Monday, June 17, 2024

At least 11 million pilgrims expected in Mexico City’s Basilica of Guadalupe

This Tuesday (Dec. 12) marks one of the biggest dates on Mexico’s Catholic calendar, the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, and pilgrims are flocking to Mexico City’s Basilica of Guadalupe to pay homage to the country’s beloved Virgin Mary.

The Citizen Security Ministry (SSC) estimates that 11 million pilgrims will visit the Basilica between Monday and Tuesday, with most arriving on Monday. The National Chamber of Commerce, Services and Tourism predicts an even higher turnout of 13.7 million pilgrims – 12% more than the record-breaking 12.5 million who attended last year.

Our Lady of Guadalupe basilica in Mexico City
The world-famous Mexico City shrine to the Virgin Mary could see more than 13 million visitors this year, many of them pilgrims who’ve traveled thousands of miles. (Photo: Mike Peel/Creative Commons)

In preparation for the event, the SSC has announced the “Welcome Pilgrim” operation, in which more than 22,000 public officials will participate, including 1,500 police officers, six ambulances and a helicopter.

“We will have the support of 448 vehicular units, four operation bases, and we will have special care, protection and attention on the access roads,” said Mexico City’s head of government, Martí Batres, with regard to the operation.

The vice-rector of the Basilica of Guadalupe, Gustavo Watson, said that the Basilica will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., although opening hours could be extended if necessary. Some overnight stays will be permitted in the atrium, with priority given to the elderly and those who have made the longest journeys.

Watson encouraged all who are faithful to visit the ‘Morenita del Tepeyac’ on her feast day, while also stressing that the festivities will be streamed digitally for those unable to attend.

The festival celebrates the appearance of the Virgin Mary (known in Mexico as Guadalupe) to the Indigenous convert Juan Diego on Dec. 12, 1531. Both the figure of Juan Diego and the darker-skinned depiction of the Virgin of Guadalupe are important elements of Mexico’s syncretic tradition, representing Indigenous Mexico’s embrace of Catholicism.

Last year’s celebration brought record-breaking numbers of pilgrims to the capital, after two years during which the event was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is the biggest annual pilgrimage in Mexico, with some traveling hundreds of miles to attend.

The event is also an important money-maker for businesses that provide transport, accommodation, food and religious items to the pilgrims. This year, the National Chamber of Commerce, Services and Tourism estimates that the celebration will generate 15.5 billion pesos (US $889 million) in revenue across the country.

Revenue of 1.4 billion pesos (US $81 million) is predicted in Mexico City alone – 13.8% more than in 2022.

With reports from El Universal and El Financiero

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