On foot, on a bicycle, on a pilgrimage, with a torch or a banner, from long distances and from almost any point of the city: only the Mestiza virgin can gather such fervor and devotion of thousands of people who come punctually every year on December 12, to the Diocesan Sanctuary of the Virgin of Guadalupe in the San Cristobal neighborhood in Mérida.

If there is a religious celebration that mobilizes the Yucatecan Catholics of all latitudes and ages, and in general all Mexicans, it is the celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe. That day daily activities practically come to a halt, to focus on faith and gratitude to the revered “protective mother.” Many see her as a figure who inspires, gives comfort in the face of problems and obstacles, and has the capacity to heal and work miracles.

Her fame is international, reaching the United States and Europe, recognized as a symbol of goodness and protection. “When you have a problem and pray to the Virgin with great fervor, she never leaves you,” say the believers. That is why every year, with great anticipation, there are novenas in her honor (9-day prayers), pilgrimages, and flower-lined trucks that leave the municipalities all over Yucatán and guide the young men and women who wear T-shirts with her image and carry a torch, fulfilling their “pledge” of gratitude for the blessings received during the year. The main destination is the church of San Cristobal  (Calle 50 x 69, Centro, Mérida).

There, on November 5, the festivities began, with the descent of the image, the mass of the roses, and a “vaquería” regional dance, a prelude to the visit of more than 200 guilds during November and December. The night of December 11, the traditional “mañanitas” are sung to the Virgin to wake her up, and a mass is offered that gathers the torch runners (antorchistas), the women dressed in “ternos” (traditional Yucatecan dress), as well as men and children. The bells ring, fireworks are released, and the music of “Guadalupana” bands (similar to school bands) is heard. You can see banners of the different guilds and organizations, flowers, and great devotion in the church and in the streets around San Cristobal every night.

In November there are traffic controls and from December 11 – 13 no traffic is allowed on the street of the San Cristobal church, to guarantee the safety of the thousands of parishioners. Medical modules are installed to care for devotees who are suffering from fatigue from their long walks and races, and food stalls are in place. Everything is prepared for one of the most important celebrations of the Catholic religion.

To attend this event of devotion is a unique experience; it brings together faith, gratitude and symbolism. All those present are the beloved children of one mother, the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Editorial by Violeta H. Cantarell

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