December 12 is the Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe. It's especially important to Catholic Latinos.
Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church in Atlanta has a large population with roots in Guatemala and Mexico, so it celebrated the feast.
It started with a Mass. Then, the celebration moved to the church hall. There, parishioners told the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe with a play, music and dance.
"The Virgin of Guadalupe" is one of the many names for Mary, the mother of Jesus. This version of Mary is important to Latino Catholics because she has darker skin. They believe, 500 years ago, she miraculously appeared in what is now Mexico. She didn't come to the priests of the Spanish conquistadors. Instead, she spoke to an indigenous man named Juan Diego.
"We identify with Juan Diego because the Latino community is poor,” says Carlos Vizcaino, the church’s Latino community coordinator. “We are immigrants, and the identification with Juan Diego is a huge significance for us."
Whether or not you believe in miracles, the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe shaped history. She's a key reason billions of Hispanics have been Catholic in the past five centuries. The Spanish had trouble winning over the natives they had conquered. Then, the Virgin of Guadalupe came along.
Her appearance led to generations of believers, like Josefina Mora. Speaking Spanish, she says she believes in the faith of her grandparents, her mother and her siblings. She calls it the faith of Mary.
In 1945, the pope declared the Virgin of Guadalupe patroness of the Americas.
"We see in the Virgin of Guadalupe the mother for everybody, so we have the hope to see each other as brothers and sisters and to live in this community," says Vizcaino. He says that's a good message for Atlanta today.
NOTE: This story is part of a series from WABE's show, City Lights. It looks at the Advent and Christmas traditions of various ethnic groups in Atlanta.