Vince Finnerty has been a priest at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church since 1995, and in that time he has seen a large growth in the Latino community.
“We have done the celebration in different places, but it got to the point where we needed some place bigger”, Finnerty says.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church now holds its festival for its namesake at Bojangles’ Coliseum. The church celebrated the Virgin Guadalupe on Tuesday night with about 5,000 people in attendance.
Throughout Latin America, the feast for the Virgin of Guadalupe occurs on October 12. The holiday was started in Mexico, but celebrated across the Americas.
Guillermo Villalovas moved to the United States from Mexico over twenty years ago but remembers the importance of the day for Mexican society.
“This is a big, big day. There is no word to describe it. You go to church; you celebrate with family, friends, fireworks - you name it. Especially in Mexico City, it’s a big party – and we like parties.” Villalovas says.
The event hosted several folkloric dance groups, as well as a play of the apparitions of Mary Guadalupe to Saint Juan Diego in the 16th century.
“I’m so happy I can’t believe I am going to play the Virgin of Guadalupe again”, says Besey Diaz. “I can’t wait for my time.”
Dressed in a traditional Aztec dance costume, Antonio Morales points to brown hollow seeds tied at his ankles.
“These? I don’t know the English name of them but they are called hueseras,” Morales says. “They symbolize the rain and when we dance, the Aztecs used to incorporate a lot of sounds from nature.”
But according to seventeen year old, Eric Mauricio Martinez, the feast for the Virgin Guadalupe is well positioned in the year to allow for reflection.
“It’s another holiday to bring the family together and to remember that there is always a father caring over us, and his mother who helps us get closer to her son, Jesus,” Martinez says. “Christmas is coming in, and it’s just reminding us before Christmas what the holidays really mean.”