Friday, June 21, 2024

December 12th - Virgin of Guadalupe Day

December 12th - Virgin of Guadalupe Day

December 12th is the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, and attracts millions of pilgrims to the Basilica in Northern Mexico City where the image of the Virgin Mary is displayed.


As the story goes, in December of 1531, peasant farmer Juan Diego encountered a vision of the Virgin Mary while walking on a hill in Northern Mexico City. The apparition told Juan Diego to build a church in her honor on that site.  When Juan Diego informed the local Bishop of this, the Bishop asked for proof.  So Juan Diego returned to the hill where Mary told him to pick the roses growing on the hillside, which were of a variety native to Spain, and out of season, to boot.  Juan Diego gathered the roses in his Tilma, (a large cloth worn by men at the time and also used as a satchel) to take to the Bishop.

Upon returning to the Bishop, he presented the roses only to find that they had been miraculously replaced by an image of the Virgin that was painted on the cloth.  That did it for the Bishop, who ordered the construction of the Basilica, which is still standing (barely) today at the foot of the hill where Juan Diego first saw the vision.

New Basilica (Left) next to the Old Basilica (Leaning to the Left)

The Basilica

The image of the Virgin has since been moved to a newer Basilica (shown left), also called La Villa de Guadalupe, which was constructed in the mid 1970s, right next to the original. The new Basilica holds 10,000 plus, and is the second most visited Catholic site outside of the Vatican. Visitors can view the Virgin up close, which is on display behind the altar, by riding rows of moving sidewalks situated directly underneath the image.

Visiting the Basilica

Getting to the Basilica is relatively easy, so long as you don't try it any time in December up through the first week of January. The feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe being on December 12, complied with the proximity to Christmas, results in millions of visitors during this time. Streets are shut down as well as several bus routes and any Metro stations that are close by.  Many pilgrims can be seen walking with images or statues of the virgins, as well as crawling on their knees along the thoroughfares leading to the Basilica.

To any of our Spanish students who ask about visiting the Basilica during December, we say, Don't! If possible, it is best to wait to go during another part of the year, when it is less crowded. Normally, you can take the metro to La Villa station, or any bus running along Reforma or in the Centro that says 'La Villa' or 'Basilica' in the bus window.

Expressions and Traditions

Guadalupano is one who follows or believes in the Virgin of Guadalupe. An interesting part of the Mexican culture and religion is that while a person may not consider themselves religious, they may call themselves a Guadalupano, or follower of the Virgen.

Lupe, Lupita, Lupito are all nicknames of someone who may be actually named Guadalupe, or their family may have specified the Virgin as their patron saint, or they may have even been born on December 12th (like yours truly).  In many cases, regardless of who your patron saint is, their feast day can be considered a second birthday.  So, to all who were born on the 12th of any month, ¡Feliz día de santo!

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