Culture

There’s A 70-Year-Old Mosaic Of La Virgen De Guadalupe Inside Of Notre Dame. Here’s Its Condition After The Fire

It’s been just a week since the fire destroyed Notre Dame, and we now have more information about historical relics that survived the devastation. If you’ve been to Notre Dame, you may have been surprised, like many, to come across a section inside the cathedral that honors Mexican patron, La Virgen de Guadalupe.

The mosaic of La Virgen, which was placed inside the Notre Dame in 1949, has an extraordinary meaning for Latinos, in particular to the Mexican community.

In an interview with El Universal Father Jose de Jesus Aguilar Valdes said that the iconic mosaic of La Virgen survived the fire because of its location inside the church.

Valdes said that most of the damage occurred in the center of the church, and the altar dedicated to La Virgen was located on the left section. He added that most relics that were on the left and right side of the cathedral were thankfully salvaged.

When I first saw La Virgen de Guadalupe located in its own altar, adorned among Mexican flags, I was moved because it was as if a piece of my family was right before me in Paris.

I expressed my sadness over the devastation having just visited the Notre Dame a year ago.

Other Latinos also expressed their feelings about the destruction of the Notre Dame and La Virgen mosaic that lived there.

Alejandro Lugo of Las Cruces, New Mexico, told the New York Times about his poignant memory of La Virgen in Paris when he saw it for the first time.

“As a Mexican-American, I felt blessed and surprised to have found inside Notre-Dame an altar to the Virgin of Guadalupe, who is Mexico’s patron saint!” the 56-year-old said. “In 2003 my family and I went to celebrate the 15th birthday or quinceañera of my oldest daughter, who was blessed by the priest during the Notre-Dame mass.”

The mosaic in Paris is a replica of the legendary painting located at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.

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The painting honors the apparition of La Virgen to Saint Juan Diego in 1531. According to the legend, Our Lady of Guadalupe told Juan Diego to build a shrine in the spot where he saw her, which is Tepeyac Hill in Mexico City. The shrine has been there since 1556 and been blessed by several popes. According to the Britannica Encyclopedia, the painter of that particular painting of La Virgen is unknown; however, in 1568, an English prisoner in Mexico City described the image.

According to Father Valdes, the replica in Paris was created by local artisans that worked with Mellerio jewelry. The mosaic also has a crown made of 18-carat gold and is decorated with gems and pearls.

“The presence of Mexico is made with the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe,” Father Valdes said, according to Televisa. “A beautiful image in one of the most visited chapels of Notre Dame. Fortunately, it has been saved, because the fire damaged the entire roof and the heat of the fire, as it, unfortunately, damages the windows.”

Other saved treasures from the Notre Dame fire include a 14th-century life-sized statue of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus and the cross at the center of the cathedral.

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France President Emmanuel Macron has already vowed to rebuild the church within five years. More than $1 billion has been raised for its construction.

I and countless of others look forward to visiting the Notre Dame once again and praying the altar dedicated to Mexico and La Virgen de Guadalupe.

READ: 9 Photos Any Catholic Latino Will Understand

Some Mexicans Are Freaking Out Over This Drag Queen Who Dressed Up As La Virgencita To Make A Political Statement

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Some Mexicans Are Freaking Out Over This Drag Queen Who Dressed Up As La Virgencita To Make A Political Statement

Margaretyya / Instagram

La Virgen de Guadalupe is perhaps the most venerated figure in Mexico. Regardless of religious beliefs, la Guadalupana has become a cultural and national symbol, as it contrasts with the predominantly white images of saints and other religious figures (although if we talk about historical accuracy, chances are that Jesus and his disciples looked mostly Brown, as Middle-Eastern folk).

La Guadalupana is Brown-skinned and symbolizes the mixed-nature of Mexican mestizo culture. On one hand, the Guadalupana is derived from Catholicism, on the other it also echoes Aztec deities such as the goddess Tonantzin Coatlicue, which anthropologists believe the culture around La Virgen de Guadalupe echoes.

Truth is that Mexico is a country that venerates the Virgen de Guadalupe perhaps above all things, in particular each December 12, when millions of worshipers travel from all around the country to venerate her at the Basilica of Guadalupe, the place where Juan Diego, an indigenous man, claims to have encountered her. 

So it came as a shock to some that a drag queen from Mexico City dressed up as La Virgen de Guadalupe.

Credit: margaretyya/ Instagram

Her stage name is Margaret y Ya and she has caused controversy with this very artistic picture that reminds us of the work of Italian photographer Mario Testino. In the image, we can see Margaret y Ya posing with shopping bags.

In the photo shared on her Instagram, she writes an ironic caption: “Bendita seas Santa Virgencita Claus 🙏🏼✨ que nos llegaste a evangelizar con consumismo y materialismo estas épocas. 🎄❄️ 📸” This roughly translates as: “Bless you Santa Virgencita Claus, you that brought consumerism and materialism to this time of the year”.

This is more a political and social commentary rather than a religious one, as December 12 has become the kick off of the end of year holidays and its many weeks of frantic shopping. The photo was taken by Mario Aragon and the composition highlights irony. Margaret y Ya told El Universal that her idea was to critique the ways in which religion often becomes a commodity. This is perhaps a slightly blunt way of doing it given Mexico’s sociocultural context, but hey, sometimes the only way of getting people’s attention is being over the top and fabulous. 

And as can be expected, some conservative minds (and many abuelitas, we are sure) pusieron el grito en el cielo, while others just chilled.

We mean, this photograph was meme-ready even from its inception, wasn’t it? So it came as no surprise that some in Twitter used it to expand on the “I’m gonna tell my kids this is…” meme universe!

But it is also clear that Margaret y ya had a very clear audience in mind.

Yes, she wanted to make men and boomers angry, which is exactly what she did! And isn’t art supposed to be provocative in order to make us think, really think about preconceived notions we might need to reconsider?

The question is tough but philosophically interesting: how much of religion is associated with buying and selling stuff? The image was part of Margaret y Ya’s 2018 calendar, but as it resurfaced it got more attention than ever before. 

And some dudes got really angry…

Credit: Valladolid Yucatan Pueblo Magico / Facebook

These two dudes are basically saying that no one messes with La Virgencita and that a sacred symbol should not be tainted. Man, take a chill pill. Comments on the original story at El Universal reveal a deep contrast between those users who yell blasphemy at the first chance, and those who can find a bit of nuance in artistic expression. 

But when it comes to Catholic countries such as Mexico, mixing popular culture and religion with art is prone to cause a lot of controversy. Madonna was almost banned from the country for the “Like a Prayer” video.

A Christ-like figure who was black! That was considered blasphemy at the time, as was the fact that Madonna looked at him lovingly. Seriously, this was a BFD a few decades ago, and for years las buenas costumbres in Mexico dictated that the singer was a persona non grata.

Other works of art, such as Martin Scorsese’s monumental film “The Last Temptation of Christ”, have also been banned and considered blasphemy, as they are interpretations of texts that are considered dogma (infallible truths), and as interpretations they might differ from what the Church says.

This is something similar to the mild scandal involving Margaret y Ya, as she took a longstanding symbol and used it to critique a capitalist way of living that perhaps takes those religiously inclined away from their faith. Although we suspect that in this case some old fashioned homophobia also came into the equation.

Here Are A Few Products To Show Your Love For La Virgen de Guadalupe

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Here Are A Few Products To Show Your Love For La Virgen de Guadalupe

Once a year on Dec. 12, Guadalupanos gather all over the world to honor their patron, La Virgen de Guadalupe. In Mexico City, the Basílica of Guadalupe hosts thousands of devotees to throw what is probably the biggest party for la morenita complete with dozens of indigenous dancers, the most celebrated Mexican singers and only the best mariachis. Across the U.S. there are hundreds of mañanitas that take place on a smaller scale, but still as touching. Regardless of where people attend, attendees show up to these celebrations wearing their favorite pieces with the Virgen de Guadalupe. If you are a believer but don’t own any pieces with La Virgen on them, here are a few you can purchase from our mitú Shop.

Virgencita de Guadalupe Necklace

This necklace is an exclusive from our collaboration with Colombian jewelry designer, Mercedes Salazar. Take the Virgen with you anywhere you go with this gold-plated design that is small enough to wear under any outfit and just big enough to make a statement. This also works well layered with other necklaces. Perfect for someone who likes to accessorize or someone who is looking for their first Virgen piece.

Maria Is My Homegirl Sweatshirt

No matter how big or small your circle gets, there is one homegirl who will always have your back and her name is Maria. Cozy up in her mantel this winter in this ultra soft sweatshirt that will give you all of her celestial vibes.

Guadalupe Socks

Just like the necklace, these Guadalupe socks are subtle enough to wear even to the office but also a statement maker. Keep your little patitas warm with the coziness that only the Virgen can give you.

Guadalupe: First Words

Books are a great way to educate younger generations with the traditions we were raised on. This Lil’ Libros book will teach youngins who the Virgen de Guadalupe is and why she is such a prominent figure in our culture.

Maria Is My Homegirl Pin

Take a little bit of the Virgencita everywhere you go with this multi-colored Virgen pin. Whether you’re someone who makes the sign of the cross every time you’re about to drive onto the freeway or you just like the Virgen because it reminds you of home, this is a sweet gift for anyone — or yourself.