This is the third in a short series about my two week Spanish language and social justice immersion program in Cuernavaca, Mexico, with Pacific School of Religion‘s Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies in Religion (CLGS) and CILAC Freire.
Costumbres y Tradiciones (customs and traditions) – One of our talks included the charming concept of Mexico’s own “Vitamin T” – tacos, tostadas, tamales, tortas, tlacoyos and, of course, tequila. In Dora’s kitchen, we happily ate a great deal of Vitamin T. One Dora’s oldest kitchen tools was her mother’s molcajete (mortar) and temolote (pestle) for grinding spices. We saw more modern molcajetes in the market, painted with dog and pig faces. Even when our group got up early for day trips to visit Tepotzotlán and Mexico City, Dora was always there to be sure we were well fed and cared for. On our last day, she took us on a special trip to the municipal market to buy flameware pots after we admired those she used so well.
Another part of the Costumbres y Tradiciones talk was about the Virgin of Guadalupe whose 1531 image was ubiquitous during our travels in Mexico. We learned that Guadalupe has a connection to Tonantzin, the Aztec mother goddess, and that many believe in the Virgin of Guadalupe who do not believe in Jesus Christ, or even God. I did not know until hearing this talk that there is an Arabic connection to Guadalupe: the name (probably) derives from that of a Spanish river, the name for which has Arabic roots. Since my house in San Jose, California, is on the Guadalupe River, I was very interested!
One of the lovely old churches we walked by every time we went to downtown Cuernavaca was Parroquia San José El Calvario which not only has a variety of images of the Virgin of Guadalupe inside but a special building for her statue on the street outside. In addition to the prominent outside image of Mary, inside San José El Calvario I found a saint I never heard of before, San Charbel Makhlouf – a Maronite monk of Lebanon. I found another statue of San Charbel in the Parroquia de la Asuncion, Sagrario Metropolitano, in Mexico City. In both churches, his image stood above collections of many colored satin ribbons. A Catholic friend from Michoacán told me that San Charbel is very popular and powerful and that each ribbon represents thanks for a healing. In 2013, during our visit to Lebanon, TechWomen Fellow Adla Chatila took my daughter Jessica and me to see the Cedars of Lebanon, Khalil Gibran‘s home, and the Mar Bishay Hermitage, Qozhaya. The Monastery of Qozhaya is close to where San Charbel is from. I was not expecting to see so many connections to the Middle East while in Mexico.
San Charbel Makhlouf in Parroquia San José El Calvario, Cuernavaca, and in Mexico City, 2019
Iglesia del Río de la Plata y La Colectiva Diversa – In addition to the Spanish lessons and talks, our class went on a variety of field trips, including spending an evening with an inspiring community church in Cuernavaca called Iglesia del Río de la Plata y La Colectiva Diversa, lead for over thirty years by Rev. Alfonso Leija. Rev. Alfonso generously shared his remarkable story of developing the church and small hospice to support the LGBTQ community during the early AIDs epidemic. We heard from some of the church members and briefly shared something about ourselves. I only wish the air pollution had been less intense that night so that we could have learned more.
Photos Copyright 2013-2019 by Katy Dickinson
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