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¡Viva la Fiesta! Mexican Traditions of Celebration: Mary and the Saints

Bancroft Gallery Exhibit Oct. 2017 - Feb. 2018

Mary and the Saints

Feast days in honor of Mary are predominant in Mexican calendars. From roadside shrines and local parishes to cathedrals and basilicas, there is a Marian celebration happening in Mexico at almost any time of the year. Solemn fiestas celebrate different stages in Mary’s life, like her Immaculate Conception (December 8), meaning that she, too, was conceived without sin; the Annunciation (March 25), when Mary learns she will become pregnant with Jesus; and, among others, her Assumption (August 15), when her body is raised to heaven at the end of her life on earth. Celebrations that recall the various advocations of Mary, such as Mother of Mercy and Our Lady of Solitude, coexist alongside those tied to a particular image or apparition, like Fatima (Portugal), Lourdes (France), and Guadalupe (Mexico). Our Lady of Guadalupe is but one of the many regional Marian devotions of Mexico.


As with Marian devotions, the cult of the saints arrived with the first missionaries to the New World. Although no saint garnered the cult following of the venerated images of Christ and Blessed Mary, the saints were nonetheless well incorporated into everyday popular devotions. People were baptized in their names, confraternities and guilds chose saints as their devotional guides, and towns adopted them as their patrons. Saint Joseph, the husband of the Virgin Mary and Jesus’s adoptive father, became the patron saint of Mexico City, Puebla, and Valladolid (now Morelia). Preachers offered sermons on his feast day (March 19) for the protections he bestowed on the cities, especially against lightning strikes. Felipe de Jesús, whose canonization (the last step in becoming a saint) did not occur until 1862, had a following among Franciscans because of his martyrdom in Nagasaki in 1597. As the first recognized Mexican-born martyr, he is often depicted with symbols of Mexico City, like the eagle and serpent.

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe is Mexico’s most important religious shrine. Her feast day (December 12) draw crowds from throughout the Americas. The veneration of her image at Tepeyac, north of Mexico City, is said to have begun in 1531, after she appeared to a recent convert named Juan Diego and asked him to deliver a message to the Bishop of Mexico. According to legend, she emblazoned her image on Juan Diego’s tilma, a cloak-like article of clothing made of a coarse fabric from the maguey plant. The cult of Our Lady of Guadalupe spread to other regions of New Spain (Mexico) after she was said to have helped Mexico City recover from a series of floods and pestilences. In 1755, she was proclaimed patron saint of New Spain and soon after, publications, leaflets, and other ephemera helped establish Our Lady of Guadalupe as one of the main representations of Mary in Mexico.

Sotomayor (BANC PIC 1987.001--D 3-55)

Antonio Sotomayor, [Mexican Church with Balloons], 1963

[Iglesia mexicana con globos]

BANC PIC 1987.001--D, 3:55


Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora

“Anotaciones críticas sobre el primer apóstol de Nueva España y sobre el imagen de Guadalupe,” [ca. 1699]

[Critical Annotations Regarding the First Apostle of New Spain and the Image of Guadalupe]


Cayetano de Cabrera y Quintero

Escudo de armas de Mexico. Celestial proteccion de esta nobilissima ciudad de la Nueva España [...] en su portentosa imagen del mexicano Guadalupe, 1746

[Coat of Arms of Mexico City: Celestial Protector of this Most Noble City of New Spain (...) through the Marvelous Image of the Mexican Guadalupe]


“Breue descripcion d[e] las fiestas de la confirmacion por su Santidad al Patronato de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe,” 1755

[Brief Description of the Feasts of the Confirmation of His Holiness’s Patronage of Our Lady of Guadalupe]


Mariano Antonio de la Vega

Sermon panegyrico, [...] con que se celebrò la Confirmacion del universal Patronato en la Nueva España, de Maria Santissima, señora nuestra, en su marabillosa imagen de Guadalupe de Mexico, 1757

[Laudatory Sermon [...] through which the Confirmation of the Universal Patronage in New Spain of Most Blessed Mary, Our Lady, in her Marvelous Image of Guadalupe of Mexico was Celebrated]

F1207.S42 v. 20:3

Andrés de la Santísima Trinidad

Sermon de nuestra madre y señora Maria Santissima de Guadalupe. La venerada, y glorificada en todas las naciones, por haverse aparecido en estos reynos, 1759

[Sermon to Our Mother and Lady Most Blessed Mary of Guadalupe: The Venerated and Glorified One in All the Nations, for Having Appeared in these Kingdoms]

F1207.S42 v. 19:7

Coleccion de obras y opusculos pertenecientes a la milagrosa aparicion de la bellisima imagen de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, 1785

[Collection of Works and Small Treatises Regarding the Miraculous Apparition of the Most Beautiful Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe]


Mariano González de Ávila y Uribe

“Poema comico historial. El indio mas venturoso, y milagro de milagros. La aparición de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe,” [undated]

[Comical Account in Verse: The Most Fortunate Indian and the Miracle of Miracles, the Apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe]


José Guadalupe Posada

Historia de las cuatro apariciones: Homenaje a la Virgen morena, Reina del cielo, Madre de los mexicanos, Santa María de Guadalupe, 1935

[History of the Four Apparitions: Homage to the Dark Virgin, Queen of Heaven, Mother of Mexicans, Blessed Mary of Guadalupe]

BANC PIC 2010.025--C, Oversize Folder 3:R-21


Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos and Our Lady of Zapopan

The state of Jalisco has two prominent shrines dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of Mary: Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos and Our Lady of Zapopan. Both statuettes, made in the neighboring state of Michoacan and introduced by missionaries in the sixteenth century, developed particular devotions through the miracles they are said to have performed. Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos, in the Altos de Jalisco region, is the one of the most visited Marian shrines, second only to Guadalupe. She is celebrated throughout the year, but the largest pilgrimage to her basilica occurs in the week leading up to the Feast of the Purification of Mary or Candlemas (February 2). Our Lady of Zapopan, patron saint of Guadalajara, is celebrated on October 12 with a major procession between the Guadalajara Cathedral and her basilica eight miles away.

Francisco de Florencia

Origen de los dos celebres santuarios de la Nueva Galicia, obispado de Guadalaxara, en la America septentrional, 1757

[Origins of the Two Celebrated Shrines of New Galicia, Bishopric of Guadalajara, in North America]

F1381.R5, No. 2

José Guadalupe Posada

A la Santisima Virgen de San Juan de los Lagos, 1903

To the Most Blessed Virgin of San Juan de los Lagos]

BANC PIC 2010.025--B, Box 6:R-6

Alberto Santoscoy

Historia de Nuestra Señora de San Juan de los Lagos y del culto de esta milagrosa imagen, 1906

[The History of Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos and the Cult of this Miraculous Image]


San Juan de los Lagos (BANC PIC 2010.025--ffALB HC-115)


José Guadalupe Posada, La feria de San Juan de los Lagos, 1910

[The Fair at San Juan de los Lagos]

BANC PIC 2010.025--ffALB, Box 3:HC-25

José Guadalupe Posada

Accion de gracias a la Santísima Virgen María de San Juan de los Lagos, [undated]

[Thanksgiving to the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of San Juan de los Lagos]

BANC PIC 2010.025--ffALB, Box 4:HC-115

Sebastián Verti

Nuestra Señora de Zapopan. Madre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo. Generala de la Nueva Galicia. Patrona de Guadalajara, 1997

[Our Lady of Zapopan: Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ, General of New Galicia, Patroness of Guadalajara]

pf BT660.Z3 V47 1997

Our Lady of Remedios

Our Lady of Remedios (Remedies), a twelfth-century advocation of Mary, was associated with the centuries-long effort to reconquer Spain from the Moors. According to legend, a statue in her image was brought over by one of Cortés’s soldiers and left near a maguey plant during a major defeat to the Spanish forces at the time of the conquest of Mexico-Tenochtitlan. A local man is said to have rediscovered the image near a maguey plant and took her to his home where she began to produce miracles. Our Lady of Remedios and Our Lady of Guadalupe worked side-by-side to protect the residents of Mexico City, who sought their intercession during illnesses, pestilences, droughts, and floods that affected the city. Her feast is celebrated on September 1.

Joseph de Noriega

Sermon panegirico en rogativa por agua hecha à la milagrosissima Imagen de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios, 1685

[Laudatory Sermon Preached in Public Prayer for Water to the Most Miraculous Image of Our Lady of Remedios]


Alonso Ramírez de Vargas

Descripcion de la venida y bvelta de la milagrosa imagen de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios, [undated]

[Description of the Arrival and Return of the Miraculous Image of Our Lady of Remedies]


Francisco de Florencia

La milagrosa invencion de un thesoro excondido en un campo, que hallò un venturoso cazique, y escondiò en su casa, para gozarlo à sus solas, 1745

[The Miraculous Invention of a Buried Treasure in a Field that an Adventurous Cacique Found and Hid in His Home to Enjoy Alone]


Juan Bautista Díaz Calvillo

Sermon que en el aniversario solemne de gracias a María Santísima de los Remedios (...) por la victoria del Monte de las Cruces, 1811

[Sermon on the Solemn Thanksgiving Anniversary to Most Blessed Mary of Remedios (...) for the Victory at the Monte de las Cruces]

m F1232.D33

Sotomayor (BANC PIC 1987.001--D 3-61)

Antonio Sotomayor, [Mexican Church with Papel Picado], [undated]

[Iglesia mexicana con papel picado]

BANC PIC 1987.001--D, 3:61

Our Lady of Solitude and Our Lady of Juquila

In the southern state of Oaxaca, Mary is venerated in her two most representative advocations. In the capital city of Oaxaca stands a basilica dedicated to Nuestra Señora de la Soledad (Our Lady of Solitude), a variation of the Mater Dolorosa, an advocation to the lonely, sorrowful mother of Christ after his death. Although her title reflects Blessed Mary’s grief on Holy Saturday, Nuestra Señora de la Soledad is celebrated on December 18, the day she is said to have appeared in Oaxaca. In the coastal region stands one of the most renowned pilgrimage sites in southern Mexico: Our Lady of Juquila. Visitors to Juquila seek the loving presence of Mary —as well as favors from her— in her role as intercessor as they do with other images of the Immaculate Conception, which is celebrated on December 8.

Memorias religiosas y ejemplares noticias de la fundación del Monasterio de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, en esta ciudad de Antequera, valle de Oaxaca, 1906

[Religious Memoirs and Exemplary News of the Foundation of the Monastery of Our Lady of Solitude, in this City of Antequera, in the Valley of Oaxaca]

F1206.O25 E4

Gerónimo Morales Cigala

Sermon que en dia de la expectacion de Maria Santissima nuestra señora con el nombre y título de la Soledad, 1756

[Sermon Preached on the Day of the Expectation of the Most Blessed Mary, Our Lady, with the Name and Title of Solitude]

F1207.S42 v. 19:1

Joseph Manuel Ruiz y Cervantes

Memorias de la portentosa imagen de Nuestra Señora de Xuquila, 1791

[Remembrances of the Marvelous Image of Our Lady of Juquila]

t F1207.R94

The Saints

[Santoral en mexicano], [17th century]

[A Book of Saints in Nahuatl]



Francisco de la Encarnación

Sermon panegyrico del dignissimo esposo de Maria, el gran patriarca S. Joseph, 1703

[Sermon in Praise of the Most Dignified Spouse of Mary, the Great Patriarch Saint Joseph]

F1207.S42 v. 5:9


José Francisco de Rivas y Solar

“Carta al Arzobispo sobre las medidas necesarias para prevenir que los indios trabajen en días feriados,” 1777

[Letter to the Archbishop Concerning the Steps Needed to Prevent Indians from Working on Feast Days]

BANC MSS M-M 502:1


San Felipe de Jesús (F1203.P16 v. 6, No. 8)


Joseph Martínez de Adame, Sermon de San Felipe de Jesus, predicado el día 5 de febrero del año de 1781

[Sermon to San Felipe de Jesus, Preached on February 5, 1781]

F1203.P16 v. 6:8


Breve resumen de la vida y martyrio del inclyto mexicano y proto-martyr del Japon, el beato Felipe de Jesus, 1802

[Brief Account of the Life and Martyrdom of the Illustrious Mexican and Proto-Martyr of Japan, Blessed Felipe de Jesus]



José Guadalupe Posada

San Judas Tadeo, 1905

[Saint Jude Thaddeus]

BANC PIC 2010.025--B, Box 6:R-5


José Guadalupe Posada

Indulgencias, [undated]


BANC PIC 2010.025--PIC, Box 2:Cu53


Mary Jane Gagnier de Mendoza

Oaxaca Celebration: Family, Food, and Fiestas in Teotitlán, 2005

[Celebración oaxaqueña. Familia, comida y fiestas en Teotitlán]

GT4815.T45 G34 2005


Miguel Gandert

Santa Niño cristiano. Zacatecas, Mexico, 2006

[Holy Christian Child. Zacatecas, Mexico]

BANC PIC 2015.056--C


Miguel Gandert

[Woman in Costume of the San Juan Bautista Vanguard, undated]

[Mujer vestida con la vanguardia de San Juan Bautista]

BANC PIC 2015.056--C