Aztec dancers in colorful attire walk in a procession in North Park. Photo by Chris Stone
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The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego revived its annual Our Lady of Guadalupe observance Sunday with music, dance and colorful truck displays.

“It is a beautiful and amazing celebration,” said Auxiliary Bishop Ramón Bejarano. “It gives [attendees] hope, but it also gives them the opportunity to know that faith is bigger than all of the different problems and challenges that we continue to face in the world.

“That faith is what keeps us going.”

About 2,000 people of faith gathered at St. Augustine High School in North Park after a exuberant procession from Morley Field to the school on a warm, sunny day.

The Danza Mexi’cayotl troupe, along with a Chinelos group took part for the 47th year. Some represented St. Mary’s Parish in Escondido. (Last year’s event, simply a Mass with fewer attendees, was live-streamed amid the pandemic.)

“They symbolize that the indigenous people of Mexico didn’t disappear,” said Mario Aguilar, captain general of the Aztec Dance Tradition in San Diego. “We are still here and very active. It’s a symbolism of the mixing of the Native American tradition of this continent with the European.”

Aguilar continued, “More than anything else, it shows the survival of millions of people. Millions died in the 1500s, 1600s and 1700s, so those of us who are left, we have a heavy duty to keep alive our traditions for the future, so our grandchildren can know our traditions.” 

In addition to colorful Aztec and folk dancers, the celebration included mariachis, decorated cars and trucks as parish groups danced and sang throughout the procession, followed by a Mass.

Guadalupana Confederation and groups from many parishes across San Diego County took part in the event to honor the Virgin of Guadalupe, the Patron Saint of Mexico and the Americas. The procession was suspended last year due to the pandemic.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is a key part of the religious life of Mexico. As the story goes, the mother of Jesus appeared to Juan Diego, an Aztec convert to Christianity, on Dec. 9 and Dec. 12, 1531.

During the first apparition, it is thought she requested a shrine to her be built on the spot where she appeared, Tepeyac Hill, now in a suburb of Mexico City. The Mexican bishop asked for a sign.

The second time Mary appeared to Juan Diego, she ordered him to collect roses, traditional belief says.

In a second audience with the bishop, Juan Diego is said to have opened his cloak, letting dozens of roses fall to the floor and revealing the image of Mary on the inside of the cloak, the image now venerated in the Basilica of Guadalupe.

In 2002, Pope John Paul II canonized Juan Diego and declared Our Lady of Guadalupe the patroness of the Americas.

“Because I am Mexican, it has a very special place in my heart,” Bejarano said. “They say all Mexicans are Guadalupanos. But in the end it is so important for me because the message that she brings is a message of hope and a message of love and tenderness.

“It is very close to me because it is a message that touches the lives of everyone. I truly feel as her son because of that message of being a mother of mercy, a mother of tenderness for all of us.”