Documenting the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle’s Our Lady of Guadalupe Procession
Every step means something. For example, if we jump, we say, ‘Thank you for the air.’ If we stay down, we say, ‘Thank you for the earth.’ And every, every movement that we have, we always say, ‘Thank you for nature.’ ~ Maria Torres
This photo series documents the 2015 Our Lady of Guadalupe procession and celebration at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle in downtown Jackson, Mississippi. Following the procession, I spoke with St. Peter’s Cathedral Dancers, Maria Torres and her son, Enrique.
The Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle began hosting its celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1979, but this dancing tradition was incorporated into the festivities within the last decade. In the Catholic faith, the procession commemorates the 1531 apparition of the Virgin Mary to an Aztec man, Juan Diego, in present-day Mexico City. The 2015 procession and celebration took place on Sunday, December 13.
Drawing on Aztec tradition, the Cathedral Dancers employ their bodies and attire as a prayer to the Virgin of Guadalupe. Their performances are full of symbolic choreography and high-energy footwork, amplified by the jingle of their beaded apparel and the chatter of ankle and wrist rattles. At the time, Maria and Enrique had been practicing and performing with the Cathedral Dancers for about four years. After relocating from San Luis Potosi, Mexico, fourteen years ago, this traditional art form enables Maria and her family to remain connected with Aztec cultural traditions. This annual procession also serves as an opportunity for members of Jackson’s Mexican and Mexican-American communities to celebrate their cultural heritage.
This Azteca dancing is from our ancestors, and we dance that dance because it's the way that we can pray [to] the Virgin of Guadalupe. Every step that we make is a prayer. ~ Maria Torres
Kaitlyn Berle is a public folklorist. An Ohio native, she currently resides in Madison, Wisconsin, where she directs the Wisconsin Arts Board’s Folk & Traditional Arts Program. In 2015-2016, she documented music and dance traditions in Central Mississippi for the Arts Commission’s Bicentennial Folklife Survey. Kaitlyn earned her MA from Western Kentucky University in 2015.