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Spend a Little Time with a Virgin

The Bottom Line The Virgin of Guadalupe isn't just a symbol of hope to Mexico's religious faithful, it's a symbol of national identity.

She is a symbol of hope to poor peasants who have nothing else but hope and she is a protector of people who have been oppressed by every government and army they've ever seen. The Virgin of Guadalupe is more than just a symbol and icon to millions of Mexican faithful, she is also a powerful saint and a revered part of daily life.

Everywhere in Mexico, symbols of the Lady of Guadalupe show up (often unexpectedly). Statues are placed in roadside shrines and decals adorn the back of buses and taxis. T-shirts bear her likeness, and candles with her image painted on the side are lit as desperate pleas for a miracle.

You might hike miles up a rugged backwoods trail to the top of a mountain in the Sierra Madres, and likely as not, you'll find a carefully tended shrine to the Virgin there with a hand lettered sign inviting all who pass to greet the lady and thank her for her providence.

The Virgin of Guadalupe is so important to the spirit of Mexico that it takes more than a week to adequately sing her praises, and in more than a few parts of Mexico, the feast of the Lady of Guadalupe draws bigger crowds than a Christmas or Easter mass. While the official holiday is December 12, parades and festivals start on the 6th and culminate on the 12th.

While the Virgin of Guadalupe is a symbol of hope and compassion for millions of Mexicans, she is far more than that. She is also a symbol of national pride and identity. She is the patron saint of a whole nation. One can never truly understand the Mexican psyche or its culture without first understanding the significance and power behind its most important religious icon -- so spend a little time with the Virgin.

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