Depending on who you ask, between 83 and 96 percent of the Mexican population are practicing Christians, and with that comes a fair amount of holidays.
December 12 is another one of those holidays that, unless you are a Mexican christian, you likely won’t know about. However, Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe or Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe is a popular Catholic holiday celebrated around the country.
Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe is a popular Catholic feast that celebrates the belief that a man encountered the Virgin Mary, Mexico’s patron saint, in Mexico City on December 9 and 12, 1531. On December 12, many public fiestas and celebrations are held in honor or Mary, the Virgin of Guadalupe.
One of the main forms of celebration is the annual pilgrimage to see an image of Mary (Virgen Morena), believed to be authentic, in the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City. Children are dressed in traditional costumes and are blessed in churches, while thousands of people arrive to the church almost daily to pray.
This year, more than 5.3 million people made the pilgrimage from around Mexico to the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City. During these days, highways are crowded as those who can drive their own cars or take public transportation into the capital city to make their way to the church.
While Our Lady of Guadalupe Day is not a federal public holiday Mexico, it is a religious festival, so many streets, roads, and transport providers are busy, especially on December 12. On the calendar of holidays, it is an optional holiday for some workers and a holiday for banks and other financial sector organizations.
It is believed that a man named Juan Diego encountered the Virgin Mary twice in Mexico City, on December 9 and December 12 in 1531. According to legend, Mary told Juan to ask the bishop to build a church on Tepeyac Hill. However, the bishop needed proof of Juan’s encounter and asked for a miracle. Juan returned to the hill to see roses in a spot where there were previously cacti. When Juan Diego returned, he showed the roses to the archbishop and also revealed an image on his cloak of the Lady of Guadalupe. The bishop was convinced of the miracle and built a church in honor of the event.
According to the story of the Lady of Guadalupe, Mary spoke in the Nahuatl language when she appeared to Diego. She supposedly was first encountered by an Aztec Indian, San Juan Diego (de) Cuauhtlatoatzin, a native of Mexico and the first Roman Catholic indigenous saint from the Americas on the hill of Tepeyac today, within the sprawling metropolis of as modern day Mexico City, in 1531.
It is said that millions of indigenous people in Mexico were converted to Catholicism as a result of her appearance and miracle.
The Virgin of Guadalupe is the most famous and celebrated of all saints and she is also known as the Virgen Morena and is the patron saint of Mexico.