The Virgin of Vallarta

Wherever I travel, my eye automatically lights on the architecture of the place and my heart to watching the people who move within those spaces.
     In the city of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, there is a church that seems to almost glow with the reverence of the faithful that cross it’s marbled floors.
     Our Lady of Guadalupe stands proud and comforting among the poor that hawk their wares outside, selling everything from handmade dolls to a ride in a handsome carriage.
     The church, itself, is relatively modern, having been built in 1903 on the grounds of an older, and much smaller chapel. The parishioners of ‘The Bay’ grew in such numbers and with such sacrifice that Rome funded the construction. 
     It’s central spire is topped with a replica of the wedding crown worn by Empress Carlota, wife of Emperor Maximilian, ruler of Mexico (vis-sa-vis Austria). 
     Why? I don’t know. Especially since the royal couple were not favorites among the native people or the Spanish ruling class (the very Catholic people of Mexico found them suspect because of their lack of offspring, calling him impotent and her barren when, in fact, he sired a son with a native Indian mistress, and Carlota had a son by way of an Imperial officer, who would grow up and surrender the French Army to Hitler).
     In fact, they were politically and literally abandoned during a power play between liberals (Maximilian) and conservatives ( Benito Juarez). Max was eventually executed and Carlota died crazy in a castle in Belgium. 
     As for Our Lady, her Mexican story begins in 1531, when she appeared to peasant Juan Diego, telling him to solicit the Bishop of Mexico to build a church in Guadalupe and call her the Lady of Guadalupe (not the Virgin Mary because she loved the Mexican people most), but not before he was instructed to pick roses for her (in December), which he found on a hilltop, and carried in his cloak to his local church where he laid them at the alter and lo-and-behold the interior of the cloth had a darker Indian Virgin Mary imprinted on it- gold leafed, with the blue-green mantle of the mythological Aztec twin Gods Ometecuhtli & Omecihuatl, and rays of light in the decorative form of Aloe spines!
     Really Ironic.
     So what’s the take-away?
     Churches are beautiful. People are flawed…

and the Holy Mother must really likes Tacos.
Cathedral of
Our Lady of Guadalupe
Puerto Vallarta
The replica of the wedding Crown
worn by crazy
Empress Carlota
Just another day at the Alter
Central Alter
shrouded in the pink that
The Lady appeared in.
One of the faithful
reciting the rosary as she moves to the alter on her knees.
The ‘Original’ cloak-
now found in Mexico City
Empress Carlota



  • Chloe Jeffreys - I love Puerto Vallarta! But not as much as the conclusions you’ve drawn about the Virgin Mary and tacos. Tacos are good. If you are still there had over to The Happy Lobster and order the special coffee.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Alais, I have returned to NOLA. Not a bad place to land, but next year I’ll swing by The Happy Lobster for a swig!ReplyCancel

  • Karen D. Austin - My husband works at a Catholic school, so it’s good for me to learn more about Catholic saints. Thank you.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - I find the stories of Saints fascinating. We have a priest here in New Orleans that is being vetted for sainthood as we speak. I should write about him….. thanks for reminding me!ReplyCancel

  • Toni McCloe - I love the pictures. The Empress was beautiful’ Love her skin. I wonder how they defined crazy then.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Probably just unhappy- maybe a temper, possibly a drink? Whatever it was I’m pretty sure is was wrong. EEeGads. And Thanks for stopping by!ReplyCancel

  • William Kendall - It is a beautiful church.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Yes William- it is. I think all churches are beautiful.ReplyCancel

  • Helene Cohen Bludman - The church is so pretty! So interesting to learn a bit about its history, too.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - It really is beautiful. And the faithful there are so reverent. A very humbling experience.ReplyCancel

  • Ruth Curran - I love your take aways and how you weave a tale! Tacos…. Too funny!ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Thanks Ruth! And I make a mean taco too! HahaaaReplyCancel

  • Doreen McGettigan - I was driving home tonight through the city of Philadelphia and saw a billboard about the Lady and got home and saw this post.
    Now I feel like I need to know more.
    What a beautiful church, great pictures and yes we Catholics are a crazy bunch and people are flawed.
    Great post!ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - I’d say once is a coincidence, twice is a ‘sign’. She’s calling you!ReplyCancel

  • Kim Tackett - I love how you wove the story and the images for us. Thank you!ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - It’s such a beautiful place. Finding a good shot was easy- unlike the people crawling on their knees. That looked hard. Which, I guess, was the point.ReplyCancel

  • Janie Emaus - I loved learning about this. And your photos are amazing.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Such a pretty place. ANyone could take a good photo- and I proved it. Thanks Jamie!ReplyCancel

  • Tam Warner Minton - The iconography is epic, and the belief in the conqueror’s religion is ironic. It does produce beautiful art.ReplyCancel

  • Wendy Walker Cushing - Even though I am not a fan of visiting Mexico I do love to travel and love visitng cathedrals! Your travel story makes me even want to go to Mexico now. Beautiful photos too! Fun!ReplyCancel

  • Diane Tolley - Yay! I’ve been there! Husby and I love churches.
    And I love tacos, too! It’s a good day.ReplyCancel

  • Carol Cassara - I have it on very good authority that the Blessed Mother, herself, makes a mean taco. Just sayin’ReplyCancel

  • Stacia Friedman - Thanks for providing the history behind the history.ReplyCancel

  • Mary La Fornara Gutierrez - I would love to one day see this Cathedral in person, I enjoyed hearing about the history. The pictures are stunning.ReplyCancel

  • Carolann Iadarola - What a stunning church. I’d love to go there someday. Never been to Mexico. The photos were beautiful!ReplyCancel

  • Estelle Sobel Erasmus - How gorgeous. Loved seeing the pictures of the church and Carlota, herself.ReplyCancel

  • Nancy Hill - I live on Lady Lupe’s (we are besties) turf. Tucson was part of Mexico for a long time, and longer still connected to the trade and farming culture from which Juan came. Pink roses will decorate my table on December 9th. Wonderful cultural history. I attended a beautiful double wedding in Ciudad Obregon in a Catholic Church graced by the Virgin of Guadalupe… Goddesses are so cool.ReplyCancel

  • Kimberly Montgomery - The churches of any country are always so interesting and Mexico is no exception. Your photos are gorgeous and I loved reading the back story — royal families never dissapoint!
    Kimberly XOReplyCancel

  • Lois Alter Mark - Ooh, we actually visited this church when we were in Puerto Vallarta. Of course, it’s much more interesting hearing about it from your always fascinating point of view!ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl Nicholl - I just have to try to understand the back story to every place I visit. That’s where the juicy stuff happens!ReplyCancel

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