At the end of the tiny passageway of our street a crude Virgin of Guadalupe is painted on a brick wall. Here on a street called Refuge, between the roads called Hope and Treasure.
What could be more auspicious?
You see her all over town; painted, carved, baked onto tiles. Statues of her encaged in metal bars, peeking out from niches in the walls, adorning the marketplaces and churches, offerings of flowers and candles at her feet. Printed on T-shirts and shopping bags, keychains and tattoos. The blue robed goddess with golden rays, stars on her mantle, proudly perched on a crescent moon.
The theory is that if you have a Virgin of Guadalupe image on your house she will protect you from those who wish to do you harm, such as spray your walls with graffiti, leave their garbage on your doorstep, or rob your home. It is hoped that no Mexican vandal with an ounce of faith would commit a crime beneath her beseaching and compassionate gaze. The higher the fear of crime is in a neighborhood, the more Guadalupes you find. It seems that more and more of them are appearing on the walls and in the doorways of well built homes and pieced together shacks everywhere. In the richer areas she is carved and painted and decked out in all the glory money can buy. Outside the poorer houses she is painted crudely on the walls of unfinished brickwork with house paint. In all cases she carries the same message. I forgive you, she seems to say. But still, please don't tag my wall, break into my house or let your dog shit on my doorway.
And here, at the bottom of my alley, on the morning of December 12th, day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, someone has placed pots of blooming flowers and lit candles at her feet in a touching tribute to Our Lady. After all, no matter how she appears, how crudely or misshapen she is represented by well meaning artists, she still represents what we all long for; an all embracing and loving Mom who forgives us our flawed childish human ways and offers refuge from life's struggles and challenges. Someone who cares about us- who shares our suffering and offers mercy, who gives from the heart of hearts and shows us that there are indeed miracles in this life, whether you believe in them or not.
For more links to The Virgin of Guadalupe on this blog,