She’s a tiny thing, and not much to look at, even though she is clad in regal garments and wears a crown. Some people might refer to her dismissively as “a little cornhusk doll.”
But according to the story, Our Lady of Zapopan (Nuestra Señora de Zapopan) started working miracles in the sixteenth century, and she’s been working them ever since.
Fray Antonio de Segovia fashioned a little cornhusk doll in honor of the Virgin. For ten years, he wore it around his neck. In 1541, in an attempt to make peace between warring Indian tribes, he went among them and preached. It is said that those who heard his message saw rays of light emanating from the image he wore around his neck, and they laid down their weapons.
That was the beginning of centuries of reverence for Fray Antonio’s “little cornhusk doll,” representing Our Lady of Zapopan.
In 1721, a plague swept through Guadalajara. Sacred history says that when the image was carried from barrio to barrio, the plague ceased.
At about the same time, Our Lady of Zapopan was declared to be the official protector from the fierce thunderstorms and lightning that characterize the rainy season. Thus, the little image is carried from its place in the Basilica of Our Lady of Zapopan during the rainy season, which begins in June, to visit every church in every barrio of Guadalajara.
Tomorrow “the little cornhusk doll,” will be carried in a joyful procession through the streets of Colonia Manuel Vallarta. At the end of the procession, there will be a Mass at Templo San Nicolás de Bari, a five-minute walk from my apartment.
To participate in a local celebration is one of the benefits of being more than a casual tourist in a foreign country, and I look forward to catching a glimpse of “the little cornhusk doll,” and to hearing the sounds of rejoicing in the streets.
Little brown sparrow,
after the storm has ended,
will you sing again?
Besides being houses of worship, the churches of Guadalajara serve their communities by hosting various meetings.
In one of them, a class for adult learners of English meets every Wednesday evening. Last night, I was the honored guest.
In an upper room of the church, twelve students and their teacher welcomed me into their circle. Ranging in age from early 20s to late 60s, they introduced themselves to me. I was delighted to hear one of the women say she is a poet.
“I want to talk to you later,” I said, “because I write poetry too.”
After nearly ninety minutes of dialogue, our time together came to an end. One by one students left the room, thanking me for coming. Ana Bertha approached me with a piece a paper. On it were several poems she had written.
“This is for you,” she said.
One of the poems begins with this line: Eres solo mi amigo y ya te extraño. (“You are only my friend, and yet I miss you.”)
That’s exactly how I feel about poetry: It is my friend, and I miss it with an indescribable ache when I can neither read nor write it.
It’s as though Ana Bertha had written her poem just for me.
last full moon of spring
a frog in the backyard pond
basking in the light