Southland Mexican food businesses have been busy catering to residents observing the popular Roman Catholic and Mexican celebration, the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, (Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe).
The festivities build on Dec. 11 until midnight and resume at dawn on Dec. 12, when many believers stay long hours at church to attend a special mass, sing songs of praise, enjoy reenactments and pre-Hispanic dances and socialize with each other.
Observances began as early as Sunday, with churches holding special masses, sometimes with religious music performed by mariachi and Banda singers.
Though the celebration is as much cultural as it is religious, Nicaraguan-born Carlos Solis enjoys the entertainment offered at the festivities.
"I like it because they put mariachi, and beautiful songs — new songs just for her," said Solis, a Bellflower resident, speaking about the Virgen de Guadalupe.
But the religious meaning of the holiday is just as important, if not more so, for Solis who grew up learning about the Virgen in school.
According to Catholic Church tradition, the Virgin Mary appeared more than 450 years ago as the Virgen de Guadalupe to a peasant named Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill, what is now present-day Mexico City. There, she asked him in his native Nahuatl language to tell an archbishop that she wanted a church built in her honor.
Four days after her appearance on Dec. 12, 1531, she gave Juan Diego roses native to Spain in order to prove her existence to the archbishop. When Juan Diego showed the roses to the archbishop, he also revealed an image on his cloak of the Lady of Guadalupe.
The event has a special significance for Mexican Catholics, many of whom view the Virgin, self-proclaimed as Queen of Mexicans, as their caretaker.
Her appearance to Juan Diego as a dark-skinned, Nahuatl-speaking apparition was said to have peacefully converted over 9 million indigenous people in Mexico.
Today, the Guadalupana tradition invites Mexicans and all believers of the Lady of Guadalupe to gather at the annual festivities.
On these days, especially on Dec. 12, young children get dressed in indigenous costumes, with young boys usually dressed as Juan Diego. People drink champurrado, a warm chocolate-based atole, and eat tamales and pan dulce, (sweet bread).
In Long Beach, residents can check out El Sol Bakery, 1465 Magnolia Ave., for champurrado and pan dulce.
Marina del Rey residents can purchase tasty tamales at Tamara’s Tamales on Washington Boulevard.
Those who shop in Culver City have an array of businesses to choose from to get their fill of tamales, including Tito's Tacos and Cinco de Mayo.
How are you celebrating Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe? Tell us in the comments.