This year is the 10th anninversary of the paresenation of the La Virgen de Guadalupe, Dios Inantzin at the Los Angeles Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. The performance will begin at 7:30, but I’ll need to arrive considerably earlier because the 3,000 seats will be filled and this may be the last year this is performed at the cathedral.
Petrea wrote about how omnipresent La Virgen was in murals in stores in Lincoln Heights*. “Many of the markets in Lincoln Heights (except the Asian ones) have a representation of Our Lady of Guadalupe painted on the painted on the exterior. Always a lot of color; always Our Lady”.
She’s absolutely right – lots of reasons for that. For some store owners there is a belief that La Virgen will protect them if she is somehow present on their building. Mural or mosaic, her image is the key.
Which bring me back to the performance tonight. The play as presented is part musical, part melodrama, part spectacle, and part liturgical drama. The expanse of the cathedral lends itself to reminding us how very small and helpless we can feel as individuals. For some the drama is about faith, identity, love, and perseverance; for others it is it is also about religion. No single resonse; good theater is like that.
Mexican Catholic cultural touchstones abound: the opening and closing songs are sung in Spanish, Nahuatl is spoken and sung, there are Danzantes, children’s choruses and a good deal of broad humor.
The plot is simple – La Virgen appears to Juan Diego and makes him her messenger to the Bishop of Mexico. She wants a church to be built on Tepeyac. The Bishop is horrified and appalled that La Virgen not only speaks to Juan Diego, in the Mexica language of Nahuatl, but she appears as a morena – a dark virgin. A virgin of the New World. All of this goes against the engrained sensibility of the casta system and the clear hierarchy of society and church that is the Bishop’s world. And then a miracle takes place.
For Juan Diego, La Virgen is the Loving Mother and Clement Protector.
For 500 years she has been there for us, be it at the cathedral, our home or where we work.
images – Sal Lopez, Suzanna Guzmán taken at last year’s production.