December 12th is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. You probably already knew that, but I had to learn the hard way.
I woke up in the wee hours of the morning to the sound of horns and some soft drumming.
I decided to see what was amiss.
When I opened the front door, I saw a group of around 15 people holding flashlights, horns, small drums, and tambourines. They formed a slow procession that surrounded a man shuffling along the street on his knees, using a couple of yoga mats for cushioning. Once he had shuffled the length of one yoga mat, one of his buddies brought the rear yoga mat to the front.
I retreated back inside and groggily Googled “Austin parade knees dawn why.” Eventually I learned that the Catholic church down the street has a large Mexican congregation, and that this morning marked the anniversary of the day the Virgin Mary appeared to an Aztec man on a hill in Mexico and told him she needed him to build her a church. This particularly Mexican version of the Virgin Mary came to be known as Our Lady of Guadalupe (OLG)®.
I returned to bed.
A few hours later, a much larger, noisier procession appeared. Most of the performers wore Aztec costumes. The musicians played wild Aztec jazz.
For the rest of the afternoon I saw people headed for the church, many of them carrying bouquets of flowers and pictures of OLG.
“EXCUSE ME! CAN I TAKE YOUR PHOTO?” I hollered at this mother-daughter duo as they scuttled to catch up with the rest of the parade.
In Austin, you can see evidence everywhere of the strong ties between the Aztec people and OLG.
On Cesar Chavez there is a popular business called Leal’s Tires. According to Yelp, they quickly and efficiently patch tires.
Leal’s owners pay tribute to the Aztecs and hot Aztec maidens with the murals on the sides of their building.
I’m not a fan of the body language on display here. Mostly because I’m not a fan of the fucking patriarchy, even if it puts on a feather headdress and disguises itself as a marginalized indigenous people.
On all fours? Really, Moctezuma?
I’m sure there’s a lot about the Aztecs that we can all still appreciate. Stepped pyramids? Give em to me. Ritualized heart removal? Can’t get enough.
But based on this one mural they seem like macho dicks.
Directly across the street you can visit a liquor store called East 1st Grocery. Emblazoned on the side of the building is Our Lady, looking on pityingly at the tire store Aztecs, as if to say “U think ur hot but ur not.”
All of the stories of OLG that I read online seemed flat and colorless. In the mist of a sleep-deprived daydream, I suddenly remembered where I had first heard of her.
A certain little storytelling dog named Wishbone covered the legend of OLG in the mid 90s.
Wishbone played Juan Diego, the Aztec man that bumped into OLG on Tepeyac Hill. Tepeyac Hill is significant because it has served as the location of an Aztec temple before the Spanish smashed it to bits. OLG told Juan Diego that she needed a church in that same spot. She spoke to him in the Aztec language of Nahuatl, so Juan Diego would get that she was down with the cause. Continue reading