Our Lady Of Zapopan
Country : Mexico
Year : 1541
October 12 may mean Columbus Day to the average American but to the good citizens of Mexico, October 12 is a day the “Traveling Lady of Zapopan” comes “home” to spend the fall and winter months in her own stately basilica.
South of the border, this crisp fall day is actually “The Day of the Race”, an important national holiday since it marks for these people the new flood of human blood which rose in New Spain as one of the conquest, Mexico became predominantly populated by “mestizos” or Spanish-Indians. To foretell the physical characteristics of the mestizo came the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1531, when the portrait of the Blessed Virgin as a Spanish Indian woman appeared on the tilma of Juan Diego.
Guadalajara, capital and jewel of the state of Jalisco, celebrates “The Day of the Race” by rendering ecstatic homage to “The Little Virgin” as Our Lady of Zapopan. She is Spanish in origin but completely Mexican in the tradition of more than four hundred years that surround her cult. Brought to Zapopan by Father Antonio de Segovia in 1541, the “Little Virgin”, less than fourteen inches high, found herself in the heart of a territory, then called New Galicia, still groaning under the barbarous conquest of Nune de Guzman. The precious statue, which the warm heart of the Mexican personifies, was the instrument by which Heaven vouchsafed to turn the fears and animosities of the natives into a confidence and love which enabled the zealous Franciscan to gather then into the fold of the Good Shepherd. The story is told that, as he preached, the little statue of Our Lady which he always carried with him, emitted rays of light. The miraculous radiance seemed to penetrate the souls of the Indians and convert them into vessels ready for the waters of grace.
“The Little Virgin” was at once installed in a place of honor at the Zapopan Church of the Franciscans which was replaced by the present stately basilica. If the “Day of the Race” is one of jubilation in Guadalajara, it is more than that in Zapopan, for on that day their cherished Lady comes home! For four months she has been in Guadalajara, where she has traveled from parish to parish, amid memorable scenes of piety and rejoicing. Zapopan’s history notes the fact that when its beloved queen started on her first trip to the neighboring city in 1734, the townfolk witnessed her departure with consternation, fearing that the proud “Sultana of the West”, as the Jaliscan capital has been called, would hold her captive.
But the Franciscans who had a friary at Zapopan since the sixteenth century, have kept faith with their parishioners, and each year the great lady has been brought home in triumph.