Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle

This morning we drove Danica over to the Avalon Spa where she had an appointment for a facial, a massage a manicure and a pedicure compliments of her boyfriend, Chance.  Chance got in touch with Mary over Facebook and they arranged the whole thing.  Danica was pretty surprised.  

While Danica was relaxing at the spa, we went home and made a Christmas snack mix, and various candies that Tommy and Addi could dip.  We all had a great time and there was a lot of tasting going on.  We made enough for nice Christmas gift boxes that the kids could give to their Daddy, their Grandma Joey, Chance and there was some for them too.  When we were done cleaning up the mess,  we headed back to McAllen to pick up Danica. She had beautiful finger and toe nails and looked refreshed.

We decided that she should really get to see the Basilica  of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle National Shrine which is in San Juan, a short drive from McAllen.  We have been to this basilica several times before but it is always amazing.

The basilica really became a reality because of the tiny statue of Our Lady of San Juan or "La Virgen de San Juan".  In 1623 a acrobat traveling with his wife and children stopped in San Juan de los Lagos to give a performance.  During the act, their youngest daughter fell and was killed.  An Indian woman who took care of the church begged the family to place the image of the Virgin Mary over their daughter's body and to pray for the Virgin's intercession.  A miracle occurred and the child was brought back to life.  The word of this miracle spread throughout Mexico.

In 1949 when Rev. Jose Maria Azpiazu became the pastor of the parish of St, John the Baptist in San Juan, he decided that fostering the devotion of the Virgin Mary would draw the people together.  He received permission from the Bishop to commission an artist in Guadalajara, Mexico to make a reproduction of the statue that was venerated at San Juan de Los Lagos.  The small statue in the main altar is this same statue.  It was saved during the burning of the first church.  The Mexican people so loved the Virgin Mary that they contributed whatever they had to build the Shrine that now exists here in San Juan.

The basilica was dedicated in 1980  and the shrine was designated as a National Shrine in 1998.  This church was built after the first church was destroyed in a fire in 1970.  What is amazing is that this area should not be able to support this type of facility.  The basilica was paid for by some of the poorest of the poor in the United States.  The congregation here is very active.  The basilica has 2030 seats and Sister told us that all Masses are full.   They have Spanish, Bilingual and English Masses on Saturday and Sunday.  Besides the congregation, the basilica gets around 20,000 visitors each week (that's a million each year).

Of course, it was decorated beautifully for the Advent Season. 

After we left the basilica, we decided to take the kids out to Fiesta Tex-Mex in Weslaco where they could experience some of the Mexican food down here in the valley.  We aren't great fans of Mexican but Danica and the kids are so we figured they should have at least one Mexican meal while they are here.  We have eaten with friends at the Fiesta Tex-Mex before so we knew we could find something we like and, of course, their home made tortilla chips are great.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Porter Park Christmas Village

After we finished at the zoo, we had dinner at Golden Corral in Brownsville.  The food was really quite good and very plentiful.

Then we headed across the street from the Gladys Porter Zoo to the Holiday Village that was set up for Christmas at Porter Park.  The village display is set up in the main meadow of the park.  It is a very pretty setting and the display is set up as a town with everything a town would have including restaurants, a library, a church, stores and even a dentist.  Lights adorn the inside and outsides of the buildings.  They make changes and additions to the holiday village so that there will be a continued interest in it. 

The kiddos seemed to really enjoying peeping in all the windows to see what was happening inside each little building.  There was certainly a lot of attention to detail given to each exhibit.

There was also some entertainment going on in the park but we didn't sit down to watch that.  We did take the kids over to the playground to let them wear out any existing energy they may have stored up so they would nap on the way home.  They had a great time at the playground.  Tommy made friends with a little boy and they really got a lot of exercise chasing each other around.  

All of us were pretty surprised at how long it took for the kids to get to sleep in the car.  They almost outlasted me!

Gladys Porter Zoo

The next stop was the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville.   This zoo officially opened on September 3, 1971.  It is situated on 31 acres and has about 1600 animals and many endangered species.  The zoo is known for its successes in breeding endangered species of wildlife.  The zoo is named after Gladys Porter, the daughter of Earl C. Sams, former president of JCPenney. 

Danica entering the zoo

They look relaxed

Addi and Tommy

He's a Big Fella!

Grandma and Tommy


Bornean Bearded Hog

Stanley Crane

Harnessed Bushback Antelope - African
The zoo is laid out really well and the exhibits are all nice and clean.  Many of the animals have a lot of room to roam.  There is a canal that runs through the zoo and makes little islands for some of the animals and there are boardwalks so that you can walk around them.
White Tiger

Checking out the tigers

Addi wants his attention

Central American Rattlesnake

We're checking out a snake

Gila Monster

An abundance of Giraffes

Howler Monkey

East African Crowned Cranes

Doma Gazelle - African

Danica and Addi in front of the zebras

Now entering the playground

and what a playground it is!

Tommy is on the move!

Danica is up to playing also

Here comes Addi

Next comes Danica

Tommy again

Addi again

Oh my, Grandpa got into the action!

Danica and her Mom

Playing in the Mist


Red Ruffed Lemur from Madagascar


He looks bored!

Greater Marabou Stork - Africa




He's losing his head!

Addi follows suit

Scarlet Ibis - South America

Mongolian Duck

He's got attitude!

They are sitting on a chair with a vibrating foot rest

Spectacled Bear - Andes Mountains

Sun Bear - Southeast Asia

Tommy talking to Daddy

Addi talking to Daddy

Souvenir time

Our little cutie pie!

We all had an excellent time checking out all the unique animals that reside at the Gladys Porter Zoo.  Then, of course, we had to stop for some souvenirs.