by Joseph Toone
Not that long ago a small foreigner-run and attended church in town hosted a speaker discussing the indigenous influences on the history behind present day culture. Well, there’s a topic on which I’m the resident expert. But when I eagerly read the details of the event announcement I realized something was horribly awry.
The first warning sign was the description of the “myth” of Guadalupe, the mother of Mexico. It mentioned how Juan Diego, the campesino involved with her revelation, had just “made her up” and how the Church latched onto the notion. I’ve heard many really intelligent Mexicans speak on the notion that Guadalupe did not exist, and that she was a brilliant public relations tool of the Church. However, I’ve heard way, way more really intelligent Mexicans speak on the assistance and unity Guadalupe provides Mexicans.
Good arguments can be made from either perspective, but the bottom line is Guadalupe is widely revered. She is the image of Jesus’ Mom giving birth to a Mexico that mixes the indigenous culture with the European. Literally she is on almost every corner of town. As guests in this country, why would foreigners wish to publicly belittle the most powerful female in Mexican history and culture? The act exemplifies the bullying and insensitive nature we for which we from the United States are so well known.
As always, when uncertain of a situation, I try to place the situation in my own culture. If a group of Mexicans held a church service promoting the notion that Jesus was a made up idea next door to the church the Southern Baptist where my brother is minister, the situation would get ugly, fast. Violence would not be a surprising outcome. Yet, here my fellow foreigners show nary a concern to belittle and infantilize their hosts.
The second item for discussion in this foreigner-attended and run church was how posadas (the Catholic telling of the Jesus’ birth) were based on an Aztec belief that occurred on the same days. D’oh?! Every faith-based event we do in today’s San Miguel (and most everything, but modern film and hummingbird festivals are faith-based events) feature indigenous roots. It’s what the Church did everywhere they conquered. For example, an early Celtic goddess became St. Bridget. I’m not saying it was the right thing to do, but it is a thing that occurred across the globe over and over again. Our modern, Northern celebrations of Halloween, Christmas and alike all have native cultural traditions at the root. These diffuse and morph into being expressed yearly in the office holiday party.
Now I can already hear the clicking of keyboards insisting you are not responsible, nor interested, to understand what the locals are doing, much less, believing. I’m not advocating you believe in Guadalupe or the Christmas story. That’s not the point. Or as every parent of a teen has had to insist, “It’s not always about you.” The point is, nearly every Mexican in town does believe in Guadalupe and appreciates her assistance. A minimal amount of common sense dictates you wouldn’t use a church, of all venues, to publicly humiliate her image. There are ample other forums to debate her, or Christmas, with respect and dignity.
On a brighter note, I am impressed how Mexicans in San Miguel are so accustomed to the eccentricities and bullying nature of parts of the foreign community, that even an event disrespecting Guadalupe, in a church, is completely, and gracefully, ignored.
If you are curious how the resident Otomis and Chichimecas influence your everyday life in town take any of my tours or read any of my books. Despite the irony of the book series’ name, San Miguel de Allende Secrets, the influence of indigenous is no real secret. If you make any effort to understand why we do what we do in San Miguel, I promise that the understanding will open you up to a whole new level of fun!
Joseph Toone is Amazon's bestselling author of the San Miguel de Allende Secrets series of books and TripAdvisor's best rated historical walking tour guide. For more information contact email@example.com or visit History and Culture Walking Tours or JosephTooneTours.com, also on FaceBook.
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