Friday, 26 November 2010

Commemorating the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Once again, if you are taking a cruise that has a stop anywhere in Mexico on the 12th of December, you might witness one of the many mini marathons, celebrations and firework displays commemorating Our Lady of Guadalupe.
It all started on back on the 12th of December, 1531, when a young Juan Diego, an indigenous Mexican peasant, had a vision of the Virgin Mary on top of a hill on the outskirts of Mexico City, Tepeyac Hill.  The Virgin Mary asked Juan Diego, in his native language of Nahuatl, to build a church on top of this hill in her honour.
Juan Diego rushed to the see the local Spanish bishop, Fray Juan de Zumarraga, who “instructed him to return and ask the Lady for a miraculous sign to prove her claim. The Virgin told Juan Diego to gather some flowers from the top of Tepeyac Hill. It was winter and no flowers bloomed, but on the hilltop Diego found flowers of every sort, and the Virgin herself arranged them in his tilma, or peasant cloak. When Juan Diego opened the cloak before Zumárraga the flowers fell to the floor and in their place was the Virgin of Guadalupe, miraculously printed on the fabric.”

Today it is displayed in the Basilica of Guadalupe nearby, one of the most visited Catholic shrines in the world.  The Virgin of Guadalupe is Mexico's most popular religious and cultural image.

In modern times, a record number of 6.1 million pilgrims visit the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico to commemorate the anniversary of the apparition. The pilgrimage to the Basilica of Guadalupe is extremely popular. Some pilgrims crawl on their knees for miles as they approach the basilica before praying to the Virgin of Guadalupe. Pilgrims arrive year-round but millions flock to the shrine on December 12, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

In the Yucatan peninsula, the pilgrims there do a kind of mini-marathons. They run from their home towns, to either Mexico City or to the main church in the state capital.  They all gather in a van, with one person running behind, holding an Olympic style torch, and take it in turns on running and carrying the torch.  They do this for day and night, until they reach their destination.

So, if you are in Mexico, or in the Yucatan peninsula on or around the 12th of December, keep an eye out for these runners and please cheer them on.

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