To understand the significance of the weeping Virgin Mary, or Our Lady of Guadalupe, within the Catholic faith, one must understand her historical and cultural importance in this region.
In December 1531, the Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared in Mexico City during a time when Mexico’s first Bishop Fray Juan de Zumarraga was losing hope in establishing a Catholic church. There was distrust between the native Aztecs and the Spaniards, who conquered Central American region. But it was her appearance that helped pave the way to an ultimate acceptance and unity of both groups, creating a single nation that is now Mexico.
Our Lady of Guadalupe’s appearance, or apparition, was the first of five known to mankind. But it is the only apparition where her image was left. The nation’s unification has been documented for he past 500 years. These people grew to become very faithful in the Catholic religion and are known as “Guadalupanos.”
Ricardo Flores proudly calls himself a Guadalupano. He also proudly states that he is part of the team of artists who created the statue of the Virgin Mary, which wept on Sunday and Tuesday at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Hobbs. The two moments of weeping brought regional and national interest, while also renewing the faith of many Catholics and other people of faith.
“We are not a foundry that makes crying statues,” Flores said. “Maybe there is a miracle taking place with this statue, but we make them as an act of business and faith. We have nothing to do with the fact of this miracle. We are very proud. If it comes true, I wouldn’t have any words to describe what I would probably feel.”
Our Lady of Guadalupe Church Office Manager Judy Ronquillo said the wave of visitors may have slowed down during the work day, “but as soon as people get off work, there is a line that goes beyond the front door.” The church continues to stay open throughout the night as visitors come to visit and recite the Rosary. It only stops during the morning and afternoon Mass celebrations.
Flores is co-owner of Michel Leal and Flores LLC, a fine art, foundry and steel fabrication business based in Mexico City since 1968. It has an office in Carrolton, Texas, near Dallas that Flores runs. Co-owner German (pronounced Herman) Michel runs the day-to-day operations in Mexico. The company is world renown for its statues — not just of Our Lady of Guadalupe — which are found in Mexico, Europe, Puerto Rico, Poland and the U.S.
Flores said the statue was created three years ago in Campanas Sonoras, a bronze foundry in Mexico City. Through several silicon molds the statue was created in pieces and then carefully welded together.
“This particular statue, she is very similar to the original image of Our Lady of Guadalupe,” Flores said. “It’s not a freestyle version. It is very important because Our Lady of Guadalupe is the only apparition of the five in the history of mankind to leave an image behind. A lot of people love the faith of Our Lady, but many have forgotten which is the original image and how it was left behind. There are thousands of versions of the image, but we are very proud that our version. It is very close to the original image that Our Lady left behind. That is very important to our faith.”
Flores said his company has built more than 400 versions of this statue — from six inches to 10 feet.
“Of this particular statue, we probably made about 75 statues of her,” Flores said. “Because of how they are made, each one is different and therefore unique. They are all about 96 to 97 percent accurate to the original image. We do the drawing, fabrication, pouring and assembling. The color of the statue is done with a patina chemical reaction.”
The statue originally was sent to a Catholic church in Maryland, but during a winter night, the weather became cold enough for the statue to crack.
“It is very unusual, because bronze doesn’t crack in cold weather,” Flores said. “The priest of the parish wanted to send her back. So we talked to several people and the priest (Father Jose ‘Pepe” Segura) at the Hobbs church said they wanted her.”
Flores said he got the statue to Hobbs last July and offered to fix it, but Father Pepe was happy with what they have. That was the last time Flores heard of the statue, until Sunday’s events.
Ronquillo believes that the statue’s journey to Hobbs is special.
“She was meant to come here,” Ronquillo said. “I truly believe that this was all meant to happen here.”