Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Mourning marks festival

PLANT CITY — The annual Mexican festival of Our Lady of Guadalupe usually features dancing, carnival rides and food.

And Mario Lagunes had been hoping to launch his family's taco stand business after Wednesday night's Mass at the Plant City Stadium.

But this year, Mass was somber.

Father Carlos Jose Rojas of St. Clement Catholic Church had invited the families of the three Mexican-American men who tragically died within the last week to participate. The celebration became a memorial service as he led a candlelight procession and gave communion.

Rojas told the crowd of about 400 that it's sometimes hard to understand why such things happen. Juan Pablo "JP" Sanchez was only 18 when he died in a car crash Sunday. Michael Longoria, 36, a father of five, died in a shooting on Thursday, and the mourners still don't know why. Candelario Lagunes, 58, had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and was killed in the crossfire between deputies and the man suspected in Longoria's slaying.

Mario Lagunes, 30, the son of Candelario Lagunes, comforted his mother after the Mass. Nearby, dozens of people took turns hugging Silvia Sanchez, JP's mother.

"It's just a painful day for everybody," Lagunes said. "They loved their son, and I loved my father."

His family is going to postpone launching their taco business, he said. It had been his father's dream to open a restaurant.

Rojas said that although it's upsetting to have so much tragedy at once, especially during the holiday season, he hopes the families find comfort in Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The festival commemorates Mexican Saint Juan Diego's sighting in 1531 of an apparition of the Virgin Mary. Rojas said she appeared to Diego to ask for a spiritual home to be built so she could comfort those who are mourning.

"She symbolizes a new dawn in the middle of sadness," he said.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at or (813) 661-2443.

Mourning marks festival 12/11/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 16, 2008 5:25pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Senate ponders health care bill it doesn't want to be law


    Buoyed by a signal from House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced a pared-down health care bill late Thursday that he hoped would keep alive Republican ambitions to repeal Obamacare.

    Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., left and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., expressed concerns about passing the "skinny repeal" of Obamacare without assurances of further negotiations. [Getty Images]

  2. Arrest made in shooting death of 19-year-old found in lot


    A 20-year-old Tampa man was arrested Thursday night for the shooting death of a 19-year-old whose body was discovered in a vacant lot on Tuesday.

  3. Rays fall to Yankees in 11 on Brett Gardner homer (w/ video)

    The Heater

    NEW YORK — The front office did its part Thursday, making two trades to bolster the Rays' roster in a bid to make the playoffs. But the team on the field didn't follow through in a frustrating 6-5 11-inning loss to the Yankees.

    Evan Longoria hits a solo home run in the fourth inning against the Yankees as the Rays come back from a 3-0 deficit to take a 5-3 lead. They lose 6-5 in 11.
  4. Believe it! Rays are buyers, trade for reliever Dan Jennings and 1B/DH Lucas Duda

    The Heater

    NEW YORK — Dan Jennings' ability to render lefty hitters useless with a sinker that gets beaten into the ground and Lucas Duda's power to blast baseballs off and over outfield walls should make the Rays better.

    Lucas Duda
  5. Bucs' direction is decidedly up for first time in several years


    TAMPA — If you want to see a team give the Heisman Trophy stiff-arm to expectations, check out the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    Tight end O.J. Howard (20), the Bucs’ first-round draft pick this year, was brought in to give QB Jameis Winston another big-play option.