Ave Maria

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guadalupe.jpgSwinging through Mexico on his Latin American jaunt, John McCain is paying an early morning call on Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico’s patron saint. The AP sees this as more or less a straight pander for Catholic–especially Hispanic Catholic–votes: “The Basilica de Guadalupe is Mexico’s holiest site for Roman Catholics, and Catholic and Hispanic voters are expected to be key swing voters in the November election.” It’s a bit more complicated than that, I think.
Beginning before and ending after the presidential election four years ago, a torch relay honoring the Virgin proceeded from Mexico City to New York City in order to demand respect for the rights of Mexican and other Hispanic immigrants to the U.S. This was designed to send a message to President Bush, whose position on immigration during that campaign was considered inferior to John Kerry’s, as well as to protest Arizona’s adoption of Proposition 200, which demanded proof of legal residence in order to gain access to public services. As this protest indicates, Our Lady of Guadalupe is more than just the Catholic emblem of Mexico; she’s the emblem of Mexico’s dispossessed and poor, and above all the Indios personified in Juan Diego, the peasant to whom she (according to the legend) appeared in 1531.
McCain will reportedly ask Mexican president Felipe Calderon to help out with illegal immigration–an especially tricky subject for the Arizona senator, inasmuch as his position has, ah, evolved from Lou Dobbsian “amnesty” to more conventional GOP “keep ’em out.” The early morning visit to the basilica takes the edge off that a bit. After all, whereas four years ago the Virgin came to America, now America comes to the Virgin. Even as he works on tightening the screws, John feels Juan’s pain.
Update: Pool report of the visit.