If you are in the Yucatán or other parts of Mexico on December 12th or a few days before, you are likely to come across the “Virgin of Guadalupe torch runners.” You will find the torch runners along the highways, streets and even country lanes. Who are torch runners? The torch runners are people that run a relay race event in honor of, or to keep a promise made to, the Virgin of Guadalupe – the patron saint of Mexico.

As you drive the roads of Mexico, you will find all kinds of trucks (from 3-ton trucks to pick-ups) filled with people and an altar with a statue or image of the virgin, balloons, palm fronds and flowers. Each group is made up of anywhere from five to fifty people. One at a time, for a period of some twenty minutes, someone runs along the road with a lit torch. Then the next person gets out of the truck and receives the torch and continues running.

The majority of the runners are from church groups who plan their own routes – routes that are different for each group. Whatever route is chosen, the runners get to the furthest point, usually via public transportation, and then run back to Mérida, planning their arrival to coincide with a Mass on December 12th, the day of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Some runners run for just a few miles and take just one day, such as from Progreso to Mérida. Others go as far as Mexico City and take a good ten days to do the run.

You will definitely see the runners on the Mérida to Progreso highway, plus on the roads around Chichen Itza, Uxmal and Izamal as well as other towns and villages that have churches.

When the runners arrive at the church on December 12th, there are fireworks, mariachis, processions and Mass. This is a very festive, party-like time.

Since they do run throughout the night, do keep this in mind and be careful. Sometimes the trucks break down or the torches go out, so it is hard to see the runners. But they are there!

And when you hear the pilgrims singing this song as they walk along, listen for the words:

Desde el cielo una hermosa mañana
Desde el cielo una hermosa mañana
La Guadalupana, la Guadalupana
La Guadalupana bajó al Tepeyac.

Suplicante juntaba sus manos
Suplicante juntaba sus manos
Y eran mexicanos, y eran mexicanos
Y eran mexicanos su porte y su faz.

Su llegada llenó de alegría
Su llegada llenó de alegría
De luz y armonía, de luz y armonía
De luz y armonía todo el Anahuac.

Junto al monte pasaba Juan Diego
Junto al monte pasaba Juan Diego
Y acercose luego, y acercose luego
Y acercose luego al oír cantar.

Juan Dieguito la Virgen le dijo
Juan Dieguito la Virgen le dijo
Este cerro elijo, este cerro elijo
Este cerro elijo para hacer mi altar.

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