Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Virgin de Guadalupe Celebration 2023

The small St. Kathrine Drexel Catholic Church in Hempstead, Texas holds its annual celebration for La Virgin de Guadalupe on the correct date each year, December 12th.

Refer back to my post on December 29th, 2022 for the complete story of how the homage to the Virgin de Guadalupe came about. https://www.ridingthehorizon.com/2022/12/virgin-of-guadalupe-then-today.htmlAccording to the Vatican Council report from 1999, the Guadalupe site near Mexico City is the most visited Catholic shrine in the world.


In the wee hours of early morning, parishioners of the St Kathrine Drexel Catholic Church file in, gathering to pay homage to our Lady of Guadalupe, or better known 
in the Mexican culture as la Virgen de Guadalupe.

The choir mistress prepares for the opening songs.

Backed by the church choir and three guitars, she leads the singing of several hymns.

After the choir, the Matachines, or Aztec Dancers, come drumming in.

Dancers are of all ages... all local families

From young children to grandmothers...

There were several dances with intricate, challenging footwork 
requiring focus and concentration.

As more people arrive, it soon becomes a standing-room-only option
 in this modest place of worship.

After the morning rituals, outside awaited tamales, sweet bread, coffee, and chocolate for those attending. Being a weekday, most attendees then headed off to work or home, for a few hours.

In the afternoon, the second half of the celebration organizes itself on a ranch seven miles outside of town. Those gathered will walk or horseback ride to the church for an evening meal and mass.

As you can see, some have highly trained show horses worth thousands of dollars, 
while others are riding their daily workhorse.  

With the many cattle ranches in the area, most horses here 
are not a hobby, but a necessity.

Lining up to start...

Leading the procession... are Escaramuzas, a Mexican tradition 
of ladies with their traditional outfits riding side-saddle.

 Fr. Xavier Bilavendiran, the parish priest, prays and blesses the crowd 
before the parade commences.

A flock of doves are released to signal the start of the parade. 
The loud bang of a starting gun here would not be wise as it would spook the horses. 

Many of the faithful have made this annual pilgrimage numerous times 
over the years, walking with family and friends.  Everyone is in a good mood as the weather is perfect, a pleasant 64 degrees and no rain.

Following the walking procession, come the fifty or so horseback riders 
who will shadow them back in to town.

Even Fr. Xavier gets to ride this year.

A middle-aged gentleman from Georgia stopped to ask what was happening. 
Said he had never seen so many horses all together at one time.
Though he was Catholic, he said he didn't know much about 
the Guadalupe story of the Virgin, but now wants to learn more.


These are just some of the photos taken that day. 

The bulk of the photos were donated to the church to be posted on their website.

Until next year, ride safe, ride long.


p.s. In a late-breaking twist to the story, I bought a few of the church raffle tickets to support this small country parish. The list of items included crucifixes, a painting of the Pope and the Virgin, potted plants, etc. 

Received a call around 9 PM that night saying that I had won their grand prize...   a five-year-old Spanish Andalusian mare... in other words...    a horse!    Get outta here... WHAT?

Well, that is going to require telling a whole new story...  later!