Al Nava came back from Mexico three years ago with a replica of Mexico's revered Our Lady of Guadalupe icon from the 16th century and now wants to share it with fellow Elginites.
Nava is inviting people to celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Wednesday outdoors on his 2.5-acre property at 38W491 U.S. Highway 20, about 1.8 miles west of Randall Road in Elgin. On display will be the large, 5-feet by 7-feet painting he bought at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, which holds the original icon.
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"I want to people to enjoy it," he said. "A lot of people in Elgin want to come and see it."
Nava's wife, Fabby, said the painting is a true symbol of faith.
"She's supposed to be the mother of all Mexicans. She's No. 1 all over Mexico, and we feel the same, even though I grew up in the United States," she said.
People can begin arriving at midnight Tuesday and stay for the next 24 hours until midnight Wednesday for prayers and "maņanitas," or traditional singing. A Catholic priest will bless the painting at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Coffee and cinnamon tea will be served, and possibly tamales, the Navas said. People should dress appropriately for the cold weather.
Nava, 62, has lived in the United States for 39 years. He worked as a mechanical engineer until he had a stroke in 2005, he said. He and Fabby, 58, met when they were children and will celebrate their 39th wedding anniversary Saturday.
Last year was the first time the Navas displayed the painting in their backyard for the Guadalupe feast, inviting about 50 friends and relatives. This year, they want to invite the entire community.
"We want to share it because it's a symbol of faith, and I guess there isn't any other Virgin of Guadalupe in the area that I know of," Fabby Nava said.