December 12 is the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. For Catholics living in North, Central and South America, the legend of the Mexican Virgin Mary who appeared to Juan Diego has been part of everyone´s faith since 1531. I certainly grew up with it, and my parents adopted a special devotion to Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe from 1974 onwards. Our home altar always had an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, and most of our family prayers were said at her feet.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is also the patron saint of the indigenous peoples. The appeal of the brown-skinned madonna is understandable, considering the centuries of European artists who portrayed the Virgin Mary as caucasian. For those who grew up with Theology of Liberation, it was but natural that Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe spoke to the native soul and gave hope of acceptance and recognition.
My family has always had a Marian devotion, one way or another, and later on in life it was a relief to discover that my parents-in-law also had one. The paradigm shift happened after I graduated from university and entered development work. I realised the true significance of Juan Diego, the humble indigenous man guided simply by his faith and gifted with an admirable perseverance. I learned then, and continue to re-learn today the importance of prayer and never giving up no matter how difficult the situation may turn out to be on some days. If you believe in something and someone, then never let go of that faith.