Community celebrates Our Lady of Guadalupe |

Community celebrates Our Lady of Guadalupe

by Jo Rafferty

Brightly colored traditional Hispanic costumes adorned the Aztec dancers in the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe Saturday night at St. Gall Catholic Church.

More than 1,000 people attended the feast that commemorates the day that the image of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, appeared on the tilma, or apron, of Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin in 1531.

This is the second year that the Gardnerville church has featured dancers and a mariachi band, which is reminiscent to the way the people of Mexico live their daily lives, according to the Rev. Elberto Melendez, the vicar at St. Gall for the last two years.

“In Latino America, indigenous people follow their traditions and at the same time they worship God and follow His rules,” said Melendez, who came to Nevada from Colombia eight years ago. “Here we try to do something that we involve the traditions.”

The story of Our Lady of Guadalupe starts when on Dec. 9, 1531, Mary appeared to Cuauhtlatoatzin on a hill of what is now Mexico City, requesting a church to be built on the site, and he submitted her wish to the local bishop. When the bishop asked for a sign, Mary sent Cuauhtlatoatzin to the top of the hill in mid-December to gather roses for the bishop. On Dec. 12, he opened his tilma for the bishop and the roses fell, revealing the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The apron, made only of coarse, thin cloth, is still amazingly in good condition and hangs framed in the Basîlica of Guadalupe in Mexico City.

In Mexico, there are fiestas all over the country on Dec. 12 in honor of Mexico’s patron saint, the Virgin Mary. The people of Mexico bow to the shrine, asking for help and thanking Her for prayers that have been answered. Many bring gifts of art. The gatherings begin the night before with music and dancing and by morning’s first light the burst of firecrackers can be heard everywhere.

“Our Lady of Guadalupe is meaningful, especially for people who are very devoted to Mother Mary,” said Melendez. “Especially for the people of Mexico. It’s a great event for them.”

He said Catholics of any ethnic group join in the celebrations.

“We have different cultures, but we are the same people,” said Melendez. “Here, now in certain parts of the United States, the Catholics have many people. We invite the Anglo community. It was an event for the community, not just for the Hispanic community.”

Although Dec. 12 is the traditional feast day, St. Gall chose to have its celebration on Saturday. About 700 people ate dinner after the bilingual Mass, with more than 1,000 at the event itself.

“In order to invite everybody, we have to look for the special day,” said Melendez, “on the day they are not working. Plus, the children can sleep late the next day.”

On Tuesday, the Mañanitas ceremony took place at 6 a.m.

n Jo Rafferty can be reached at or 782-5121, ext. 210.