Each December 12th, the Mexican Catholic community of Scott County celebrates the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This celebration commemorates the appearance of Mary to the Mexican peasant Juan Diego in 1531. The feast day is an important holiday in Mexico. It has also become an important day for Mexican Americans to celebrate their religious and cultural identity.
In preparation for the feast day, many individuals in the community erect altars in their homes. In many cases, they are made of a painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe that is surrounded by candles and flowers. A larger temporary altar for her is put up within St. Michael’s, the Catholic Church in Forest. In preparation for the Feast Day, several in the congregation gather to say the rosary on a nightly basis.
The night before the Feast Day, the Mexican community gathers at St. Michael’s for a vigil. Outside of the church, they gather in a circle and recite prayers and recount the story of the appearance of Mary to Juan Diego. After completing the prayers, they move into the church and sing songs in celebration of Our Lady.
The congregation reconvenes on the Feast Day in the parking lot of the church. Several pick-up trucks have been decorated for the event and are parked in a large circle. In the bed of each truck stand children from the congregation, dressed as Juan Diego and Our Lady, reenacting the story of Mary’s appearances. After the congregation prays a rosary, they all attend mass. Following mass is a large fiesta with food and music.