Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish
"The Burro Story"
Written by Professor Aaron Abeyta
In 1854, some nine generations ago, led by the Holy Spirit and influenced by a sign from La Virgen de Guadalupe, our ancestors came to the green and fertile land immediately north of the Conejos River. They had traveled far, some 83 families looking for a better life and a place where they could lay down their roots and leave a legacy that would span generations; with them they brought their children, memories, prayers, aspirations, courage and their faith. Their long journey was marked by dust and toil; their livestock and therefore their livelihood was trailed alongside them, horses, cattle, sheep, goats and a train of donkeys, on whose backs all their worldly possessions were packed away, all made the trip north with them.
The sight for the oldest parish in Colorado, Our Lady of Guadalupe, was chosen, some would argue, at the behest of La Virgen herself. The Blessed Mother of the Americas, long venerated for her bridging of cultures, promise of peace, and for her wonderful and sacred signs, chose for her vessel not the leader of the party, not one of the heads of the 83 families, but a lowly and undistinguished burro. Having walked for over a hundred miles without incident, it was at the original site of our church that this donkey suddenly refused to move. Not unlike the more famous appearance of La Virgen de Guadalupe to Saint Juan Diego, Our Lady chose to make her wishes known by offering a sign through the most subservient of the voyagers, a donkey. Perhaps it was a reminder of the donkey that carried The Virgin Mary to Bethlehem for the birth of Our Savior that made her choose such an animal as her messenger. Or perhaps it was a sign to recall Christ’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
As the animal refused to move and as the settlers became more and more irate with the animal, their whippings and protestations having no effect upon the burro, the men decided it was best to unburden the animal of its load. Despite the lightened load, the donkey still refused to move. It was not until the contents of the panniers were unpacked that a small statue of La Virgen de Guadalupe was found amongst the other possessions. Our ancestors, people of great faith, took this as a sign, which clearly it was, because once they acknowledged the sign and made a vow to build a church in Our Lady of Guadalupe’s honor upon that very site, the burro then began to cooperate and move along as before. It was from this lowly and seemingly inconsequential incident that our long tenured and vibrant faith has take root in the villages and communities that surround current day Guadalupe. Our ancestors took to heart the sign that was given to them and laid down the foundations of faith, culture, language, heritage and legacy for the many generations that have followed. Their story is one of persistence and courage exhibited by the original Pobladores, a lasting and beautiful legacy that is now being honored by the current members of our parish.