Monday, August 15, 2016

Dispatch #56: Writing In The Field Part II

La Nuestra Senora de La Guadalupe Iglesia
by Lupe Fernandez

I sit on a hard bench in La Nuestra Senora de La Guadalupe Iglesia mid morning. I like the quiet, the cool breeze from the side door, the natural diffused light, an occasional echo of whispering women, a toot of a traffic copes whistle a block away. Birds chirp on trees outside, distance laughter of school children.

And nobody bothers me.

Sunday afternoon I had attended mass. I had a paper pamphlet to read along with my Tia and my mother. Spanish in an echo chamber is difficult to understand; I contented myself with admiring the interior. Even though we sit in the back of the church, the mass of bodies made the place humid. Perhaps a wink of drowsy eyes or an unconscious nod of my head, but I swore I saw the statue of Juan Diego, perched above the altar in adoration of La Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, move.

Established Mexican legend states in December 1531, ten years after the destruction of the Aztec Empire by Hernando Cortez, his Spanish soldiers, local allies, gun powder, Toledo steel and small pox, a converted indigenous young man baptized Juan Diego had a vision of the La Nuestra Senora in the hills of Tepeyac, outside of Mexico City. He gave evidence of this vision to doubting priests in the form of the image of The Virgin imprinted on his clothing.

Forward five centuries and a plaster mannequin is positioned in a kneeling reverence at the painting of La Nuestra Senora bordered by two Mexican flags. All in sight of the faithful attending mass.

But what if Juan Diego moved? What if the censor smoke drifting above the altar made him sneeze?

Juan Diego is conscious. He stands on a high perch, sees the astonishing throng below, shouting, pointing at him in a language foreign to him. Not Nahuatl, dialect of the Aztecs. Not Spanish Castilian. Not Latin.

Screams. Shouts from the audience. A woman faints. Others pray frantically. The priest is furious. Some pendejo is playing a very disgraceful, sacrilegious joke. The priest orders one of the church’s volunteers, a young boy in a white shirt, black pants and a satchel slung over is shoulder to get that miscreant off the ledge. Our young volunteer rushes up the back staircase leading up to the painting and opens the access door.

Meanwhile Juan Diego is in a panic. Too high to jump down. He must escape.

A man in short pants, striped shirts and scarf yells at Juan Diego, calling him a trick of Satan. Ten the phones come out and the flashes begin. Juan Diego is dizzy, ready to fall when the access door opens and the church volunteer appears. Juan Diego sees his escape and rushes the door. The volunteer grabs Juan’s arm and feels the cool smooth touch of painted plaster.

Everything happens so fast.

Juan Diego is gone. The church is searched from this perceived prankster. The audience rushes the altar, demanding answers. Others flee the church to spread the Good Word. A Sign. Juan Diego is alive. This is the work of La Nuestra Senora.

The situation escalates...

Mass is over. I remain in the church playing the story in my head. A volunteer just paused by the bench to ask me what I was doing. I tell him in the American Spanish I am studying La Senora and Juan Diego and writing my thoughts. Even if I could communicate my true intent, I suspect he would politely ask me to leave or question my sanity. But he leaves to prepare for mass at one pm.

I remain on the hard bench, sweating to finish a synopsis. When I return home, I will type up my scribbles, save the file Juan Diego Sneezes in my premise folder, waiting for the day to written.


  1. I am praying you will write this. A great short story.

    1. Thanks Susan. It's on the list.
      Sneezing Saint


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