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?
If you like religious art, the Ex-Convento de Guadalupe is the place to go. It’s a 30-minute bus ride from Plaza Bicentenario in Zacatecas. Bus fare is 5.5 pesos (39 US cents), and admission to the museum is 41 pesos (not quite US $3). You can sail through the museum and give everything a cursory once-over, or you can examine each painting and artifact carefully and spend hours in the place. The choice is yours.
Somewhere on the second floor, I am surprised by a sudden blast of mariachi music—live music. There is a little glassed-in alcove where I can look into the cathedral, and I see a wedding in progress. When I finish my tour of the museum, I decide to stick around for the end of the wedding. Maybe I can get a few photographs.
In blue jeans and sneakers, I am hardly dressed for a wedding. I feel like I’m living the biblical parable about the guy who shows up at a wedding without the proper attire. The king is offended, and orders the intruder to be thrown out into the darkness where “there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (You can read the story in Matthew 22.)
I hover near the entrance to the cathedral for at least 45 minutes, waiting for the wedding to end. No one asks me to leave, so I stay, and snap photo after photo, and I give thanks once again for the multitude of ways the people of Mexico welcome strangers into their midst.