I was born into and raised to be a good Catholic for the first eighteen years of my life. And like a lot of Catholic mothers, I think mine expected I would grow up to be a priest some day. But I didn't, I don't think I ever really bought into the ideas of practicing a faith. All of the rituals and rote behavior I was taught reminded me of the definition of insanity, "repeating the same behaviour expecting the results to be different". Kneel, stand, sit, kneel, stand, sit. Now, as a recovering Catholic it's sometimes challenging for me to be involved or even appreciate the religious activities that are such a big part of the culture in Mexico. The presense of the Church is manifest in everything from the ubiquitous bell toll's call to prayer at the crack of dawn to the yearly blessing of the taxis and animals. And as much as I love the architecture of the old Spanish colonial churches, it gives me the willies to enter as I consider the human suffering that went into building them. When I finally get up the courage, I spend the time inside these weighty structures preoccupied with my anxiety and the desire to feel the relief of getting out. Seeing passersby on the street habitually make the sign of the cross when passing each church (and there are many) makes me realize how ingrained the belief in God and the Catholic system is within the people of Mexico.
As I understand, prior to the Spanish invasion and occupation of this land, the indigenous people had many Gods, each representing different aspects of their daily lives. It's not surprising then that a bridge was needed to unite the conquered people with the one God ideology of the new masters.
As I watch the preparations take place to ready the streets and plazas to rejoice once again the triumph of the appearance of the Virgin of Guadalupe by Juan Diego, I desperately want my cynical mind to allow for the positive aspects in the celebrations.
However, the celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe is another chapter within my book of skepticism regarding religion and the Catholic church in particular. But, for the sake of my mental health and happiness, I make an effort to focus on the positives. The real joy and elation that the people exhibit is tangible and I notice that I want to be included. My emotions are mixed as I envy their sincere appreciation. I try to quiet my dubious mind as I witness them finding comfort and trust in a deity that exists to protect and preserve their families while I have no such benefactor save myself. I watch from the sidelines as thanks are given for blessings bestowed regardless of circumstances, and hope for the future is rekindled again under the explosions from the castillos that light up the faces and break open the night.