Recently 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 I’m the resident expert on and I read the details with excitement until I realized something had gone horribly awry.
The first warning sign was the description of the “myth” of Guadalupe, the mother of Mexico. How Juan Diego “made her up” and 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, albeit brilliant, public relations tool of the Church. 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, the image of Jesus’ Mom giving birth to a Mexico that mixes the indigenous culture with the European, is widely revered. Literally she is on almost on 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 from the United States are so well known for.
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 my brother is the Southern Baptist minister at, 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 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 promoter of her namesake Irish cross. 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 that diffuse and morph into being expressed yearly in the office holiday party.
Now I can already hear the click of keyboards insisting the typist is 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 utter, “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 understanding opens you up to a whole new level of fun!
Joseph Toone is the Historical Society’s short-story award winning author of the SMA Secrets book series. All books in the series are Amazon bestsellers in Mexican Travel and Holidays. Toone is SMA’s expert and TripAdvisor’s top ranked historical tour guide telling the stories behind what we do in today’s SMA. Visit HistoryAndCultureWalkin