It’s midnight on December 12th and I sit on my couch in silence, watching México celebrate the alleged apparition of the Virgin Mary to a Mexica man in Tepeyac. I sit in silence, as the circus that is her birthday unfolds, with political dignitaries and celebrities alike taking turns paying homage to an image that is almost as common in the Mexican diaspora as the Mexican flag itself.
I sit in silence and realize that this is the first time since I can remember, that I am not plopped down in an uncomfortably cramped pew, or standing in a packed church aisle on the verge of a claustrophobia-induced panic attack, paying my own personal tribute to the virgin with skin the color of wet sand.
I can’t help but admit that upon reaching that realization the all too familiar pangs of Catholic guilt set in. I am, after all, still Catholic, despite the years it has taken me to shake off the leaden scriptures that for too long confined me. I feel guilty because deep down inside, I still want to find comfort in the familiarity of her soft gaze.
I’d be lying if I said that spectacles of Catholic religiosity don’t move me. They are a part of who I am. The performance of the rosary. The indulgence of candle lighting. The chest banging. The incense. All of it. They inspire me in ways that both hurt and heal. But nothing, nothing, grabs my spirit in such a violent way as being surrounded by people with unyielding faith.
Or, at least it used to.
This time, I didn’t feel it.
But how could I? I am, after all, sitting comfortably under a leopard print Snuggie knock-off with my vodka-laced orange juice in hand, four blocks-that-may-as-well-be-four-thousand-miles away from the nearest celebration.
No, I didn’t feel it.
No hot tears ran down my face as the camera panned over the crowd of guadalupan@s paying their yearly visit. No knot built in my throat as I caught myself singing along to songs and hymns that are as familiar to my tongue as the ABCs.
I sit, attempting to feel something, and trying to convince myself that it is the situation that is different, and that is why I’m not crying in red, white, and green like a true Mexican patriot.
But the truth is, I’m not the same.
I’m not that quiet, feminine boy who once danced for the Virgin, in a flurry of feathers and carrizo, secretly wishing that like Juan Diego’s tilma she would transform him in a tumble of Castilian roses.
No, that’s not me anymore.
Yet still I watch, sitting in silence on my couch, as the festivities unfold. I stare blankly at the screen as México sings good morning to an image that adorns murals and cars, calendars and business cards, cholo backs and haina calves, and even the occasional altar this femme boy has made.