Virgin of Guadalupe Caught in the Crossfire in NYC

The celebrations in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Big Apple see many in attendance. (Photo by Humberto Arellano via El Diario)

The celebrations in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe in NY see many in attendance. (Photo by Humberto Arellano via El Diario)

This year, the traditional Guadalupan Torch (Antorcha Guadalupana) run will not reach St. Patrick’s Cathedral. For the past 12 years, the legendary church welcomed the athletes who complete the nearly 4,000-mile run that crosses nine Mexican states and 14 East Coast U.S. states in 82 days.

Joel Magallan, president of Asociación Tepeyac, said that a Guadalupan Torch mass was scheduled in advance but that Casa Puebla – another Mexican community organization – was “given the reservation.”

“It is disrespectful,” said the activist. “The reina (queen) of Mexico deserves to enter St. Patrick’s alongside the passion of her people.”

Magallan said that he requested a meeting with Cardinal Timothy Dolan to discuss the reason Tepeyac was denied the event.

“Right now, we have only spoken to the employees of their Hispanic community affairs office,” said Magallan. “The Archdiocese cancelled the event saying that we are not a religious organization.”

Wanda Vázquez, director of the Oficina de Ministerio Hispano (Hispanic Ministry Office), confirmed the Archdiocese’s decision via a press release.

“Because Asociación Tepeyac is not officially a Catholic organization, the Archdiocese will no longer have an affiliation with the organization. Furthermore, all activities in association with Asociación de [sic] Tepeyac, in particular the Our Lady of Guadalupe ceremony at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, have been cancelled,” said Vázquez.

“In recognition of the significance of the Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego celebrations, as well as the pastoral needs of the Mexican community, St. Patrick’s Cathedral will continue holding the Dec. 9 event for St. Juan Diego’s, the vigil on Dec. 11 and the Dec. 12 Our Lady of Guadalupe ceremony,” added Vázquez. “These celebrations will now be held in collaboration with the Oficina del Ministerio Hispano, the Archdiocese’s Committee for Our Lady of Guadalupe and Casa Puebla NY.”

The Archdiocese has not explained why it agreed to work with Casa Puebla, which is not a religious organization either.

Some parishioners deemed the decision divisive for the Mexican community. Rosa María Téllez, captain of Antorcha Guadalupana, said that “the Archdiocese’s decision saddens us deeply. Guadalupan faith does not belong to a group or a cathedral, but to all Mexicans.”

Jaime Lucero, president of Casa Puebla, said that it has been a year since the Archdiocese invited him to preside over the Guadalupan Committee and assume the responsibilities for the event.

“I do not know the cause of the events’ cancellation, or why the collaboration between Asociación Tepeyac and the Archdiocese ended. That is a question to which I do not have the answer,” said Lucero.

The businessman said that Cardinal Dolan and the archbishop of the Puebla cathedral, Víctor Sánchez Espinosa, will lead a mass to welcome the arrival of the “fuego nuevo” (“new fire”) from Casa Puebla’s torch. There will be a ceremony from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. in Central Park, on 60th Street and Fifth Avenue, and a procession to St. Patrick’s Cathedral later on. At 7 p.m., another mass will be held.

Lucero admitted that there will be a smaller number of attendees in Casa Puebla’s first event, and said that his group will continue to organize the ceremony in future years.

“Casa Puebla does not own anything. We are open to collaborating with other Mexican organizations,” said Lucero. “The Archdiocese’s decision does not divide the faith of Mexicans. Our faith in the Virgin is one and it is strong.”

On the other hand, Magallan said that the Antorcha Guadalupana event organized by Tepeyac is the only one that brings the fire all the way from Mexico. He said that this year, 1,500 athletes have run, surpassing last year’s figure. The groups of runners are lead by 48 captains.

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