By Sandra Gonzalez | December 11th, 2011
One of the objectives of the SPJ Diversity committee is to provide story ideas that are important to our different minority and ethnic communities. We hope by sharing these ideas you will able to find them in your city and pitch them as a story to your news managers.
Today we’re featuring: Our Lady of Guadalupe Day on December 12th. Our blog is by Sandra Gonzalez, an SPJ Diversity Committee member and digital journalist.
STANDING ROOM ONLY
If you pass by most Catholic churches in the Latino community on December 12th, you’ll probably see huge crowds. That’s because people will be celebrating Our Lady of Guadalupe Day (“Dia de la Virgen Guadalupe”).
I’ll never forget the first time I covered this event as a television reporter in Bakersfield, California. It was very early in the morning before the sun came up, and the church was “standing room only”.
Celebrations and processions will be part of the story if you plan to cover this event. An event that is very important to many Mexicans and Mexican-Americans.
Here is a procession that went through a Chandler, Arizona neighborhood. You’ll be able to see how this story can be very easy for any reporter to cover, and you don’t have to speak Spanish. It’s visual with a good people element.
WHO IS LA MORENITA?
Most Catholic churches with large Mexican congregations will most likely be holding masses and celebrations in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It’s good to know the history behind this event.
According to Mexican legend, the Virgin Mary appeared to an Indian man, Juan Diego in 1531. She had Indian features, with dark hair and eyes, (which is why some refer to her as “La Morenita”/the dark haired one). She asked him to tell the bishop to build a church at the hill of Tepeyac, but the bishop didn’t believe him.
When Diego returned to the Virgin, she told him to go to a hill where it is barren and he would find some beautiful flowers as proof. Juan Diego found roses and gathered them up in his apron (“tilma”) and when he presented the roses to the bishop, instead there was an image of the “Virgen de Guadalupe” on his apron.
To this day that apron is on display in the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
That legendary event spurred enormous growth of Catholicism in Mexico, and traditions honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe continue here in the United States.
ON THEIR KNEES
When I covered this story in Bakersfield, I saw the intense devotion of those who believed in the Virgin of Guadalupe. People fell to their knees in the back of the packed church. Others walked on their knees to the altar in the front. It looked painful, but this was their way of showing love and devotion and that they were humbled before her.
HOW TO FIND THIS STORY
Your best bet is to drive into the Latino community in your city. Even if the Mexican population is small–there will still be a celebration. Who would think you’d find Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration in Appleton, Wisconsin. Here’s the video:
If you can find the story in Appleton, you can find it in your backyard.
- 1. Call your Catholic Churches in the Latino community.
2. Contact the Catholic Diocese; they may know someone you can talk to in the church.
3. People angle: You can find the people angle when you go to one of these celebrations.
If you don’t get to cover it this year; jot it down in your calendar for 2012. Good luck!
Sandra Gonzalez is a digital journalist for WGNO-TV in New Orleans. She’s a multiple award winner with more than 20 year experience.