Mexico this Sunday honors its patron, the Virgin of Guadalupe, with one of the largest Catholic pilgrimages in the world, after other massive events that defy the risks of a rebound in the pandemic in a country that keeps its borders open.

It is expected that since last Friday and until this Sunday 4.2 million people have attended the Basilica of Guadalupe, in the north of Mexico City, compared to 11 million in 2019, to resume a worship service suspended last year by the covid.

With the mandatory use of face masks and disinfectant gel, the virus has forced a little modification of the ritual that began 490 years ago when, according to tradition, the Virgin appeared to the indigenous Juan Diego on the Tepeyac hill.

The faithful of the “Virgin Morena” must present a “complete vaccination scheme”, which according to the government already has 65.6 million people in this country of 126 million inhabitants.

They are also asked not to come with children or adolescents who have not been vaccinated, nor can they camp -as used to be custom- to sing “Las Mañanitas” to the patron, or stay too long inside the sanctuary.

The masses, meanwhile, were replaced by prerecorded sermons that aired on YouTube on Saturday.

Catholics represent 70% of the Mexican population, according to official figures.

The pilgrimage marks the beginning of the end of the year celebrations, which will last until Three Kings Day in early January, without special restrictions despite the fact that 235 new deaths and 2,655 infections from covid were reported this Saturday.

In total, Mexico accumulates 296,620 deaths and 3,917,361 confirmed cases since March 2020.

The devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico is such that the leftist president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who declares himself a Christian but not a Catholic, suspended his public agenda this Sunday. “We have to be respectful,” he said.

“The people of Mexico are Guadalupano. Its two main symbols are the Virgin of Guadalupe, in the first place, and in second place (the former president) Benito Juárez (1858-1872),” he said on Saturday.

“Little then”

Contrary to panic in many parts of the world, Mexico City has not taken any particular action after the announcement, on December 3, of a first case of the omicron variant in its territory.

The seventh most visited country in the world remains one of the few whose “borders remain open to travelers,” as indicated by its embassy websites.

Except for completing a health questionnaire, the Mexican government “does not impose any restrictions related to the pandemic or obligation to present a negative PCR test to take a flight to Mexico.”

“Closing the borders and blocking people or goods are not useful measures to contain the variants,” repeats Hugo López-Gatell, undersecretary of Health and spokesman for the pandemic.

López-Gatell relies on vaccination “to reduce the risks of hospitalization and death.”

The administration of booster doses to those over 60 also began this week, with López Obrador at the helm.

A total of 27 of the 32 states of Mexico remain at “green traffic lights”, an index of low epidemiological risk that does not imply any particular restriction, apart from the recommendation to wear a mask, wash hands frequently and maintain a “healthy distance” (1.5 meters between individuals in public places).

Thus, after months of “red lights”, the massive outdoor meetings have followed one another for a month and a half: parade for the Day of the Dead in early November, Formula 1 Grand Prix, Guadalajara International Book Fair, speech of the president before tens of thousands of people on December 1.

Likewise, the first leg of the soccer championship final between León and Atlas was played in front of 23,500 people on Thursday night.

Mexico City has also revived the “Sonideros”, neighborhood DJs that liven up popular parties.

“It’s a traveling nightclub on your street, which fills up like you can’t imagine,” enthuses Mario Alberto Linares, a “sonidero” who made the inhabitants of Ciudad Lago, a district in the north of the capital, dance last Saturday.

Only the prospect of a rebound in the virus dulls his joy: “We are starting to feel bad vibes. I feel like they’ll let us work until January and then they’ll lock us up. I hope not, but we hear rumors”.

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