Feast of the Immaculate Conception

The feast of the Immaculate Conception is a holy day in the Catholic Church that is celebrated every year on December 8th.  It is a day that shows just how important a figure the Virgin Mary is to Latinos and Catholics all over the world.  You may be thinking right off the bat that the feast of the Immaculate Conception is the day that Mary was impregnated with Christ but that is a popular mistake that people make.  In fact the feast of the Immaculate Conception celebrates Mary’s own birth.

Feast of the Immaculate Conception – Reasoning

It seemed incumbent for the Catholic Church to stress the special way not only that Christ was born, but also the unique and holy way that his mother was born as well.  In 1854 Pope Pius IX made it dogma the concept of Mary’s birth: she was not born of a virgin birth but at her conception, she was absolved of the original sin that tarnished every human being upon conception.

This was necessary if she was to ultimately become the virgin mother of the messiah.  This exception not only made her conception holy, but her entire life as well because it was also accepted as Dogma that Mary never sinned a day in her life and was kept consecrated so that she could give the purest of births to Christ.

This is another reason why Mary is prayed to and seen as such an important figure in the Catholic Church. She is the only human being to have never committed one transgression against God.

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Immaculate Conception Day

Now that we have a bit of background on the feast of the Immaculate Conception let’s talk about how it is celebrated and why it is important in the Latin community.  Immaculate Conception day has actually been made a public holiday in many Latin countries. However, no matter what country you are in, if you are of the Catholic faith the feast of the Immaculate Conception is a day of obligation.  This means that mass must be attended.  The mass is the focal point of the celebration.

It is celebrated in different ways all over the world.  For example, one tradition of the holiday is The Dance of the Six which is essentially a procession of children dressed in especially bejeweled garments carry a likeness of Mary over their heads through the streets.

In Nicaragua, the day resembles what we Americans would see as a combination of 2 big holidays in our country.  They set up alters in front of their homes and neighbors come by and sing songs and to exchange gifts.  Kind of sounds like carolers on Christmas right?  When the evening falls, firecrackers are lit in the streets.  Sort of sounds like Independence Day doesn’t it?

At any rate, no matter where you are or how you celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception, there is a very strong, spiritual unifying theme that is present.  At its heart the feast of the Immaculate Conception is a day to focus on one’s own spirituality and relationship with god.  This is why it is so important in Latino culture.

We are meant to draw closer to god by drawing closer to our family and focusing on being more like Mary and Christ.  For more information about the traditions of this holiday check out Little Candles Day in Colombia.

Virgin of Guadalupe Tattoos

Virgin of Guadalupe tattoos?  That, I thought was the last thing that would ever remind me of the beautiful Mexican culture.  I was wrong!

If you are at all engaged in Mexican culture then you may have come across an image of a woman standing on a crescent moon, light beaming from her body and looking very grave yet chaste.  You may have even seen this image as a tattoo.  This is the Virgin of Guadalupe and she is essentially the Mexican incarnation of the Blessed Virgin Mary who gave birth to Christ.

The Story of The Virgin of Guadalupe

The legend of The Virgin Guadalupe, is one that holds a very special place in Mexican culture.  The story asserts that the Virgin appeared to Juan Diego an indigenous peasant.  She commissioned the man to build a church but had one very strange request: that he first gather some roses.  The story took place in winter so the man was confused.  He didn’t know where he would find roses growing in the frozen landscape.  Still, he took the request on faith and sure enough, he found pristine roses growing from a frozen hill.

The man was amazed and took the roses to a priest who declared it a miracle but there was a further miracle: the roses had left a holy imprint of the virgin in the man’s poncho which he used to carry the roses. bThat image would become the design for all tattoos of The Virgin of Guadalupe.

Virgin of Guadalupe Tattoos

Surprisingly there has not been much variation as far as the designs of the Virgin of Guadalupe tattoos.  Guadalupe tattoos will almost always be about the same shape; that of a standing woman.  She will almost always be depicted in the same manner; her hands held together in prayer while she casts a glance soberly downward.  She will also always have the same sacred light radiating from her body.

Virgin of Guadalupe Tattoos

Virgin of Guadalupe Tattoos

In fact the only common variation of the Virgin of Guadalupe tattoos is the bordering.  Some opt to surround the virgin with a canopy of other Mexican patron saints.  Some choose to envelop their Guadalupe tattoos in the sacred roses from the legend.  Some people even set the Virgin of Guadalupe to a depiction of the Mexican landscape.

The Cultural Symbol

Tattoos are not the only pieces of art that bear the likeness of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The symbol has become extremely important in Mexican culture both as a religious figure and a cultural one.  It can be seen emblazoned on flags, in churches and even banners calling for political action.  The Virgin of Guadalupe has donned street art and graffiti as well.

The Virgin of Guadalupe represents hope, a reminder to be virtuous and even a feminine deity figure as many Mexicans pray to her in times of need.  Virgin Guadalupe tattoos have even become a popular design for gangsters who see acceptance in the forgiving eyes of the saint.  They emblazon her likeness onto her body as a reminder that she will forgive all and act as their advocate to the Holy Father.

Whether she is represented as a tattoo, embroidered onto a t-shirt or sculpted to life by an artist, the Virgin of Guadalupe is inevitably a tie to the Mexican culture.  It spans religion, culture and art to become one of the most potent and revered symbols in existence in the modern world.

Festival of the Virgin de la Candelaria en Bolivia

For Bolivian believers and worshipers around the world, the Virgen de la Candelaria Festival is one of the most important religious festivities they celebrate in Latin America.

Every February the 2nd and August the 5th, the so called “Patron Saint of Bolivia” gathers hundreds of believers in a spectacular festival of colors, tradition and culture.

The Festival of the Virgin de la Candelaria en Bolivia happens in the Copacabana peninsula by the shore of Lake Titicaca, one of the world’s largest lakes and former home of the Inca Tribe.

The music and traditional dancers invade the streets to commemorate the arrival of the Virgen to the city of Copacabana more than five hundred years ago and, even though the Virgen never leaves the Sanctuary, the believer’s and traveler’s faith invades the city with the spirit of celebration and joy.

What Is the Legend About?

Festival de La Virgen de La Candelaria en Bolivia

Festival de La Virgen de La Candelaria en Bolivia

According to legend, Francisco Tito Yupanqui was an amateur sculptor who wished with all his might to create an image worthy of veneration while reflecting on Mary’s beauty. The virgin after many prayers, granted Francisco the miracle of artistic grace. His ability which led him to create the image which we know today as the Virgen de la Candelaria or Señora de Copacabana.

Like many invocations of the Virgin, this one adapts to its location and inhabitants. It borrows their facial features and presents herself with the garb of an Inca princess, whose cult achieved the unity of the worship of the sun, earth and moon which the ancient Incas professed, into a new form of faith.

Every February the 2nd at this small village located 140 kms from the Bolivian capital, Inca folklore and Catholic faith blend in a wonderful celebration where travelers bring their offerings to the Virgen and the gods of the lake.

The magic happens every ocassion in this town regardless of the passage of time and conquest that since then, preserves its misticism and magical charm. The “Pacha Mama” or “Mother Earth” is now the Virgin Mary.

Since 1538, travelers from all around the world attend the Festival of the Virgin de la Candelaria en Bolivia yearly, and its devotion spread to Argentina, Perú, Colombia, Brazil, Spain and Venezuela where the devotees celebrate the Virgen and exhibit their culture and tradition in spite of being far away from their magical land.

When to Visit the Festival of the Virgin de la Candelaria en Bolivia

To visit Copacabana on February the 2nd or August the 5th is a unique experience for the traveler because the celebration is full of mysticism, tradition, ancient rituals and customs.

The town is going 500 years in time to celebrate with the Incas in their magical lake. This tradition means dancing to the rythm of ancient flutes and drums among colorful costumes and masks of gods and taking a journey alongside a whole village in the unattainable quest of the “Light” of the Candelaria. The virgin in return, year after year, guides the path taking them to safe harbor under her mantle of. It is in a few words, an unforgettable experience.