Diverse processional honoring Our Lady Guadalupe defies weather in downtown Raleigh

pseligson@newsobserver.comDecember 8, 2013 

About 600 people went to Sacred Heart Cathedral on Sunday, joined by belief to make the traditional Our Lady of Guadalupe procession through downtown Raleigh’s cold and rainy streets.

According to the Catholic church, the Virgin Mary appeared to an indigenous man in Mexico named Juan Diego in the 1500s. This encounter led to her image appearing on Diego’s cloak, the now-famous picture of her praying with eyes closed and hands clasped, a halo of light surrounding her.

“We’re constantly reminded that Mary was sent by Jesus to give peace to the world, and this is a way to remind our people that through Mary, Jesus brings peace to us,” said Lettie Banda of Raleigh, who helped organize the event. “And she was just an instrument, as we are. And just like Mary had been called. ... We’re also called to bring peace to the world.”

Cultures meshed at the front of the procession. Two groups dressed in traditional Aztec clothing danced to music made with their drums, maracas and wooden bows and arrows clacking together.

Selena Castillo, 20, of Raleigh said it’s important to honor the Mother Mary, especially because of her message. She came to Mexico in the time of the conquistadors.

“The Virgin Mary appeared to this indigenous man in a time of need and showed hope to Mexico,” Castillo said.

Castillo said the procession isn’t just for Catholics and that people can join in to learn about another culture. “Cultures have their differences sometimes, but it’s nice to see people come together for one cause,” she said.

The procession took up two lanes of the streets as a rooftop of umbrellas overhead kept some people dry, although many more got wet. Participants started at Sacred Heart Cathedral on Hillsborough Street and stretched for two blocks. Leading the procession were people carrying flags of a number of nationalities, starting with the United States.

Banda explained that each country has the same Mother Mary, “Just a different name,” she said.

At the center of the procession, men carried a statue of the Mother Mary on their shoulders; at her feet, a bed of roses. Behind her, a group followed in a red truck with a small band and a loud speaker. A woman would say the Rosary prayer and the crowd would respond in rhythm. After each prayer, the group would then sing a song native to Mexico to honor Our Lady Guadalupe.

The group made its way south down Dawson Street, crossed after Nash Square and then returned to the cathedral via McDowell Street.

Nelycan Dela, 21, of Raleigh said it’s awesome to see both the young and old taking part in the tradition. The procession stays the same each year, she said.

“It’s to help us to realize how important it is for us to do this tradition of our grandfathers and great grandfathers in honor of Virgin Mary,” she said.

Banda said the procession has only one difference between each year. “More and more participants,” she said. “We’re growing.”

Seligson: 919-836-5768

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