The Virgin of Guadalupe: Linking the Past and Present by Exploring the Role of Religion in the Cultural Heritage of Mexican Consciousness

Article excerpt

When academic experts get together to discuss important issues, in our case immigration, often times the statement "we are preaching to the choir" is uttered several times due to the frustration felt in regard to defining problems, understanding cultural history and identifying its social influence, researching public policy and legal restrictions, understanding economic influence and then influencing the implementation of sound policies and the local, state and federal level. For immigration, globally and specifically in the United States, this can seem to be a daunting task. However, if the presenters at our conference are representative of the capabilities of our nation (and I believe they are!) the congregation of the United States should be prepared for new doctrine: that of racial acceptance, the power of immigrant economics, understanding the religious affect within the context of immigration, and a critical analysis of insufficient political and legal initiatives hopefully culminating in a re-drafting of political and economic policies in the United States. Our group represented a willingness that individuals have to understand the heart of the issues that we care for deeply, but also the willingness to return to our perspective home bases and begin more discussions there; a willingness to branch out, armed with new information to send a message that more work and time is necessary to promote cultural acceptance which seems to be at the heart of attempting any legislation regarding immigration that is not based in racial prejudices and fear; fear of the other and fear of sharing the economic possibilities and responsibilities that come with being a citizen of any nation.

The topics presented at the this conference included varied perspectives on the topic of migration and immigration and covered social, economic, political and religious constructs with a focus on the current issues in the United States regarding immigration of undocumented Mexicans, although not wholly limited to this example. Other issues included emigration and citizenship in the Republic of Congo, Africa, the effects of state and federal legislation on immigration in the United States, the role of religion and the immigrant, social and psychological effects of short-sighted legislative policies regarding immigration, the role of teaching tolerance in American educational institutions, immigrants serving in the U.S. Armed Forces and the consequences of fencing and border control issues with the intent to curb immigration into the United States. Within the context of the research were the underlying issues of race and ethnicity, history, the effect of current political trends and the media's effect on the social perceptions of immigrants. My research, with this context, serves to provide historical context regarding the powerful roles religious cultural heritage plays in Mexican communities related to a cultural image that has successfully migrated to the United States: the Virgin of Guadalupe. She has become a cultural anchor for Mexicans living on both sides of the Rio Grande. She is a symbol of acceptance, strength, and unity; ideas that all Mexicans, (regardless of political status), support and furthermore she may be symbolic of what a "successful" immigration policy can hope to achieve. Let the work begin!

Thesis and Introduction:

I ended my research with a question I will propose at the beginning of this essay: Does the Virgin of Guadalupe serve as a symbolic representative of a successful immigrant experience? And while this research traces the history of this religious migration, it does within the important context that the idea of immigrant has always been in the forefront of history, and specifically that of the Western Hemisphere, a geographical wonder in the history of mankind. This paper will examine an important aspect of migration and immigration: the adaptation and use of religion as a means of solidifying power structures by the colonizer and the role religious beliefs can play in creating assimilation between two cultures. …