Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Following the Pope's Trip to Mexico as a Mexican American

I'm currently sitting crisscross (applesauce) in front of the TV in my living room as mom and I watch the meeting between Pope Francis and youth in Michoacan, Mexico. Dancers are dancing the typical dances native to Michoacan. While I'm not from Michoacan, part of my family (the maternal side) is. My heart sings with joy and pride knowing that the first Latin American pope is in the land of my ancestors.

I'll be the first to admit that I don't feel very Mexican. I was born, raised, and still live in Los Angeles. I identify myself as American. My mother jokes that she's more American than Mexican as well because she's lived here longer than she did in Mexico. We both seem to be more "modern" than how my more "old fashioned" father was. Though I've identified more closely to the American culture I've still gotten some of the Mexican culture infused into my daily life because my parents made sure I knew my roots. I think that's why I've been so riveted to our TV, following the Holy Father's journey.

I haven't been to Mexico in several years but some of my fondest memories from my childhood happened in Mexico, especially at churches in Mexico. I shared one of those memories during my second blog post (ever). On December 26, 2007, I wrote:

"I was actually very lucky to have visited him (Santo Niño de Atocha; the original statue) when I was about 11 years old (give or take a year or two). The church looks very humble which makes it even more stunning. I went with my parents and my paternal grandmother (may God rest her soul) to Fresnillo and Plateros as part of our vacation. I was happy but very tired because of the bus ride to and from Fresnillo. My grandmother, who was one of the most amazing women I've ever known, lived in a town a few hours from Fresnillo but she still made the trip with us. Unfortunately, I don't remember much of the trip because it's been about 12 years since the trip but I do remember feeling very excited and happy... and I still have the items my grandmother bought for us while we were there. I hope to go back to Fresnillo some day soon. I'll be the first to admit that I don't like going to Mexico because I always seem to get food poisoning or some sort of stomach virus when I'm out there (the foods are quite different from the ones in the U.S.) but I'd be willing to have a tummy ache or two if it meant seeing the Santo Niño again..."

8+ years later, it's still true. I would still love to go back and visit the Santo Niño de Atocha. I would love to go back and visit the church of St. Michael (Iglesia de San Miguel) in Miguel Auza, Zacatecas where my father and many generations of my paternal family was baptized and married. I would love to revisit the Cathedral of Zacatecas which I don't remember very well but my mom told me we've visited before.

My paternal grandmother -- the one whom I mentioned in that post -- is the one who took me to church with her when I went to Mexico. Well, my grandmother and my Aunt Lola. They both veiled (actually, I'm sure my Aunt Lola still does) and showed me the beauty of covering your head as a sign of love and respect for the Lord. It might not be for everyone but I can't imagine not veiling for Mass nor whenever I'm in front of the tabernacle or in adoration. As someone who has loved the Church since I was a little lady but had lapsed Catholic parents, I am incredibly grateful to my Abuelita and my Aunt Lola for sharing the beautiful Catholic heritage that runs in the family.

Watching Pope Francis in the land of my maternal grandparents (they're from Michoacan) makes me long to explore Mexican churches and cathedrals. Unfortunately, like many other Mexicans (especially those of us who were born and raised here), hearing about the violence and criminal activity makes us not want to go visit. It's a shame, really. I can still remember the beautiful architecture in the various churches we visited. I remember being absolutely enamoured by how the churches looked on the inside. I think I even left quite reluctantly a couple of times. lol.

Catholicism in Mexico has had its ups and downs throughout the centuries. Did anyone watch For Greater Glory? The Cristeros War was harsh. From what I've researched and learned, it seems like my paternal family got a good chunk of that craziness in their towns in Zacatecas and Durango. I think that's why I've hit a wall in my family tree search on that side of the family (stuck in the early 1800s) -- the anti-Catholic government had church records burned in the times of my grandparents. Despite all of that, the Catholic Church has still managed to thrive. Unfortunately, I believe that the rich and beautiful history of the Church in Mexico has been lost because of how hard younger generations tries to modernize the country.

Plain and simple, I fear that Mexico is losing its Catholic roots at a rapid pace. This is what I believe based on what I've seen from my own family and friends who still live in Mexico. Too many things of this world are given importance over God and the faith. It's sad because, as I said, there's such a beautiful history there. Just look at the story of how Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to St. Juan Diego. I get goosebumps just thinking about it and not just because Our Lady of Guadalupe has been a big part of my life since I was a little lady.

As I watch the encounter between Pope Francis and Mexican youth come to an end, it's my sincerest hope that his visit to Mexico will light the fires in the hearts of Mexican youth (and, really, Mexicans of all ages) to grow closer to God instead of turning away from Him. I've cried more than once during his Holiness' trip because I've seen the outpouring love the country has shown him. Keep it up, paisanos! Don't let that fire die down!

Anyway, I'm just rambling at this point. I'm going to enjoy the rest of this broadcast on EWTN en Español.

I hope y'all are having a lovely week thus far. :D

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D


AnneMarie said...

Thanks for sharing your perspective as a Mexican American! I think it is so sad that Mexico seems to be rapidly losing its Catholic roots (I've heard others say that, too)-I have always associated Mexico and the Mexican culture with Catholicism and devotion, and hopefully Pope Francis will help everyone there to become more enlivened in their Faith!

Emmy Cecilia said...

I hope so, Anne Marie! It's sad, really. It's still considered a very Catholic country (I think it's over 75% who consider themselves Catholic) but I fear most of them are Catholic in name only.