Cuauhtlatoahtzin's Excellent Adventure: Happy Birthday, Virgencita!

  1. It was just an ordinary day when an ordinary man named Cuauhtlatoahtzin happened to be going about his ordinary business, but in a very extraordinary place. It was the site where for many years had stood the Temple of Tonantzin, until the Spanish invaders destroyed it. And it was there that Cuauhtlatoahtzin's Excellent and Most Extraordinary Adventure began...

    Last night, millions of people around the world gathered to celebrate the birthday of the Virgen de Guadalupe, who appeared, say the faithful, to Cuauhtlatoahtzin that day, in that extraordinary spot where not stands the Basilica of that Virgen, patroness of the Americas, Madre del Mundo, luz de todos los caminos.****

    Now before you decide that this is about religion and click out, lift that mousefinger because it's not.

    It's about history, and the present, and the future. Your future. It's about the rather delicious irony of what is generally referred to as a conquest, about a culture that you may share, or know nothing about, or be really alarmed by.

    It's about anthropology, and sociology, and millions of people all over the world, especially in the Americas, and most especially in Mexico, and most especially especially at the Basilica de la Virgen de Guadalupe, and maybe somewhere in your town, you noticed that traffic got really heavy last night around 11, around exit something or other, and you couldn't for the life of you figure out why.

    And maybe it's about how last night you and your family went to Mass, even if you never do, not even on Christmas, not even on Easter, but you damn well did last night.

    Or you got together and made tamales or ordered pizza and watched Univision together, watched Maria Victoria, and joked to each other that she went to school with Cuauhtlatoahtzin's grandmother, and Oh! It's Enriqueta, Jose Alfredo's widow! She must have changed surgeons, she looks fabulous! And is there another voice on earth like that of El Buki, you know the Monsignor of the Basilica is from Michoacan, too! Tarasco just like you, or maybe your brother in law -

    Or maybe you don't have a clue what the hell I am talking about, why millions of people all over the world will stop what they are doing to honor - what, exactly? an ancient goddess?

    Or one of the 17 squillion different respresentations of a little Jewish girl who turned up pregnant one day, when she wasn't, at least theoretically, supposed to be?

    Or that very "demographic shift" some of you may find so alarming, at least until those cute beige grandchildren call you "Abuelita" for the first time, and someone tells you what it means, and there is something in your eye and you wipe it on the baby.

    Honoring what, exactly?

    Maybe channel surfing, you caught a little bit of it, on one of what you call "the Spanish stations," and wondered what in the world Aztec dancers were doing up at the altar of a Catholic church in San Antonio.

    Or maybe you were there, with your family, watching the whole thing, hey no commercials this year! All those cities! When will they have our town, there must have been 2000 cars around St Felipe's tonight, parked all over peoples' yards, they finally had to just block off the street.

    Honoring what, exactly?

    Oprime 1 para ingles

    Huh?

    No, it's not about religion.

    Or maybe you were there, with your family, singing the mananitas to the Virgen, the Happy Birthday song, the morning songs that King David sang.

    Maybe last week you helped carry a statue of Her through the streets to the neighbor's house, the neighbor who had sent out for 400 tamales, made gallons of chocolate in the good old way, with chile and spices, maybe you huddled together in that living room, of your neighbor, your sister, and said the Rosary, a little medal of San Juan Diego, the first indigenous person of the Americas to be made a saint, albeit some five centuries post-Adventure, and you know his real name. Cuauhtlatoahtzin.

    Because it is so not about religion.

    Yes, every September 16th, at midnight, if you're channel surfing, you'll run into something called El Grito, who knows? you say.

    Or maybe you're there, with your family, watching it on Univision. Everybody, even the littlest kids who can barely say "Mami," they can yell "Viva La Virgen de Guadalupe" just fine.

    But it is at midnight on December 12 that the real Grito is heard.

    There are 13 people in one of the eyes of the Tilma, the image of herself that, say the faithful, Tonantzin - oops, I mean the Virgen de Guadalupe - left imprinted on Cuauhtlatoahtzin's humble cloak. There in the place of the ancient temple, where today stands that grandest of all Basilicas in all its glory.

    What's that around her head? Corn husks? Or rays of celestial light? You decide.

    Just know this: It's not about religion.

    Who are those 13 people? Well, one thing is for sure. If you look at the image of the Virgen Morena, (the Brunette Virgin) ;) she is winking at you. And if you still don't know what the hell I am talking about, millions of people all over the world are also winking at you, and each other.

    This is the real Grito de un Pueblo***.

    From the time before even obsidian tools, when those ancient Asians crossed the Bering Straits, they say, and kept going south, who did they find? Asian hair does not have this fun and exciting horse mane texture feature, so we know they found somebody, and we don't even want to imagine their hair situation.

    In remote areas of northern Asia today, when a baby gets the hiccups, it's mother, or whoever's around, makes a red mark on its forehead, and the hiccups stop.

    And even in not-so-remote areas of the Americas today, from little mountain villages in Michoacan to Atlanta to Chicago, when a baby gets the hiccups, it's mother, or whoever's around, makes a red mark on its forehead, and the hiccups stop.

    Because it's not about religion. It's about the days before obsidian tools, and your grandchildren with obsidian eyes. Winking at you, Abuelita.

    Over half a millennium ago, an ordinary man named Cuauhtlatoahtzin could have told you it would be so.

    Happy Birthday, Tonantzin!


    **** Mother of the World, light of all roads


    ***Cry of a People

    **This semi-coherent rant is dedicated to my brothers and sisters all over the world, in whose veins runs the blood of indigenous people of wherever, and who more than likely share with me a pair of twinkling obsidian eyes.