The Virgin of Juquila
In 1633, the church in Juquila caught fire. The Virgin ~ represented by this statue ~ did NOT burn.
Clearly, it was a miracle.
People noticed that prayers made through her were answered. As the word spread of her miraculous powers, people began to make pilgrimages to her. And Juquila became a tourist town.
The church in Juquila is dedicated to her, of course. It’s a beautiful church (although I failed to get a picture of the outside of it.) Here is one of the chapels inside.
I didn’t take a close-up of the main altar, nor of the people approaching it on their knees. Here is the scene from a distance.
People approaching a shrine on their knees is not so common in the US, at least I don’t think I’ve seen it. It’s not unusual in Mexico and I vaguely remember it from my childhood visit. There is something immensely touching about it.
At the church, there is also a place where people “go under the cape” of Mary as part of the ritual. In preparation for that, they wash and tidy themselves carefully, and then ascend here.
I didn’t do that, and I didn’t take pictures of them preparing or lighting candles before this phase. It just seemed too invasive. They were there in a sincere belief that their illness would be cured, their desire for a child, for education, for other needs would be fulfilled. It seemed rude to take pictures as a spectator ~ and I didn’t see other “tourists” there.
In addition to the church, there is a shrine to the Virgin of Juquila, about a half hour’s drive outside of town. Conan’s friend ~ the one whose father does the beautiful woodworking ~ took us there.
Outside the shrine, I’m holding the flowers I bought from the most persistent of young saleswomen.
Here is the entrance to the little church
You take the flowers inside and leave them.
And I can’t resist taking a picture of the chicken between the pews.
But there are additional steps if you have a request for the Virgin of Juquila. You have to make a symbolic representation of your request in clay. So if you want a baby, you mold a baby in a cradle. A book, a house, a vehicle ~ whatever your particular need , you make a clay figure to represent it, and leave it there.
When you leave, you are supposed to act as if your request has already been granted. So if you want a baby, you leave singing a lullaby, a herd of goats, and you leave whistling for them to follow you. I guess you have to be creative to act out some of the requests, but you get the idea.
The scenery, of course, is gorgeous, and we are truly up in the clouds.
It’s really difficult to get a good picture of just scenery, it’s so vast. Here’s a panoramic view from my bedroom window.
And a closer shot of the horse I sometimes saw right outside my window.
In the town of Juquila, there are countless little stalls with souvenirs of the shrine and the church. I don’t have pictures of them, because it just seemed intrusive. But here’s a picture of some people selling containers for holy water outside the church.
I know lots of people who would laugh at this, scoff at the whole idea of making a pilgrimage to Juquila, maybe part of it on your knees, creating the clay image, and so on. I can’t laugh. I have such mixed feelings, I’m not sure how to express them.
I don’t believe that God, if there is a God, works like that ~ kind of like Santa Claus, right? But there is something powerful and sacred about the space where people believe so strongly, with deep sincerity, in something beyond themselves.
Laughing at it would feel so cynical, but it would be easier in a way. Instead, it makes my heart ache for them, the wants and needs they bring with such trust and devotion. I hope that they all get what they want, that all their dreams come true.