Experience the Feast Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe
Each December 12, thousands of pilgrims from all corners of the country converge upon the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City to honor the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Some arrive by car, others by bus, and a good many have made the entire journey on foot, some of them carrying crosses, statues, or massive floral offerings in tribute to this important symbol of Mexico.
You don't have to be Catholic to appreciate the experience. Standing among the pilgrims as they arrive at the basilica after arduous journeys is a moving moment you won't soon forget. Seeing them sleep on the plaza in front of the basilica or praying on their knees inside the massive church helps you begin to understand something about the deep devotion of Mexicans to "Our Lady."
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Religious Visions on Tepeyac Hill
The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a vital part of Mexico City history in its own right, but the grounds spreading out around it are even more central to the narrative of the capital's Catholic history.
In 1531, an indigenous man and recent convert to Christianity, Juan Diego, was on his way to attend catechism in Tlatelolco when he was distracted by the bright glow and heavenly music emanating from the hill of Tepeyac, on the grounds of the present-day basilica. Diego made his way toward the light and sound; there, he was awestruck when the Virgin Mary appeared and told Diego she wanted him to go to the Bishop of Mexico City and tell him to build a shrine in her honor. Meeting resistance from the bishop, the Virgin appeared to Diego several times over the course of the next few days to reaffirm her wish and encourage Diego. Ultimately, after her image was impressed upon Diego's cloak, the bishop was convinced of the veracity of the man's accounts of the apparitions.
The original apparition site of the Virgin, who soon appeared to Diego's uncle and conveyed her wish that she be addressed as the Virgin of Guadalupe, is perhaps overshadowed by the grandiose basilica–at least for visitors. Follow Mexicans who seem to be wandering across the long plaza, away from the basilica; they're likely heading toward the hill, which is the most visited Marian shrine in the world. Flowers are still left in Our Lady's honor today.
Make a Pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe
La Virgen de Guadalupe-Our Lady of Guadalupe–is revered by Mexicans, and her image is ubiquitous, found in every form imaginable, from traditional statues to bumper stickers. She also lends her name to any number of businesses and buildings, including the Basilica to which faithful flock–many on their knees or carrying crosses–each December 12.
The arrival of the pilgrims is a sight to behold, but so is the basilica, an architectural marvel, which you can visit any time of the year. Completed in 1976, the present basilica is not the first one to have sat on this site; an older one, which needed to be replaced because it was sinking, remains on the grounds and is open to the public after renovation and rehabilitation.
The principal architect, Pedro Ramiréz Vázquez, who died in 2013, is responsible for some of the most compelling modern buildings in Mexico City, including Estadio Azteca and the National Anthropology Museum, as well as a number of buildings throughout the country and abroad.