information.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church
There will be a midnight Mass in the church plaza starting at midnight on Dec. 12. For the morning Mass, there will be a traditional Las Mañanitas singing with Mariachi at 5 a.m.
The church is located at 2405 Navigation Blvd., check out their website for more information.