Content

SEND US FEEDBACK


We're always looking for ways to make Geoba.se better. Have an idea? See something that needs fixing? Let us know!

Mexico: Popular Beliefs
Country Study > Chapter 2 > The Society and Its Environment > Religion > Popular Beliefs

POPULAR BELIEFS


Mexican Catholicism is extremely varied in practice. It ranges from those who support traditional folk religious practices, usually in isolated rural communities, to those who adhere to the highly intellectualized theology of liberation, and from charismatic renewal prayer groups to the conservative Opus Dei movement. Lay groups with different goals, purposes, and political orientations are well known and common in contemporary Mexico. The largest and best known include Mexican Catholic Action, Knights of Columbus, Christian Study Courses, Christian Family Movement, and a wide range of university students' and workers' organizations.

The Virgin of Guadalupe has long been a symbol enshrining the major aspirations of Mexican society. According to Roman Catholic belief, in December 1531, the Virgin Mary appeared on three occasions to a Christian Indian woodcutter named Juan Diego on the hill of Tepeyac, six kilometers north of Mexico City's main plaza. She spoke to him in the Náhuatl language and identified herself by the name of Guadalupe. The Virgin commanded Juan Diego to seek out Bishop Juan de Zumárraga and to inform him of her desire to have a church built in her honor on that spot. After two unsuccessful visits to the bishop's house, Juan Diego returned to Tepeyac and was ordered by the Virgin to pick up some roses, carry them on his cloak, and attempt to make a third visit to the skeptical bishop. Once in the bishop's office, Juan Diego unfolded his cloak to present the roses, and an image of a mestizo Virgin had been miraculously imprinted upon it. Bishop Zumárraga acknowledged the miracle, and a shrine was built on the site of the appearances.

Today, two neighboring basilicas of Our Lady of Guadalupe are at the foot of Tepeyac hill. The first basilica, which was dedicated in 1709 but now is closed to services, accommodated 2,000 worshipers; the new ultramodern basilica, inaugurated in October 1976, accommodates up to 20,000 people. Juan Diego's original cloak with the mestizo Virgin image imprinted on it hangs above the altar of the new basilica.

According to anthropologist Eric R. Wolf, the Guadalupe symbol links family, politics, and religion; the colonial past and the independent present; and the Indian and the Mexican. It reflects the salient social relationships of Mexican life and embodies the emotions they generate. It is, ultimately, a way of talking about Mexico. Wolf's views are shared by Harvey L. Johnson of the University of Houston. For him, worship of the brown-skinned Virgin has resulted in the reconciliation of two opposing worlds, in the fusion of two religions, two traditions, and cultures. Devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe remains strong even as other aspects of Mexican society have changed. The UNAM national opinion poll found, for example, that nine out of ten Mexicans continued to ask intercessions from the Virgin or a saint.

Data as of June 1996




Last Updated: June 1996


Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Mexico was first published in 1996. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on Factba.se.

Mexico Main Page Country Studies Main Page




Section 82 of 213






IMAGES


Click any image to enlarge.


National Flag



($) Mexican Peso (MXN)
Convert to Any Currency



Map



Locator Map