Stories and pictures from my travels in (North) America--California,
the Southwest, Utah and other states, plus a little bit of Canada and Mexico
(more about my travels in America)

Virgin of Guadalupe Shrine, Baja California, Mexico

When I worked in Tokyo, I had a counterpart in our Osaka office named Alex May. (Alex, if you Google yourself and find this, get in touch!) Anyway, because we had the same job, when he was busy, I was busy; when he was free, so was I.

This allowed for long, leisurely e-mail conversations during work hours.

Once, he pitched me a rare and wonderful idea. Our two cultures, he said (he was Australian, I from English-speaking North America) were the world's two "fake cultures."

How so, I asked?

Well, he said, our cultures lie atop the land, without penetrating it. We have no sacred wells, no holy hills, no trees that are worshiped.

He's right, and I really felt this in Japan, where the land has been so heavily sacralized.

Before I ever "went East," I fell in love with the "non-Western" cultures of Mexico and the American Southwest. They have adopted Christianity--to a point. But just under the surface still lie the ancient beliefs.

Frank Waters, a Southwest author, wrote of a tribe in northern Mexico that was usually resistant to Christianity, and how they oddly had embraced one particular church. There was an earthquake, and the altar tumbled over, and under it was found a squat stone idol.

Thus, Waters concluded, when the Indians were bringing flowers and otherwise venerating that place, they were actually giving tribute to (I still remember his exact words) "the deep pool of unconscious that underlies all religion."


The popular image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, too, pays tribute to the ancient beliefs. Although ostensibly Mary, the Mother of God, in fact the image we see first appeared on a hill formerly occupied by the temple of the Aztec earth goddess Tonantzin.

If you look carefully at the image, she is standing on a crescent moon, surrounded by the rays of the sun, in a robe decorated with stars.

Who else could she be?

She is venerated throughout the Americas (and even in the Philippines). These images were shot at a roadside shrine in Baja California on a December, 1990, trip when I drove the length of the peninsula.

1 comment:

  1. I also love this culture very much. Baja is the land of my people. I am a designer and all of my work is greatly influenced by my travels all over Mexico, especially Baja. Great post here.


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