Guadalupe in New York

Devotion and the Struggle for Citizenship Rights among Mexican Immigrants

256 pages

26 illustrations

December, 2009

ISBN: 9780814732151



Also available in


Alyshia Gálvez, a cultural anthropologist, is Assistant Professor of Latin American and Puerto Rican Studies at Lehman College, City University of New York. She is editor of the book Performing Religion in the Americas and Traveling Virgins/Virgenes Viajeras, an issue of the journal e-misférica.

All books by Alyshia Galvez

Every December 12th, thousands of Mexican immigrants gather for the mass at New York City’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s feast day. They kiss images of the Virgin, wait for a bishop’s blessing—and they also carry signs asking for immigration reform, much like political protestors. It is this juxtaposition of religion and politics that Alyshia Gálvez investigates in Guadalupe in New York.

The Virgin of Guadalupe is a profound symbol for Mexican and Mexican-American Catholics and the patron saint of their country. Her name has been invoked in war and in peace, and her image has been painted on walls, printed on T-shirts, and worshipped at countless shrines. For undocumented Mexicans in New York, Guadalupe continues to be a powerful presence as they struggle to gain citizenship in a new country.

Through rich ethnographic research that illuminates Catholicism as practiced by Mexicans in New York, Gálvez shows that it is through Guadalupan devotion that many undocumented immigrants are finding the will and vocabulary to demand rights, immigration reform, and respect. She also reveals how such devotion supports and emboldens immigrants in their struggle to provide for their families and create their lives in the city with dignity.


  • “Galvez’s findings offer much to consider for students of religious, ethnic, and transnational identities.”


  • “Professor Galvez presents the social and anthropological theoretical framework for all these developments clearly and succinctly, making this book a valuable addition to academic studies on Latinos in the United States and an excellent college text. But all readers will find the individual immigrant stories and the organizational travails thoroughly engaging and the journeys of faith inspiring.”

    —American Catholic Studies

  • "Galvez' book is a fascinating and valuable study of the intersection between contemporary religious practice and national identity among New York City's Mexican immigrant community."

    —Paul Kahan, Religious Studies Review

  • “Gálvez’s rich ethnographic study of Mexican immigrants in New York City highlights their devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe not only as a religious practice but as a means to create community and public life in the United States. Given the ongoing and increasing presence of Mexicans immigrants in the Northeast, Guadalupe in New York is an important study that social scientists, educators, religious workers, and public servants should read to understand the persistent and complex role that Guadalupe devotion plays in the lives of Mexicans in the United States.”

    —Joseph M. Palacios, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Georgetown University

  • “Portrays the dilemmas of being a recent Mexican immigrant in New York City today. This book analyzes how the cult of the Virgin of Guadalupe provides a means for immigrants to articulate their aspirations for belonging and, ultimately, citizenship in the United States. Written with vivid grace, this book is a pleasure to read and should be required reading for all concerned with these issues.”

    —Renato Rosaldo, Lucie Stern Professor in the Social Sciences, Emeritus, Stanford University