Just before the Christmas season officially begins, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans celebrate the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe on Dec. 12. The holiday commemorates the appearance of the Virgin Mary to an Indigenous man living in what is now Mexico City back in 1531. KHOL’s Will Walkey talked to Spanish-language correspondent Alicia Unger about this year’s celebrations in Jackson, and Unger reported a feature-length story in Spanish.
The following transcript has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
KHOL: Alicia Unger, as always, thank you so much for joining KHOL in the studios today.
Alicia Unger: Thank you for having me.
KHOL: Can you tell us a little bit about the story and the holiday that you’re covering that’s really important for the Latino community here in Jackson?
Unger: The Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe is one of the most important holidays for the Catholic community in the whole [of] Latin America. Virgin of Guadalupe is considered the mother of America. And from there, the Catholic Church recognized her, and every year, Mexicans and people around the world celebrate her. Here is not the exception. So the [local] Latino community got together and celebrated her on December 12th.
KHOL: Can you go through a little bit what actually happens during the celebration, which has obviously been going on for a long time?
Unger: Yes. This celebration happens in Our Lady of the Mountains Church. It usually starts with a congregation of people who walk around the town. They go to the rodeo. They pray and come back to the church for a mass. The mass, I will think, was over or around 700 people. It is a big holiday for Catholic Latinos. And they all are very grateful. They believe she, the Virgin of Guadalupe, has given them miracles. The miracle of health during this pandemic.
KHOL: So you produced a sound-rich piece for KHOL as always. I’m curious who you got to talk to for this particular story when you were sort of setting the scene for the listener?
Unger: Yes. Well, I got to talk to the community who believes in her. I got to talk to the administrator of the church who explained [to] me what was going to happen.
And it also striked me, or surprised me, to see a couple of Caucasian families join the celebration. Because they have a mass in the morning that is just for English-speaking people. So after the mass, they leave. Not many people stay around to celebrate as the Mexicans do. And there were a couple of families who stayed there and enjoyed the Latin community. So that was very nice. This walk that they do through the town, they do it with mariachis and there are songs dedicated to the Virgin. So people sing, pray while they walk. It’s very, very colorful.
KHOL: Alicia, do you celebrate this holiday yourself? Are you Catholic, too?
Unger: I am. I do celebrate the Virgin of Guadalupe. And that’s the beginning for our Catholic celebrations in winter. With the Virgin of Guadalupe anniversary. That’s the first one. And then on December 16, we’re going to celebrate for nine days, the Posadas. Then we celebrate Christmas. And then we celebrate on January 5th, the Arrival of the Three Wisdom Kings. So, yes, we have a long holidays. It’s three weeks of celebrations and family gatherings. People cooking. It’s all part of our ritual.
KHOL: Alicia, thanks so much for joining KHOL. We’ll now take the listener to your story en español.
Unger: Gracias. Thank you.