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wall-vdeg-webThe Virgin of Guadalupe is worshipped throughout all of Mexico and is one of the most powerful symbols – if not the most powerful – with which the Mexican people identify. She represents mexicanismo, hope, and intercession, as she first made her appearance to Juan Diego, a Mexican peasant. She is celebrated on Dec. 12th at the many shrine churches for 7 days leading up to her feast day. Pilgrims, who have made a promesa (promise) will come on foot, by bicycle, or by any other means of conveyance, some carrying almost life-size and smaller virgins, crosses, and other religious imagery on their backs. 

I’ve talked to those who have travelled from Mexico City to the Yucatan – a journey of 16 days by bike over steep mountain terrain. As road-weary as they are, they arrive jubilant to cheers from supporters and fellow pilgrims. After being greeted by the priest, who leads them in a round of shouts (gritos) for the la Virgen – “Viva Guadalupe!”, they are blessed by the priest, attend mass and sometimes sleep on the sidewalks behind the church before returning to their homes, arriving well after Christmas. The virgins are then returned to their local churches or home altars.

On the eve of her feast day, Dec. 11th, it is common to find celebrations outside the church which include mariachis and fireworks at midnight. Guadalupana, as she is known, and Mexico’s national identity are inextricably intertwined in a spirit of faith, worship and alegria (joy, happiness). 

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