She is La Virgen, Mary the mother of Jesus. She appears everywhere in the diaspora of Mexicanidad, the “Mexican-ness” that transcends borders and centuries. She waits on stucco walls, above shop counters and at roadside shrines, eyes downcast in an attitude of tender expectation, to receive appeals in Spanish, Spanglish, English and the polyglot of languages that has always been Los Angeles.
The Virgin is supposed to have appeared to Juan Diego on Dec. 9, 1531, at Tepeyac, a hill near Mexico City where a pre-conquest shrine of Tonantzin (Beloved Mother Earth in Nahuatl) had once stood. Miracles were said to have followed in the days after, including the appearance of her image, still preserved, on Juan Diego's cloak when he opened it before the astonished bishop of Mexico City. The greater miracle? To those who prayed and trafficked her on city streets, in church sanctuaries and tattoo studios, and into the hearts of Los Angeles, she has never left. More