The faithful have returned to honor the Virgin of Guadalupe, patron saint of Mexico and Latin America, but with the “new normal” due to the pandemic: without being able to sleep next to the basilica, or perform prayers or dances in the large square located in the north of the Mexican capital.
Since the 16th century, the Cerro del Tepeyac – where Catholics believe that the Virgin appeared to the indigenous Juan Diego, and where the current temple was built – has been a pilgrimage point for millions of faithful on December 12, the day of the “Guadalupana”, and its closure at this time last year due to COVID-19 was something unusual.
Now, although the pandemic continues, civil and religious authorities have resumed the tradition, but with certain limitations.
“We dance outside, but with great emotion,” explained Miguel Angel Soriano, leader of a group of dancers – “Tecuanes” – from an indigenous area of the state of Puebla (southeast of the capital) who traditionally performed their dance in the great square in front of the basilica, but this time they did it on a nearby avenue.
The flow of thousands of pilgrims did not stop during the weekend, although the esplanade was almost empty this year and all had to access the temple through a path marked with fences.
There were pilgrims of all ages, and they carried images tied to their backs as well as flowers and banners, or they were disguised as jaguars or devils.
An example were the dancers of the Soriano group, who dedicated a traditional ritual dance to the Virgin, a dance prohibited after the Spanish conquest but which today is one of the examples of the syncretism between the pre-Hispanic and the Catholic that this celebration has.
The faithful entered the square after sanitation measures were applied to them, and they walked between fences. There they were urged not to stop and then enter the basilica, pass before the image of the Virgin and leave immediately.
Although much less than before the pandemic, some foreign pilgrims also arrived, such as the French Esperance Proilain, who came to ask the Virgin for “health, long life, happiness and all the gifts, all the good things we need,” as she said.
Missing for the second year were the famous live “mañanitas”, the typical Mexican birthday song that before the pandemic was sung at midnight, in the first minutes of December 12. But none of this stopped the believers from being happy.
“After the pandemic, there is peace of mind to return,” said Angélica García, a 17-year-old girl from the state of Puebla, east of the capital.
Some arrived by bicycle, like García, and others by motorcycle with images of the Virgin tied to the seat, walking with large paintings of “La Morenita”, as it is affectionately called, or even on their knees.
This year there would be prayers for Vicente Fernández, known as the king of the ranchera song, who died on Sunday morning, or for the 55 migrants killed when a truck overturned in the south of the country this week, for which the little girl would foreseeably beg caravan of a few hundred migrants expected to arrive at the basilica at night.
But the faithful come above all to keep promises and give thanks for healings.
“I passed COVID and I came to give thanks to the Virgin who let me live,” said José Guillermo Román, who arrived at the basilica with his daughter and a bouquet of flowers after having been on oxygen for two months.
According to the government of the capital, since December 1 and until Sunday night 3.5 million people had visited the basilica, a figure less than the approximately 10 million that could arrive in the whole month in the times before the pandemic, coming not only from Mexico but from different parts of Latin America.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.