Cronica

 Filmmaker Jesús Muñoz delves into the fervour caused in Mexico by the figure of the Guadalupan and analyses it as part of the social imaginary. 

IRVING TORRES YLLÁN 

24/10/2023 09:20 

Two years ago, just coming out of the pandemic, Jesús Muñoz found himself working on a documentary that sought to bear witness to the fervour caused in Mexico by the figure of the so-called Virgin of Guadalupe, which now arrives through DocsMx film festival under the name of Tonantzin. Guadalupe, a fascinating journey through mysticism, history, and faith. A documentary that will undoubtedly create controversy, in spite of the fact that it is neither disrespectful nor completely religious. 

The film starts in a misleading way, it would seem that we are before the typical piece that will talk about the Basilica of Guadalupe and the pilgrimages that arrive there on the 12th of December, the date on which the apparitions are commemorated, but in reality it only does this to put us in the right context, because almost immediately we are immersed in the castings made to find those who participate in the recreation of historical events and the Guadalupan myth, especially Dalia Xiuhcoatl and Juan Antonio Saldaña, who give life on screen to the Virgin and Juan Diego. Tonantzin. Guadalupe is narrated by Mabel Cadena, who helps to give the images presented another dimension, guiding the viewer through the religious and scientific world. 

Tonantzin. Guadalupe uses the text ‘Huei tlamahuizoltica omonexiti in ilhuícac tlatohcacihuapilli Santa María Totlazonantzin Guadalupe in nican huei altepenáhuac México itocayocan Tepeyácac’ (from the Náhuatl meaning By a great miracle the heavenly queen appeared, our precious mother Saint Mary of Guadalupe appeared, near the great altépetl of Mexico, there where they call Tepeyacac), a text known colloquially as "Nican Mopohua" (first words of the text meaning "Here it is narrated"). 

The film finds interesting notes in small details, such as when we see the Spanish actors recognise on camera that in the Iberian country the theme of the conquest is a theme that is seen almost in passing, in very broad strokes, always highlighting the rescue of these lands, without speaking of the excesses that were committed. Or when Dalia points out that even referring to the virgin as a brunette is a way of capturing the national mindset to enter the common consciousness of the majority of the country's inhabitants, who have skin of that colour. 

The director handles everything with a fresh rhythm, which makes things flow naturally, carrying things through as they emerge before the on-camera commentary, someone singing the theme of 

"La Guadalupana" in Nahuatl becomes a tour of the streets of Mexico City where the religious iconography that represents her is found on every corner, for example. 

When it is said that Tonantzin, a Mexica religious deity celebrated on 12 December, was worshipped on the hill of Tepeyac, the work enters a difficult but necessary territory, where, without questioning the authenticity of what many believe in religion, it talks about the lack of historical documents to back up these sayings. Starting with the fact that the only text that mentions it in detail is the aforementioned "Nican Mopohua", written 110 years after the events. From there, he enters the realm of recreation by showing on screen three historical moments that mark the route that religion was taking in those years, from the arrival of the first Franciscan friars to the way in which the beliefs of the area were brutalised and buried. 

It is important to highlight how Tonantzin. Guadalupe speaks of the similarities between the apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe and the Patron Saint of Extremadura; in this way the story of Juan Diego is narrated with another native of the area in pre-Columbian times. How the iconography is already represented in other European religious figures. Entering the debate, without showing it or saying it openly, that it was all part of a ruse to guarantee the conversion of the indigenous people of the area. How the onset of religious miracles in America cemented their strength and interest for the ecclesiastical authorities residing in Europe. 

Cleverly, the filmmaker borders on the polemical by focusing the work on more than just hard, historical data, the documentary is really about the way people have embraced their religion, their mysticism. The way in which the belief permeated not only the original inhabitants but the Spaniards and Creoles themselves, how people believe in it and have made it part of their lives, of their actions. 

Tonantzin. Guadalupe is a documentary that invites to debate, to reflect, to consider the importance of the Virgin of Guadalupe beyond a fact or myth, but as part of the social imaginary that this country has created.