December 17, 2004

Virgen de Guadalupe day in Tijuana

Photos and text by Luis Alonso Pérez

The tradition most passionately celebrated by Mexicans is, without a doubt, the Virgen de Guadalupe day. She’s called “Mother of Mexico” and every December 12 her children celebrate the anniversary of her appearance to Juan Diego with all their hearts.

Every year millions of Catholics from small towns and large cities do a pilgrimage to the Guadalupe basilica in Mexico City. Some participate in this long journeys pleading for a miracle or at least a little help. Others do it to pay off a debt with the “Virgencita”.

This Year, around two million Mexicans made a pilgrimage. More than 300 groups of pilgrims arrived to the Basilica from states like Veracruz, Puebla, Hidalgo and Guerrero.

People from Tijuana organized their own pilgrimage on the evening of Saturday, December 11. Thousands of people gathered in Miguel Hidalgo market, and marched on foot or in decorated trucks with large images of the Virgin for two hours and a half, until they reached the cathedral in downtown Tijuana. When they arrived fireworks started blasting and filled the sky with colors.

Since early morning Sunday Catholics started arriving to the cathedral to sing the “Mañ-anitas” and to listen to the mass in honor of the Virgin. Many people passed by the church on their way to work in order to see the virgin at least for a quick moment.

When the sun started shinning, families started arriving and crowding Martinez street. Everyone was swarming around the entrance eager to get in. Hundreds of people waited for hours so they could listen to mass or at least get a close look at the virgin’s image.

Parents carried their little children on their shoulders and the older ones helped their grandmothers in.

Many little boys went to church dressed like Juan Diego and some little girls where dressed with typical costumes. Everyone wanted their souvenir picture taken in front of a painting of the virgin appearing to Juan Diego in the Tepeyac hill.

Outside was a big celebration going on underneath blue and green tents. Dozens of stands selling music, gifts, Christmas decorations and images of the Virgen de Guadalupe on rosaries, candles, posters, t-shirts and compact disks that hang in the car’s rear view mirror. The smell of pozole, barbacoa and chiles rellenos traveled all over the place, food stands had every seat busy.

When people got in the church they lowered their voice and acted respectfully, but the pushing didn’t stop, it just became more discreet. Everyone was looking up, admiring the large image of the Virgen de Guadalupe hanging up on the altar. For many kids this was the first time they saw it and for some elderly people, it might be their last.

For many, Dia de la Virgen is no more than an obligated visit to the church, but for most Mexican Catholics this is a tradition they celebrate with their hearts. Their faces reflected the great faith people have in the “Guadalupana”, many where praying so faithfully that tears rolled down their cheeks.

At the end of the day, everyone went back home happy because they had been with the “Virgencita” in her special day.

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