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.

Meaning of Cuaresma in Christian Latin American Countries

Cuaresma in Christian Latin American countries has a somber meaning and it takes on special significance to all who practice it.  First of all, it follows the period of Carnaval in some countries, the celebration period before Cuaresma.

You have probably heard of the raucous celebrations of Carnaval that countries like Brazil have become known for but Cuaresma is something much different.

The meaning of Cuaresma in Christian Latin American countries from a religious standpoint reflects the 40 days and 40 nights that Jesus spent in the wilderness.  The observation begins on Ash Wednesday.

During cuaresma, one is supposed to reflect on his or her spiritual life-taking time to forgive those who have wronged them, repent for transgressions against their Lord and their fellow man and make sacrifices in the manner of Christ.


It is a common practice in Latin American countries to give something up during the 40 day period of Cuaresma.

In Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela for example, the common practice is to abstain from eating meat on Fridays. This has become an important tradition because certain foods have become associated with such acts of abstinence.  Since we don’t eat meat on Friday’s during Cuaresma, we eat seafood like fish and shrimp.

It is hard to separate food from a tradition (even a religious one) in Latino culture so there are even more types of foods that are commonly prepared during Cuaresma.

In Mexico special foods for Cuaresma like Empanadas de vigilia which are a pastry stuffed with seafood and vegetables are also a staple of the Cuaresma period.  Capirotada, a bread pudding desert and its ingredients are made to represent Christ’s crucifixion on a cross.

Meaning of Cuaresma in Christian Latin American Countries

Meaning of Cuaresma in Christian Latin American Countries

Activities for Cuaresma in Christian Latin American Countries

If you are in a Latin American country during Cuaresma you may see people walking around with a black cross smeared onto their foreheads, also common amongst Catholics in the United Staes.  This is an act of humility and a time-honored tradition on Ash Wednesday which begins lent in Hispanic countries.

Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday) lands on the fifth Sunday of the Cuaresma period and in many Latin American countries, a procession is held to mirror Christ’s arrival in Jerusalem atop a donkey. These parades feature life-sized statues of Christ and actual palm leaves.

The Holy Week which begins on Palm Sunday is known in Latin American countries as Semana Santa.  During Santa Semana, the last days of Jesus are represented in gigantic floats that are paraded through South American towns and cities on the backs of men who consider this an honor.

Pascua is the final day of the holy week and is cause for great celebrations.  In some countries the streets are adorned with colorful rugs called alfombras like in Holy Week in Guatemala, Mexico and Brazil.

Cuaresma Here, Today

The meaning of Cuaresma in Christian Latin American countries definitely takes on a more traditional role than it does here in the states but the spirit is the same.

While we may not have parades and vivid processions, those who celebrate lent state side sacrifice something that is near and dear to them for 40 days and many Christians and Catholics bear the mark of the ashen cross on their foreheads. In this way, Cuaresma transcends spiritual meaning while not divorcing itself from religion and it comes to mean something very personal for each individual who observes it.

Hispanics and The Virgin Mary – Our Great Devotion

Have you ever wondered about the strong connection that Hispanics and the Virgin Mary have? Going beyond simple Catholic faith, Our Lady and Latinos have a special bond.

Perhaps the most important reason that Latinos are so devoted to the Virgin Mary is due to specific apparitions that she has made in Latin America.

Many devotees attribute miracles and other interventions to the Virgin they revere, they have a direct, powerful connection to the Virgin.

Beyond personal miracles, another common theme that joins Latinos and the Virgin Mary is the protection of the poor and the marginalized, a group which unfortunately has historically encompassed many throughout the continent.

Hispanics and The Virgin Mary: Apparitions

Your opinion about the accuracy of the appearances of Mary depends much on your personal belief. Catholics in Latin America feel that they are the truly the representation of the Virgin Mary.

Although the Catholic church does not officially recognize every reported apparition of the Virgin, those it recognizes are considered to be authentic expressions of divine intervention.

The instances remind believers of some aspect of the Christian message. These apparitions are evidence of the Virgin’s continuing presence and intervention in the life of the Church in Hispanic religion.

Importance of La Virgen in History

An altar to la Virgen de Guadalupe.

An altar to la Virgen de Guadalupe.

Apparitions of the Virgin Mary can inspire such devotion that, in fact, they change history. The biggest example in Latin America is the Virgen de Guadalupe. When Juan Diego reported this vision in 1531, the church leaders in Rome didn’t pay much attention.

However, devotion to the Virgen added some eight million new Catholics in Latin America in only six years, at a time that Catholicism in Europe faced great challenges.

The Virgen de Guadalupe continues to have a major impact on Latin Catholicism. The basilica dedicated to her is the most significant for Hispanics and the Virgin Mary, and is actually the third largest Catholic church in the world.

There are others, however, who consider apparitions an example of religious syncretism, or the combining of contradictory schools of thought into one system of belief.

Apparitions of the Virgin in Latin America

While Latin American Catholics tended to be Marian (devotees of Mary) no matter which country they are from, there is a unique cultural and national aspect to that devotion: most Latinos venerate “their” Virgen.

Even the Virgen de Guadalupe, the Patroness of the Americas, is for the most part venerated primarily by Mexicans.

Many countries or regions have been blessed by the apparition of the Virgin Mary: in Costa Rica, the Virgen de Los Ángeles (also called La Negrita); in Venezuela, Nuestra Señora de Coromoto; in Paraguay, the Virgen de Caacupé; in Argentina, Nuestra Señora del Rosario de San Nicolás; and in Colombia, Nuestra Señora del Rosario de Chiquinquirá.

These Virgins are the source of much devotion, often inspiring pilgrimages which draw thousands of people. In many cases, they are the patron saints of the country where they appeared.

Not surprisingly, the bond between Hispanics and the Virgin Mary continues in Latinos in the United States. Visiting a primarily Latin area, you are likely to see numerous images venerating the Virgin.

Which Virgen do you venerate? Tell us about it in the comments!

3 Things that Define a Compadre

If you look up the word “compadre” in the dictionary, you will find two definitions which may seem at odds with each other: a close friend, and the godfather of someone’s child. Sounds confusing? If you know a bit about Hispanic culture, these two definitions make perfect sense.

Since the majority of people in Latin America are Catholic (at least culturally, if not religiously), certain aspects of this Hispanic religion have become such a part of the culture that they transcend the religious context. One of these is the concept of compadrazgo (“co-parenthood”), or the relationship between a parent and the godparents of his or her child.

Compadre: A Commitment for Life

A baptism creates one of the greatest bonds in Hispanic culture, that of compadres.

A baptism creates one of the greatest bonds in Hispanic culture, that of compadres.

For a Catholic family, choosing a godfather (padrino) and godmother (madrino) for their child’s baptism is a very big deal.

The compadrazgo is more than just standing in front of the church on the day of the ceremony, it is a commitment for the life of the child and of the parents.

The words “compadre” (co-father, or the godfather of my child) and “comadre” (co-mother, or the godmother of my child) literally reflect the intention of godparents to assist in raising the child and, should something happen to the parents, to take responsibility for him or her.

Compadres and comadres also are taking on the responsibility of making sure that the child is raised Catholic.

Being a compadre is an honor that is only bestowed on someone that the parents trust, respect, and want to have as part of their lives. This generally means that this person is a close friend; if not, it means that they will become so.

Perhaps most interestingly for a non-Catholic is the fact that at the time of baptism you form two sets of relationships: one between the child and the godparents (padrinos), and one between the two sets of parents (compadres).

This close relationship has since been reflected in the use of compadre to refer to a good friend. You can even use it to refer to the intense friendships that arise between soldiers during war. Eventually, it also has come to be used as a general term for friend, especially amongst Hispanics in the United States.

What Defines a Compadre?

Strong relationship
The compadrazgo is considered one of the closest and most significant bonds in Hispanic culture. In fact, some suggest that the relationship between the parents and godparents is even stronger than that of the godparents and their godchild.

Keep in contact with each other
The word comadrear (from comadre) means “to gossip,” likely due to the godmother and the child’s mother having a close relationship and tending to be in close contact.

Not only Latin comadres had this strong relationship: the word “gossip,” in fact, comes from “god-sib” (as in, god-sibling) and is a 12th century holdover from Catholic England.

Treat each other with respect
In certain parts of Latin America, compadres even switch from the informal “tú” form to the formal “usted” form, as a sign of respect after the ritual of baptism.

So if a Hispanic friend asks you to be a compadre or comadre, take it as both a big compliment and a big commitment.

Does your family have friends with a relationship like compadres? Let us know in the comments!

Mexican Retablos and Catholic Faith

One of the most well-known types of Mexican folk art is also one of those most fraught with religious, social, and emotional meaning. I’m talking about Mexican retablos, those small, rectangular paintings of religious scenes that are associated with the country’s expression of the Catholic faith.

History of Mexican Retablos

In Spain, a retablo was used to describe the set of religious images that decorated the back of the altar in a church, as well as of the chapels in a cathedral. Hence the name retablo (from the Latin retro tabula, or “behind the altar”). These images were used not only as a religious tool, but also an educational one, as they told the stories of holy persons.

Brought to the New World by the Catholic priests, this important element of Hispanic culture took on a similar but different meaning in Mexico.

Retablos and Ex-Votos

A typical example of a Mexican retablo.

A typical example of a Mexican retablo.

Do you know there are two kinds of Mexican retablos?

A retablo is the painted image of a saint and other holy figure such as Jesus and Mary. We use them for prayer and they play an important role in home altars. These were often reproductions of previous works, for example, religious art in a local church.

The other, perhaps more well-known kind of retablo is the retablo ex-voto or simply ex-voto.

Ex-voto paintings, meaning “from a vow,” generally reference a life-threatening event in the life of a person who has since been cured or saved from the situation. They are painted as a way of thanking the saint or other holy figure to whom the person and his or her family prayed for help.

A Mexican ex-voto has three main parts: the situation, the holy figure who intervened, and a brief written section thanking the holy figure for his or her assistance.

While common occurrences include illnesses or other deadly situations, more modern ex-votos have even been created as thanks for helping individuals cross the border to the United States or for obtaining a passport.

The Unique Style of Mexican Retablos

Given that many of these images in Mexico are painted on tin plates, these expressions of Hispanic religion are also called santos sobre hoja de lata (“saints on tin plates”) or láminas (“plates”).

The use of tin became popular in the 19th century as it was easy to obtain and not expensive. This accessibility led to an increase in retablos for the home during this time, considered the pinnacle of the art form.

One of the most interesting artistic aspects of Mexican retablos is the variation between them. As religious yet naïve art, people who weren’t trained artists but rather were strong Catholics painted them. As such, they have a folk art quality which has made them popular among art collectors.

For example, after the Mexican Revolution, artists looking to reclaim the Mexican heritage turned to retablos for their representation of Mexican home and religious life.

Frida Kahlo was a dedicated collector of retablos ex-voto and used their imagery in her own art as a reference to her Mexican heritage.

Other countries in Latin America have their own versions of retablos as the colonizers brought from Europe their different Catholic traditions. For example, in the highlands of Peru and Bolivia, the Andean people create portable boxes, also called retablos, depicting important events in their lives.

Mexican-style retablos are also traditional in Chicano communities in New Mexico, where they date from the eighteenth century.

Do you own a Mexican retablo? Tell us about it in the comments!

The Symbols of Catholic Lent

The Spanish and Portuguese may have brought Catholicism to the New World, but once it was here we made it our own!

Today’s Latino brand of Catholicism seems more colorful and more experiential than your average Anglo Catholic parish, even in the Catholic Lent season of penance, prayer, and abstinence. Catholic Latino Lent erupts out of the church and into the streets with processions and reenactments put on by community members, especially during Holy Week at the end of Lent.

What is the Meaning of Lent?

For Catholics, Lent consist of a 40-day period starting with Ash Wednesday and extending to Holy Thursday (the Thursday before Easter).

The meaning of Lent has many facets, but the most important and traditional purpose of Lent involves preparing oneself spiritually to commemorate the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ through prayer, penance, repentance, charitable giving, and self-denial.

Hispanic Latino Lent

Hispanic Latino Lent

In an account written for, a Latino nun from El Paso, Texas explained that she sees particular value in the Latino approach to Lent, which does not shy away at all from death and suffering.   She recalled her community’s struggle to reinstitute a tradition of carrying a four-foot tall bloody statue of Christ in a processional at the end of Lent, which an Anglo priest had banned as “childish” or “undignified.”

Far from being childish, this processional and other devotionals of the Lenten season allow Latinos to identify with the suffering of Jesus and see what the nun calls “the redemptive value of suffering in our own struggles.”

What Are The Symbols of Lent?

Purple: The purple color shows up everywhere during Lent, symbolizing Jesus’ suffering as well as his royal status as the son of God.

40 Days: The number 40 has great Biblical and spiritual significance. The 40-day period of Catholic Lent symbolically recreates the 40 days and nights that Jesus spent fasting and enduring temptation in the desert, preparing himself to begin the work of spreading the word of God. It also has a parallel with the roughly 40 hours Jesus spent in the tomb before his resurrection.

Ashes: Ashes symbolize our mortality and our humility before God.

Traditionally the parish priest applies ashes made from the blessed palm fronds of last year’s Palm Sunday to each parishioner’s forehead in the shape of the cross. This sacramental act takes place on Ash Wednesday and marks the beginning of Lent.

Fasting & Giving: These symbolic practices remind us of the sacrifices and great gifts given to us by God and Jesus Christ and form a core part of the devotionals of Lent for children and adults alike.


How Latinos Celebrate Lent

Celebrating Lent involves much more than just going to special church services, though of course we do this. In addition to taking part in community celebrations and rituals, we also celebrate privately through prayer and self-reflection at home.

Many Latino Catholics study the Stations of the Cross at home or try to give up sinful beliefs and attitudes as well as a food or activity as part of their fast.

If you are celebrating Lent for children, start small with the fasting and giving, so that they can participate without being overwhelmed or discouraged by the challenge.

Also, consider reading the Bible stories about Jesus to them from a modern translation they can easily understand.

Virgin de Guadalupe

Virgin de Guadalupe
Or Our Lady of Guadalupe

The Virgin de Guadalupe, as many English speaking people refer to, is the most dearly loved Catholic religious icon amongst Mexicans. Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe as we call her in Spanish is also the most recognized social, cultural and political icon amongst Mexicans and Mexican-Americans.

How it all Started

The Latino history and Culture book published by HarperCollins on 2007 tells that on December 12, 1531, (the Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company cites Saturday December 9 as the first day) the Virgin de Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego, an indigenous peasant, in Mount Tepeyac near today’s Mexico City.

Guadalupe our Lady, instructed the peasant to go directly to Juan de Zumárraga the bishop of Mexico City at the time to request the building of a church in her honor.

The Virgin of Guadalupe promised to support the Mexican people in their tribulations. As you may imagine the bishop did not pay attention to Juan Diego, furthermore he asked for a sign.

She appeared a second time to Juan Diego after hearing of his rejection. She asked him to cut some roses from a nearby bush which did not bloom at that time of the year to bring to the bishop in his cloak. When Zumárraga opened the cloak which is a wrapper used by Mexican Indians, the image of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe appeared.

Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe Picture by SChizoform

Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe
Picture by SChizoform

Today the Basilica de Guadalupe stands where the virgin asked Juan Diego to build the church in her name.

There are two churches at the top of Mount Tepeyac, the new Basilica contains the original cloak of Juan Diego that shows the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Every year on December 12th several million people visit this site in pilgrimage.

The most beautiful aspect of the Virgin de Guadalupe is that she is mestiza which is a person of mixed European and Indian ancestry. Other names that reflect her race are: La Criolla and La Morena, which means the browned skinned.

How the Virgin de Guadalupe Became a Nationalistic Figure

Showing the Love for the Virgin de Guadalupe Picture by Corazón Girl

Showing the Love for the Virgin de Guadalupe
Picture by Corazón Girl

Mexicans refer to her as one of their own or Guadalupe Our Lady. La Virgen Ranchera, as she is also called, started to become a nationalist figure since the war of independence against Spain in 1810. The leader of the revolution, father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, marched with a banner of the virgin of Guadalupe after ringing the bell of freedom.

Today in the U.S. you can see many displays of the fervor and love to the Virgin of Guadalupe when you encounter her image plastered on mostly Mexican neighborhoods.

The virgin of Guadalupe is also a very popular figure on marches, parades and commemorative events like the anniversary of César Chávez, and Mexican Independence Day on September 16th.

Mexicans adore this virgin and use her image in a social and nationalistic way creating what is called the Guadalupanismo.

Some of the most revolutionary political figures like Pancho Villa, and César Chávez used her image in their campaigns. During labor strikes Chávez used the virgin’s image alongside the UFW -United Farm Workers of America flag.

There is no doubt that the Virgin de Guadalupe, La Guadalupana, La virgin de Tepeyac and La Pastora as she is also lovingly called, is one of the most important symbols of Hispanic religion for Mexicans, who continue to revere and use stamps, images and statues of Our Lady of Guadalupe to profess their faith.

Virgin de Guadalupe Medal and Rosary

One of the most beloved medals is the one of the Guadalupana. Many Mexicans wear gold medals depicting their favorite virgin. Medals of virgins overall are very popular amongst Latin American women and even some men who wear them in their wrists.

Lady of Guadalupe on Other Articles

I chose these pieces because they are hand made by artisans from Latin America. These are true pieces made in Mexico by Hispanics who know the trade and pass the tradition of making these pieces from one generation to another.

St Jude Pendants and Images

The Meaning of the Flame and Club

Just the other day looking at several St Jude pendants and his image in the St. Jude novena, I had a chance to carefully observe the details that make St. Jude so recognized.

I did this because one of my readers Jo Ann Muetterties wrote to literally ask me: “Please tell me what the significance is of the “flame” over St. Jude’s head. I can’t find any reference to it. I know the “club” in his hands is because he is said to have been beaten to death.”

I went immediately to my novena, which has an image of St. Jude, and carefully analyzed it. Yes, St. Jude has a club in his hands and a flame in his head. He also appears in many others with a palm branch, an axe or a scroll or book in the other hand.

The club, axe and palm branch represent his martyrdom. One can only imagine how terrible was his suffering when he was beaten by a crowd about 65AD in Beirut, in the town of Lebanon along with the apostle Simon.

The book or scroll are simply his epistle. Other images show the apostle carrying an image of Jesus symbolizing his relationship with him. Many sources say they were cousins while others refer to them as being blood relatives.

The flame on his head depicts his receiving of the Holy Spirit or Pentecost. The Holy Spirit came to the apostles “en lenguas de fuego” over their heads giving them the strength, knowledge and wisdom to teach the Christian faith.

If you have a chance, visit St. Peter’s Church in Rome where the remains of both apostles are. St. Jude’s remains are in the south transept of the basilica. There are 3 altars, and underneath the main altar dedicated to St. Joseph lie the remains of St. Jude Thaddeus. It is an experience you can never forget.

St. Jude Pendants

The images of St. Jude in pendants vary and mostly show his face or a full size image carrying a club and a book on the other hand.  It is pretty common amongst Christians, not only Roman Catholic, to wear a St. Jude pendant either because the person loves this saint or simply because he is the recipient of a St. Jude’s miracle.

For many people who pray to St Jude it is customary to have several St Jude pendants. I, for example own two.  My parents gave me one and the other I purchased it a while ago. One is silver and the other one is gold.

If you are interested in praying the St. Jude Novena make sure you read my article about it.