Immigrants Gather to Pray to the Virgin of Guadalupe
December 13, 2002
By Maria del Carmen Amado
Accompanied by Saint Juan Diego, the image of
the Virgin of Guadalupe -- the patron saint of Mexico -- traveled
to the Big Apple. She arrived on 51st Street, and crossed
Fifth Avenue to enter St. Patricks Cathedral along with hundreds
"I have the great honor of carrying the
torch, with a message from thousands of Latino immigrants who are
hoping and waiting for amnesty," said German Silva, winner
of the New York Marathon in 1994 and 1995. Silva was chosen to walk
the last leg of the march, which was initiated 45 days earlier in
the Mexican capital.
Thousands of Mexicans left their homes in the
early morning to arrive at the church, including Georgina Baez,
who walked from Queens. She commemorated the date that the Virgin
of Guadalupe appeared in 1531 to the Indian Juan Diego above the
Tepeyac hill. With emotion, Baez said that "the virgin gave
me an incredible miracle in 1985 and she saved me."
Vying for a place as close as possible to the
virgin, thousands shouted, "Yes, we can!" while others
asked, "Step aside so that the virgin can pass by!." There
was no cold, nor fatigue. Various mariachi bands played, along with
the indigenous band "Los Ticuanes," and many danced, wearing
typical ponchos and bearing the Mexican flag. Phrases like "Long
live the virgin!" and "Long live the Mexican race!"
filled the air.
"Our virgin means everything to me and
I have come here to sing "Las Mañanitas" to her,"
said Alejandra Vidal, 34 years old. Like dozens of Mexicans, the
Brooklynite carried a small icon, blessed at the end of the service
by the Bishop Josu Oriondo.
The special date was celebrated by Rocio Fernandez,
from the Bronx. She got little sleep, staying up late cooking traditional
dishes like tamales, mole and bread, but arrived early at the cathedral
with her family. "I will ask the virgin to protect us and help
us to get an amnesty or at least a work permit." This request
was common among everyone present.
Others called for equal treatment with justice,
jobs, and better salaries, a message supported by the church.
"The Virgin and Juan Diego tried to cross
the border without papers and they succeeded," said Joel Magallan
of the Asociación Tepeyac, the organizer of the march. "Besides
commemorating our patron saint, our objective was to call international
attention to end injustice towards undocumented immigrants."
According to the Mexican consulate general in
New York, Salvador Beltrán del Rio, it was an emotional event.
He said that he is hoping for a triumph in the fight for amnesty,
and that the fight has the support of the president.
The Mexican communitys arrival at the
New York cathedral, besides demonstrating the power of the third
biggest Latino group in the city, had another significance: the
groups tacit acceptance into New York society.
The Mexican presence enriches New Yorks
Latino community, said Willie Colón, representing Mayor Bloomberg.
"They are brothers who work hard, they are here and no one
can change that," said the Puerto Rican musician and politician,
who aids the mayor in Latino affairs.
The Bishop Oriondo said that the "power
of Guadalupe will bring us sooner or later the amnesty so that all
Latin Americans can walk freely throughout North America. I admire
you for your struggles against injustice. The church is by your
side, people of Mexico."
Translated from Spanish by Jonathan Charnay
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