What is considered the largest Catholic pilgrimage in Mexico and Latin America, which is celebrated on the day of the Virgin of Guadalupe on December 12, returned to the Mexican capital on Monday without restrictions for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. .

In the last two years, the pilgrimage, which spans several days in December, had been canceled or restricted because the massive number of faithful represented a high risk of contagion from the coronavirus.

During the darkest days of the pandemic, in 2020, the Basilica of Mexico City where the most revered image of the virgin known as the “Guadalupana” or “La Morenita” is preserved, remained completely closed for four days, something that had not been seen in decades.

In 2021 it was open, but pilgrims who come not only from different parts of the country but also from abroad were not allowed to sleep on the esplanade that surrounds the temple, as is customary.

This year, early on Monday, the basilica’s outer courtyard resumed its traditional image, flooded by a sea of tents.

Many devotees did not want to miss one of the most emotional moments of the celebration, the midnight mass in which, in the first minute of December 12, the traditional Mexican birthday song “Las Mañanitas” is sung to the Guadalupana.

Every year hundreds of thousands of people come to the basilica on foot, by bicycle or by bus, many carrying huge images or sculptures of the Virgin and sometimes walking the last meters on their knees or making some other type of sacrifice that they offer to the Guadalupana. to ask for or thank favors.

The Mexico City government estimates that some 3.1 million people have visited the sanctuary in recent days.

The rector of the basilica, Salvador Martínez, celebrated in a statement the recovery of “normality” and invited people to visit the sanctuary but “avoiding large crowds.”

But it was not possible. Those good intentions vanished in a sea of faithful.

Since the 16th century, the Cerro del Tepeyac -where Catholics believe the Virgin appeared and the place where the current church was built- has been a point of pilgrimage for millions of people since the Guadalupana is not only the patron saint of Mexico but all of Latin America.

The temple houses an image that, according to believers, was miraculously imprinted on a cloak belonging to the indigenous peasant Juan Diego in 1531.

Until the year of the pandemic, only closures from 1926 to 1929 were remembered, during the war in which the State actively persecuted the Catholic Church, and in the 70s due to the construction work on its current headquarters.

The celebration also takes place in cities and communities in Mexico where parties, pilgrimages and shows with rockets and fireworks proliferate.

Precisely in one of these acts, in a town northeast of Mexico City, a truck carrying fireworks exploded on Sunday night, injuring an undetermined number of people.

There was no official count of injuries from the accident in the town of Nopaltepec but photographs released by volunteer firefighters from the nearby town of San Martín de los Pirámides showed the charred and twisted remains of the truck on a street.

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