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MEXICO: Pilgrimages - Juquila, Oaxaca



The most striking case of syncretism is provided by the fusion in Mexico of Roman Catholicism and pre-Colombian beliefs. The Virgin of Guadalupe is internationally famous, and it is probable that the legend of Juan Diego was invented to give Christian content to a pre-Hispanic pilgrimage. It owes its fame to its association with Mexico City, seat of the Viceroyalty, and to the special status conferred on it by the papal consecration of the Virgin of Guadalupe as the Patroness of the Americas. There are similar pilgrimages scattered throughout Mexico, for a total of about 170. In each one there is a little image of the Virgin about which there is a miraculous story.The Virgin of the Conception in Juquila, Oaxaca has been studied by Paola Jeannete Vera BŠez in her thesis at the University of the Americas in Puebla. She provides maps showing the location of the shrine in the highlands between to city of Oaxaca and the coast. Although the native language is chatino, Spanish is generally spoken, showing the extraordinary power of penetration of the Spanish language into the most isolated and inaccessible places. The pilgrimage route is dotted with shrines.

It is a happy coincidence that two WAISers have studied the region, the other being Linda Nyquist, who concentrated on the health problems of the area. The thesis is one more proof of the vitality of the University of the Americas in Puebla. Throughout Latin America many state universities have degenerated into student mobocracies. The growth of independent, private universities should lead to the balance the US has of state and independent universities. This would seem to be a worldwide trend, a matter which I will discuss with WAIS chairman Maurice Harari, who, through his close association with the International Association of University Presidents, has an unparalleled knowledge of the subject. He is leaving later this year for Australia, and I hope that WAISers there have an opportunity to meet him.

Ronald Hilton - 5/8/02


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