Images we see, beliefs we do not know

Altars as material sustenance of lived religiosity

Faith and the miracle at home

She is our mother and must be at home

Reina and Goyo Hernández. 35 years. Domestic workers, originally from the state of Hidalgo. Photograph by Renée de la Torre, Zapopan, March 7, 2018

Reina is married to Gregorio (Goyo) and has three young children (the oldest is eight years old, one is five and the other is ten months old). In the neighborhood department where they live, in the center of Zapopan, they have set up a small altar. This began when they were given a calendar with images of the Virgin of Guadalupe. They cut out the image of the Virgin and decided to take it to the Basilica of Zapopan to bless it. The process was simple, they just sprinkled it with the holy water that they found inside the temple. I asked him if doing so devoted to the image, and without hesitation he replied:

"Of course, before it was just a photograph, now it is the Virgin of Guadalupe."

Today its small altar is dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe, because Reina considers that "she is our Mother and should be at home." Other religious articles have been added to the image of the Virgin, including a Bible, which they do not usually read but which was a gift from her wedding.


I tell him what I feel, what I bring, what hurts me, what doesn't hurt ...

Mrs. Blanca, 64 years old, housewife, originally from Los Reyes, Michoacán. Photograph of Rafael T. Corro, Guadalajara, Jal. 2018.

For me to make my personal prayer with him daily, to make my personal prayer with him daily is about having a dialogue with him. I tell him what I feel, what I bring, what hurts me, what doesn't hurt me, my rush and that is daily. Getting up, the first thing I do is thank him because he already let me dawn, he already let me see the light of a new day that I say "Lord, you have already given me the license to dawn and take one more step towards you", because I wake up to live it today but it is one more step that I take towards the final game, if you understand me. Then I wake up comfortable, happy, happy and I say "Lord, this day I promise you everything I will do with love, for you and for you" and if I am going to live today as if it were the last of my life, enjoy it , enjoy it, be happy, happy, happy, because tomorrow I don't know if it will dawn or after a while I will leave, if you understand me? And it is what I, sometimes I wear, I arrive and I stay there with him for a while, I pray, talk and it is daily, of my daily devotion.


If you are already baptized, God already recognizes you as his son

Donato Hernández, 35 years old, originally from Hidalgo, cashier in Oxxo. Photograph by Renée de la Torre, Zapopan, March 7, 2018.

What does the baptism of the Christ Child consist of?

“In taking him to the church to listen to the word of God during Holy Mass and already at the end of the Mass they already bless him, it is already like a symbol of baptism. He is like a child, if he is not baptized he is not yet a creature, but if he is already baptized, God already recognizes him as his son. He is already part of the family of God. "


I respect and love them and I feel like they protect me

Blanca, a 64-year-old housewife, originally from Los Reyes, Michoacán. Photograph by Rafael T. Corro, Guadalajara, April 25, 2018.

The saint of my devotion is the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I've always had faith in him. With the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I feel like I am very protected by him. What is Jesus, is himself. They are my ideas, the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, for me, because I respect and love them and I feel that they protect me.


Many miracles have been done to me

María Trinidad García Escobar. Housewife. 60 years old, originally from Mexico City. Photograph of Rafael T. Corro, Guadalajara, Jal. April 26, 2018.

For the Glory of the Lord, I am a Minister of the Eucharist, so I need to be in constant prayer. I like having the altar because for me it is like a sign that Christ is present there, and well, I don't know, maybe my faith and what I decide to do, because seeing the image deepens me a little.

In my house, my entire family is Catholic, and from my childhood my parents taught me this faith and we have continued. We are a very united family and when we can we all join in prayer. When not, then I am obliged to pray in the morning and at night.

I have Christ and the Virgin. They have done many miracles for me. I know that for many people it is something well, perhaps, that does not make sense, but for me it does, they have worked many miracles for me. I have received many thanks; Just yesterday I had the happiness of verifying that the Holy Mary was with me, because a scorpion bit me and nothing happened to me, nothing. And I was praying the rosary, so I have the full conviction that Mary is the intercessor before Jesus so that nothing happens to us.


If the first miracle was done by God for his mother, then what can he deny her?

Hortensia Ramírez Sandoval. Housewife, 70 years old. Originally from Autlán, Jalisco. Photograph of Anel Salas, Guadalajara, Jal. May 28, 2018.

I pray to the Virgin because I know that she is the Mother of God and I know that mothers ask their children, and if the first miracle was done by God for their mother, then what can he deny her… I think nothing. However, when I go to sleep, I try to pray an Our Father, because I think that there is a lot of who we are and a lot of what we are not, because that prayer is very strong and it is very difficult to fulfill.


For me the main image is that of Christ, I have that on my bedroom door

Hortencia Ramírez Sandoval. Housewife Age: 70 years. Originally from Autlán, Jalisco. Photograph of [anonymous], Guadalajara, Jalisco May 28, 2018.

I have the Child God and I worship him every day he is born; to say something, we change his clothes, which is traditional, but my husband has a lot of faith in San Judas Tadeo, my father had a lot of faith in San Martín Caballero, hence why I have it, and the Lenten candle, they say that it is very good to have it, I have many, not as much as I would like ... well I wanted to put together the four candles for when they are needed because I do want them to put candles for me; I mean, I want them to put candles at my wake.

I take the candles every Glory Saturday to bless, because they are all blessed, and I keep them inside that display case, that is, I keep them, and since there are many I don't have to be constantly lighting them because they don't run out. That is the one that I turn on the most, because there it is, but I tell you, I keep them, I buy them, they bless them.


My God, take care of me from the bad things on the street, protect me

Lucia, tamale merchant, 67 years old. Originally from the Atemajac neighborhood. Photograph by Renée de la Torre, Colonia Tepeyac, Zapopan, August 19, 2019.

I get up: "Thank God sir for letting me live", I cross myself, when I go out the door I cross myself, I say: "My God, take care of me from the bad things that are in the street, protect me", in the morning; At night I pray to go to sleep and I pray to my children, I bless them, I bless my house and I go to sleep, I thank God: “Thank you, great Lord, for letting me get dark, and in charity I ask You let me wake up in your grace and service and without offending you, amen ”. That is my prayer.


I do not allow any toys to be taken from me, because they are hers

Lucia, tamale merchant, 67 years old. Originally from the Atemajac neighborhood. Photograph Renée de la Torre, Colonia Tepeyac, Zapopan, August 19, 2019.

In that little box, behind the bear, there is a small urn of a dead man, of a little boy who died to my daughter. He is eight years old now, but I am going to take him to bury because I want to take him to the temple. That is why I have that little altar, and her toys for the child, that is why I do not allow any toys to be taken from me because they are hers (her granddaughter).

Eight years old there; yes, they are toys for the baby. And I want to take him to holy land, I'm just waiting for my daughter's order, I have holy water there.


For me religion is a matter of faith

Dolores, 57 years old, Zapopan. Photograph by Renée de la Torre, Zapopan, March 7, 2018.

I know that it is an image x, I know that it is made by men, I know that it is nothing divine to say something, but I think that your faith makes you respect, because for me religion, nobody saw anything, we know nothing, we know what has been read, but who made the books? The man, but man is to kill himself, so for me religion is a matter of faith, I know that there is a God, because, well, there must be something supernatural or superior so that we can believe, so that we can live, and I feel that there is a God because there are many things that have no explanation.


It appeared next to the well, and then I knew it was the Virgin of the Well

Photograph by Renée de la Torre, Oaxaca, April 21, 2018.

This image appeared one morning in a miraculous way. The funny thing is that it appeared next to the well, with its damp stain. From that day on I began to receive blessings. I gained him faith. Now the neighbors even come to pray to him. Later I learned that it was the Virgen del Pozo, a Cuban image. Since then I have set up his altar for him and every time I have problems I pray to him and he helps me.


Nobody resists something so beautiful, it is irresistible, right?

Elena Mendez de la Peña, stylist and ghostwriter. Photograph by Renée de la Torre, Guadalajara, April 2, 2019.

My mother had a Child Jesus, and when she died, she did not touch me. So I commissioned an ex-boyfriend to buy me one in Madrid. I took him to bless. Then we would take him to San Juan de Dios to buy him some clothes. Then people knelt down and crossed themselves in passing. There we really understood how strong we have. In other words, my son was very young, he said: “Oh mom! Have you seen? People recognize the Child Jesus ”.

Every year on February 2, I invite friends to dress the boy. In fact, she has her godmother in a dress and we do all the ritual as it was customary before. Well, we make something to eat, I put a blanket on it to give the child to the comadre. We clean the child with a little oil like a baby's, and then we dress him. He has shoes, he has underwear, he has long shorts. All those super anti-religion, anti-priest people, everything, but nobody resists something so nice; It's irresistible, right?

Next to the child I put holy water that I always have for when someone comes who has a problem and wants to pray with me, then people don't pray, but they ask you, they send me little messages. And they ask you: “oh, I have a problem, they are going to operate on my mother, my child is sick or I cannot get pregnant; oh, pray, don't be gacha ”, then they ask me to pray for them. For that I have a little notebook where I put people with problems in a little list. Some don't come, that is, there are people who don't necessarily know where I live or anything, but I always tell them: "I'm going to put you on the list."


Miraculous images. Neighborhood chapels

She hears me, and when I ask her for something she always fulfills me

Rosendo Plasencia, captain of the Grupo de Danza Ritual Azteca Hermanos Plascencia, 70 years old. Photograph by Renée de la Torre, Guadalajara, May 2015.

Twenty years ago, a Franciscan came to her house and gave it to her, complete with pilgrimage outfit. And it turned out that the Virgin has been very miraculous. The altar has its candles lit, and its bouquets of flowers. It is the dancers who are in charge of bringing her flowers and light to keep the Virgin happy. Rosendo says that he has a very special relationship with the Virgin: “she hears me, and when I ask her for something she always fulfills me. Sometimes when we are rehearsing the choreographies of the dance in the street, the black clouds that threaten rain are seen, I ask the Virgin to stop the rain so that I can continue with the rehearsal, and it is impressive how the clouds are moving away from the sky".


It was where the oratory burned down, but nothing happened to San Miguel

Altar of the Pineda family, shell dancers. Miguel Angel Pineda, captain of the shell dance Señor San Miguel. Photograph by Renée de la Torre, Mexico City, November 1, 2005.

When my grandfather left the pulquería, he found the headless saint and picked him up and took him home. The next day some children, who were in the street playing soccer, picked up the head. My father liked to go chatting, and on Sunday he went to the store and found his head. They sold it to him for 20 or 50 cents in those days. Then he ordered to restore the saint and there begins the dance to Señor San Miguel. In the thirties they gave my grandfather the skeleton of General Medina (he refers to the skull), because they did not follow the tradition of burying him. That skeleton is preserved by my father and makes it the basis of Señor San Miguel. The first oratory was on Calle de Pintores, in the Morelos neighborhood, that's where the oratory was burned, but nothing happened to San Miguel. Later we moved to the street of Typography, and already in the 60s my parents came to the current house, where the oratory continues. He is the main Saint of our altar, to which we offer our dances and prayers, for this reason the banner of the dance group is dedicated to Saint Michael the Archangel. He is very miraculous, and he has saved us from many problems. This is the first year that we dressed him as an Aztec warrior, as he always dressed as a Roman soldier, but if he is our patron saint, he must already dress like us.


There are people who say: ah, Santa Muerte is bad; the bad ones are the people

Miguel Ángel Lemus, 30 years old. Guardian of the Santa Muerte Temple, Las Juntas neighborhood. Photograph by Anel Salas. Guadalajara, Tuesday, July 3, 2018.

Oh yes, in my mother's house he had a holy death and he promised to make him his temple, he did it, he knows what he would do, but more for him and from there came the devotion of the people, people from others came places, there were already more people there in that temple and they already came for the same thing, and it is the first temple they made in Guadalajara.

I consider myself one hundred percent Catholic because I believe in God, I believe in the Virgin, I believe in the angel of death, for me he is the angel of death because he was the creator, the angels and the angel of death, That is why if there were no death, Adam and Eve would not be, that is my criterion then, that is, we would not be here.

Yes, well, here come people who pray to him sometimes, they cross themselves and leave so they don't see that there is a bad vibe or anything, do you understand me? Because there are people who say: ah, Santa Muerte is bad, the bad ones are people, that is true.


The blessing of business

These images are blessed and thus they bless my little shop

Grocery store in Chapala, photo by Renée de la Torre, June 15, 2017.

All the images that I have on my altar have been given to me by the neighbors, who are my clients. They go on pilgrimages to the Shrines, and although I can't go because I have to be taking care of the business, they do it for me. They bring them to me as gifts and I place them there, because these images are blessed and thus bless my little shop.


I ask him about the business, because there is a good sale and that he take care of the place

Ana, “la Patrona”, merchant from the Abastos market, 61 years old, originally from Sahuayo, Michoacán. Photography: Anel Salas, Guadalajara, June 26, 2018.

Ana, who is called "the Patron" and attends a winery in the Abastos market, set up her altar to continue her family tradition: "I have the Virgin because she is the same one they have in my house. And to San Judas because he is the miraculous saint for businessmen ”.

Every day she is in charge of cleaning the altar and every two days she changes the flowers in the vase. Only at Christmas and on the day of the Virgin do the lights turn on. The workers leave him fruits as offerings. And in the morning they all cross each other when they come to work and offer him the day.

“Well, at the beginning of the day we all crossed ourselves. I ask him about the business, because there is a good sale and that he take care of the premises. I have a lot of faith in him, you can see that he is the saint who helps with money and business matters. "


The Child Doctor is very miraculous, I do believe, I do have a lot of faith; I have asked him and he has granted me

Manuel and Angelica Flores Leos, Santa Tere neighborhood, sale of handicrafts. Photography: Anel Salas, Guadalajara, November 27, 2018.

We dressed him as a dancer for October 12, the day of the carrying of the Virgin of Zapopan, and we dressed him as a dancer again for December 12, we dressed him as an indito.

I gave the Doctor Child to my mother, because she was always very devout; she told me that she had done a very great miracle for her. I sent it to a man who sold fruit outside a hospital that is for women, through the imss clinic, and one day we passed by and he was working with a Christ, so he showed us photos of what he was making and showed us the Child Doctor, and you notice it is going to be strange to see a Child Doctor like this, because of his expression; Here people come and say: "How great, that Child just needs to talk, I have never seen such a beautiful child", and there are no people who do not suck him, people come, they leave him money, a child left him one day A car.

One day a lady came from Spain looking for a doctor, and she came by and came back and said: “I felt that someone spoke to me; what a beautiful child, can I tell you something? " And I said: "sure…." He told me: "I have my daughter very seriously ill, but hopefully God and the Child will do the miracle for me." Some time passed, about a month and a half, and the lady came back and said: “I have come to thank you, my daughter was about to have her baby and she had already told us that the baby was not going to be saved and my daughter was going to live the 20% and was no longer going to have children. I come to thank you because my grandson and my daughter are well, I come from Spain just to thank you ”.

I do believe, I do have a lot of faith, I have asked him and he has granted me, I am not saying that he is everything, he is just a medium.


I could no longer go to mass ...

Don Pedro, mechanical workshop, Photograph by Anel Salas, Guadalajara, February 8, 2019.

Don Pedro is a Catholic, but due to his knee problems he can no longer go to Mass, but he says that he does use to pray there, praying his rosary. Devotee of San Judas Tadeo and author of the altar, he had the ideas to accommodate the images that the patron had forgotten at the back of the workshop. Now it is usually a place where neighboring devotees of Saint Jude Thaddeus usually go to cross themselves and entrust themselves.


The temple you bring

José Luis, loader of the Abastos market, 52 years old. Photograph by Anel Salas, Guadalajara, June 25, 2018.

With my altar I continue the tradition of my hometown. There it was customary to take the saint and watch him all night, as if he were a dead man. I dedicate it to San Judas Tadeo because he is the holiest of saints.

I don't need to go to Mass with the priests. It is that you bring the temple. Jesus said: I am going to build the temple in three days, and they ignored it, right? Because it took 40 years to build the temple but he was not referring to the temple under construction, the temple is made by all the people, on the third day How much crowd did it have?


Sales are doing very well, we can't complain

Lupita, 27 years old, merchant. Photograph by Renée de la Torre, Oaxaca, April 21, 2018.

The painting of the Virgen de la Soledad and the blessing of the business with the image of San Martín Caballero, patron of merchants, were put by the owner of the groceries to favor daily sales. Look at what it says: “God bless my business, my work and my clients. Then I put the lucky kitten on him and I put flowers on him to make him happy. We are doing very well in sales, we cannot complain ”.


This is a rough neighborhood

Altar in a canteen, San Juan de Dios neighborhood.Photography Renée de la Torre, Guadalajara, June 20, 2019.

Each figure of San Judas Tadeo that we have placed on the counter we have put it for each one of our neighborhood companions who have killed. This is a rough neighborhood. Although the people here know and respect us.


The Virgin of Guadalupe is never short of flowers. San Juditas is not offered flowers

Flower market, Mezquitán, photograph by Anel Salas, Guadalajara, Jalisco, February 7, 2019.

"The Virgin of Guadalupe never lacks flowers, if they are withered the day comes and we change them, but she always has flowers."

And do they also put flowers on Saint Jude?

“No, San Juditas is not offered flowers. But to the Virgin yes; his day, December 12, we do adorn him. "


Protection on the street or on the corner

As he could not go out, it was better to bring the Virgin here and set up an altar

Chapala, Jalisco 2017. Photography: Renée de la Torre.

My husband got sick and was very delicate. He wanted to go to the Basilica to ask the Virgin for his health. So, I thought that since I couldn't go out, it was better to bring the Virgin here and set up an altar for her. And since then she's there and we don't have to travel to be with her.


To protect us daily

Photograph of Renée de la Torre, Chapala March 26, 2018.

This street became very unsafe. Out here marijuana used to gather. That is why I placed the image of the Virgin, to protect us every day.


This place is respected. People want it. It belongs to everyone

Virgin of Guadalupe in the Atemajac neighborhood, interview with Don Antonio, 70 years old, retired Photograph by Renée de la Torre, Sunday, January 13, 2019.

For twenty years the colony has become very dangerous, but this place is respected. People want it. It belongs to everyone. The image was blessed by the parish priest and the neighbors usually gather to celebrate it on the day of the dead at night and on December 12, the day of the Virgin. The neighbors organize to pray to him and even music bands bring him. The priest also assists in coordinating the prayers. I remember there used to be a boy who sold peanuts on the corner. Two houses away a drug dealer lived. One day they came looking for him. They did not find it. And he was able to flee. He has not returned and no one knows where he is. The owner of the land tried to remove the altar, but the neighbors organized and defended the place. No one can remove it, it belongs to everyone.


It is a community space

Ofelia, a neighbor of Tlaquepaque, Jalisco. Photograph by Anel Salas, September 17, 2018.

He was blessed by the priest, and look, it is a community space and they made meetings so that one day some would sweep, another day others would water and keep him clean. Now they no longer want to come here to put the ashes; But even so, many people come in the afternoons, they begin to pray their rosary, they pray to them there alone, gentlemen get out of the truck, they begin to pray there, they say their novenas, there is a man who when he sees a lot of garbage, he removes it with his stand up and then he pulls me over here and says: "sir, I left the garbage there," because now there was a lot of garbage with the Virgin.


The bark fell off and the figure of the Virgin appeared on the trunk

Chapel of the Virgin of Guadalupe, in the Constitution, Guadalajara. Photograph by Anel Salas Sunday, March 3, 2019.

It is known as the Chapel of the Virgin of Guadalupe. It was assembled eight years ago, as a result of a man hitting a truck in the tree; when he backed out, he took out his truck and the bark fell off and the figure of the Virgin appeared on the trunk, and he came out as if nothing, that is, nothing happened to him. In gratitude, the injured man came and made his altar, because nothing happened to him, although they say that he knocked down several posts from there ...

Every day a lot of people go to work and stop. Sometimes they go in the cars and they stay standing there, as if they say a prayer and they already leave, and they continue on their way. In general, people respect the place of the Virgin, and it gives a little security to the block, because people are already very crazy here.

The priest refuses and has not come to bless her. Once we were at mass, he said that he used money for what the church does and scolded us: "instead of taking it there to the virgin of the tree, bring it to me here."


In you we put all our hope. You are our life and consolation

Mrs. Ortiz, 53 years old, housewife and mother of the deceased. Photograph Renée de la Torre, San Miguel neighborhood, Chapala, March 26, 2018.

We placed the Virgin and Saint Juan Diego to pray for the soul of our son, who died very young from cancer. We wanted comfort, it was very hard. We put it so that Our Lady can protect us every day. To protect the images, we build their nichitos for them. We plant nopales and roses to create the landscape of their appearance. Thus the neighbors remember daily the miracle of Our Mother, who always accompanies us and protects us as we walk.


Here they beat him to death

Cenotaph of the band Los Tepehuas in Chapala. Mary (neighbor), 35 years old, domestic worker. Photograph Renée de la Torre, Chapala, March 16, 2018.

In the neighborhood of San Miguel in the town of Chapala, Jalisco, an altar was built as a cenotaph on the site where Jesús Melchor was brutally murdered, who lost his life in a fight between two territorial gangs, that of Derrumbes against that of Tepehua. A neighbor tells:

“Here they beat him to death, they disfigured his face for wanting to enter the neighborhood of the others. They left him unrecognizable and threw him into the corner that marks the boundary between the two bands ”. This occurred in 2009. And it was the first violent death as a result of fights between neighborhood gangs. At first, this place became the meeting point for the Tepehua gang, where they attended to sell and consume marijuana. The neighbors spoke with the mothers of the young people and negotiated to place an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe and another of San Judas Tadeo on an altar protected by a fence. In 2013, three other young drug victims died, whose names are also inscribed in the cenotaph. In 2018 they put the names of another five young people.

“Jesús Melchor's mother is in charge of keeping clean and watering the flowers that accompany the altar. The mothers of the neighborhood gather to pray and celebrate each anniversary of their deceased children at this altar. "

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