In the state of Jalisco in Mexico is a little village known as Talpa de Allende. Today it is a center of Marian devotion, but in the 17th Century it was known to few besides the priests who came occasionally to administer the sacraments.
The poverty of the villagers was reflected in their church, which was decorated in the crude fashion of the Mexican Indians in the area. Its chief ornaments were statues carved from cornstalks. With the passing of time, the cornstalks had decayed, and the statues had become ugly images of Our Lady and the Saints. In 1644, the priest gave orders that the statues should be destroyed.
Among the statues was one representing Our Lady of the Rosary, with her child in her arms and the half-moon at her feet. As one of the village women reached to destroy this image, she was suddenly surrounded with a very bright light. The crumbling statue was miraculously changed – its soft substance become solid and strong, its ugly outlines became extremely beautiful. This miracle took place on September 19, 1644. Since that time, this image has been venerated in the Basilica of Talpa de Allende, and devotion to Our Lady of the Rosary of Talpa has spread among the Mexican people.
Between the years 1926 and 1928, persecution in Mexico closed the churches and drove the priests into exile. Many Catholics followed them. Hundreds of families crossed the border into California and settled in Los Angeles, until Spanish became the language of the city’s east side. Without priests of churches, these fervent people preserved their Catholic traditions of faith in God and devotion to Our Lady. Soon Father Cordero, one of the exiled Mexican priests, was named administrator of the Mission of Our Lady of Talpa. The first mass was celebrated on Ash Wednesday, 1927; the first Baptism was recorded on October 27, 1928.
By 1938 the Mexican priests were able to return to their homeland. The Spanish Vincentian Fathers then accepted the charge of Our Lady of Talpa Parish. From that time until his death in 1964, Father Jose Cervera served as the people’s beloved Pastor. In spite of many hardships, Father Cervera’s strong faith in Our Lady led him to “dream big.” Father planned for a school and in September 1950, construction began. On September 16, 1951, the dream of many years was realized: Talpa School was opened! The first day of school was celebrated with Holy Mass at 9:00 a.m. in Our Lady of Talpa Church, which was attended by a large congregation of children and parents. The enrollment on that first day was 256 children for grades Kinder to 4th. Three Daughters of Charity were on hand to receive the first pupils of Our Lady of Talpa School. These three pioneers were Sister Rosalie, Sister Margaret Mary, and Sister Rosanna.