“Their faith is admirable,” Salomon, a member of Caballeros de Colon, said of the Purepecha, “and they do so much for the church.”
“After all, Mary is the Mother of everyone and she always takes us by the hand before Jesus Christ, and this is why they put all their trust in her.”
Natalia Quintero, who co-organized the festivities and is a member of the group Barrios Unidos, said members of the community came together to fund it and plan the celebration. She said that although the community is very humble they give of what they have, citing their contributions toward the construction of the new parish church in 2014. The money raised for this event covered mariachi, chorus, and band groups that came from all over Southern California to play all through the night. For the Feast Day there were eight Masses stretching from 7 a.m. Sunday until the last mass at 6 p.m. Monday night.
The faith of the people helping during the ceremony was evident and many were willing to talk about it. When I asked who was the right person to tell me about their devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe everyone pointed without hesitation to Imelda Barragam. She illuminated the room when she offered a testimonial about why God and Mary are so incredibly special to her. She spoke with tears in her eyes.
“God gave me the gift of prayer, I am here all night until after 5 a.m. Mass, I don’t get tired, because God and Mary give me EVERYTHING. My faith is enormous; to have my faith you have to get close to God by helping others, and pray for humanity. I feed the poor, and visit the sick, I serve and will serve God until the day he calls me to his side, because he gives me everything.”
When asked how she maintains her faith in hard times, she responded “I don’t have hardships because God and Mary are always at my side, so hardships wash off easily.”
As the night went on, the church remained full of faithful people of all ages. Some were cheerfully dressed in their native attire adorned with an image of Our Lady. Another testament to the faith of the people was shown when they arrived for the 5 a.m. Mass on the Feast Day dressed for work. They began their day in reverence to the Blessed Mother and then headed straight for the fields. Just imagine this, these people have the toughest job out there, to kneel down and pick fruits and vegetables as the cold or hot weather hits their back all day long, and they do it for minimum pay. Yet they still take an hour early in the morning to honor Mary.
Although their immigration status presents them challenges and many are separated from their families back in Mexico, their faith is everything to them. Francisco Sanchez, who helped to plan the event, made this observation:
“Most of the people here are ‘campecinos humildes’ who truly have faith Mary is their mother and always watches after her kids,” says Francisco Sanchez, who helped organize the festivities. “After morning mass they will go to work without complaining and thankful they have a job to feed their family.”
Ashely Elizabeth Limon is a freelance writer and a parishioner of Holy Innocents in Victorville.