Lately the image of the "Mona Lisa" as occupied a preponderant position in the news around the world thanks to the recently released movie based on Dan Brown's novel. But there is a small town in Mexico's province where the religious feelings of its people manifested in a strange cult that would also be excellent material for a controversial novel.Nequeteje is a small town situated in the Mexican state of Hidalgo in the central region of the country not too far from Mexico City. It has a population of around 3000 people, most of them Otomi indians, that make a living mostly from agriculture and some small business financed by the money sent back by immigrants in the U.S to their families.
For 50 years, believe it or not, the cult to Leonardo's "Monalisa" was widespread among these people, to the point of having the image of this world famous painting placed in the main altar of the town's church sharing space with the traditional saints of the Catholic faith. They even used to take the image of "Monalisa" in religious processions to other nearby towns and they attributed many miracles to the new "saint".According to the story, "Mona Lisa" arrived in town in the 1940's when a group of foreign researchers spent some time in town and somehow they forgot to take the reproduction with them. Some one in Nequeteje found it and suddenly "Monalisa" became a new saint to venerate in town.
It has to be said the the Catholic Church never approved the cult but they tolerated the worship of "Mona Lisa" for many years afraid of the turmoil they could provoke if they suddenly invalidated the faith and veneration of Nequeteje's Virgin by its people.It was until some 10 years ago that a brave priest removed the image from altar arguing that it needed some fixing, at the beginning people was reluctant to let their highly venerated image of the "Gioconda" leave but the priest kept arguing about the need of the fix and finally he took it with him. To these days he has never returned the image to its altar, but people has never forgot her and still venerates the "Virgen de Nequeteje".
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By: O. Casas