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Millions arrive to honor the Virgin of Guadalupe

El Universal
December 12, 2004

Devout pilgrims flooded into Mexico City in buses, on bicycles, piled into cargo trucks and on foot on Saturday to pay homage to the nation's patron saint, the Virgin of Guadalupe.
City officials estimated that at least 2.3 million visitors had arrived by Saturday evening, and around 100,000 more were arriving hourly. Their final destination was the Virgin's Basilica that houses the famous cloak bearing her image, the nation's holiest relic.

One group of 200 arrived on bicycles from their village in the state of Hidalgo, 60 miles (98 kilometers) away. The exhausted group had left late Friday, and didn't make it until well into Saturday.

Thousands camped out in the streets leading to the Basilica, while vendors sold all sorts of merchandise bearing the Virgin's image to the faithful. Police activity in the area was increased to ensure order.

According to legend, the Virgin appeared to the Indian Juan Diego on Dec. 12, 473 years ago on Tepeyac Hill, which is now northern Mexico City.

Diego was canonized by Pope John Paul in 2002.

The multitudes of believers traditionally arrive on Dec. 11 to hold an all-night session of praise and thanks to the Virgin.

Typical activities expected are the indigenous conchero dancers and the Mañanitas vigil concert.

Musical artists Lucero, Lila Downs, Priscila y sus Balas de Plata (Priscila and her Silver Bullets) and many more were scheduled to honor the spiritual mother of Mexico through the night.

The massive flock of believers traditionally join in to to greet the Virgin at dawn, with Las Mañanitas and other serenades and tunes, some religious, others romantic.

The nation's devotion to the Virgin, also known as "the queen of Mexico," has made the Basilica the world's most visited holy site after Mecca, receiving an estimated 1314 million pilgrims annually.

© 2004 Copyright El Universal-El Universal Online

12/12/04 3:00 PM El Universal Online - Versión para imprimir

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