The Catholic Church was always wise at taking the beliefs and myths of the various cultures they encountered and adapting their symbolism.
For centuries the Aztecs worshiped a Great Mother they called Tonantzin, bringer of the corn, Protectress of the Earth, kind-hearted yet all-powerful, on the hill of Tepeyac in Mexico.
When a newly converted Indian called Juan Diego saw a vision of a beautiful dark-haired maiden asserting herself as the Virgin Mary on that hill in December 1531, he reported the apparition to Bishop Juan de Zumárraga. The bishop wanted proof.
Diego brought him a mound of fresh Castilian roses in pink, crimson red, orange and golden yellow, gathered from that scrubby hill, miraculously flowering at the Lady's command, and as he dropped the fragrant gift on the bishop's table. Legend says an image of that Lady was seen as if painted on Diego's rough cape.
She was no fair-skinned Spanish noblewoman, no golden-haired Renaissance Madonna, but a dark-skinned beauty who would fit perfectly within the local tribes, her pregnant belly supported by a maternity belt, enclosed in a robe as blue as the heavens and painted with stars. A church was built on Tepeyac in her honor, and they say many miracles occurred.
The Virgin of Guadalupe, or the Great Mother Tonantzin, is a perfect synthesis of the Church's Virgin and the need we have to see some facet of the Creator as a loving Mother. Her festival comes each year in December and is celebrated with music, a procession, a holy Mass, and food, dancing, costumes — things that make life bright and happy.
For a dozen years the Festival of has been commemorated in Port Wentworth at Our Lady of Lourdes Church on Highway 25 (in front of Dixie Crystal) and this year the festivities kick off Wed., Dec. 11, at 6:30 p.m. The opening procession, accompanied by mariachi players, departs from the soccer field at Cantyre and Barnsley Roads and proceeds to the church to celebrate a Holy Mass in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, with an offering of roses, Mañanitas (traditional song of praise), and a festive meal. It's something to see — the music, the masses of fresh flowers, the gorgeous colors, the faces of Mexican children, their beaming parents, the native costumes, the sense of awe and happiness.
On Saturday, Dec. 14, the Festival itself begins around noon with live entertainment from Latino bands from all around the region, playing salsa and merengue, cumbia, some modern Mexican rap, plus rock n' roll!
Children will find plenty to do with balloons and face-painting, whacking the piñata, Diego and Dora, interactive games and let's not forget Santa Claus, who makes an appearance each year.
The Mexican food served at the Festival is some of the most authentic you'll taste outside of Mexico itself. You'll enjoy hand-made corn tortillas, patted out by sweet abuelitas (grandmas), steaming hot chocolate fragrant with cinnamon, traditional Ponche made with native fruits, huge tortas (sandwiches) juicy with pork or chicken or beef cooked in special sauces, all kinds of Mexican baked goodies from iced buns to giant cookies, and delicious sopes (fried corn fritters topped with meat, avocado and cheese), tacos, burritos, and chimichangas.
Regardless of your origin or religion, this festival has something fun or delicious or simply beautiful for you to experience— because, as everyone knows, a Mother loves to see her children enjoying themselves!
Festival of Our Lady of Guadalupe
When: Dec. 11, 6:30 p.m., procession to Our Lady of Lourdes, 501 S. Coastal Highway, Port Wentworth. Festival day Dec. 14, noon-until, soccer field
Cost: Free and open to the public