If you are religious or not, a tourist or inhabitant of Mexico City, a practicing Catholic or any other religion, going to the Basilica of Guadalupe is one of those things you have to do sometime. In December it is a pretty intense experience but any other time of the year is perfect. Simply grab your sunscreen, a hat, your most comfortable shoes and a camera, then hop on the subway and head north.
The official name of this site is “Illustrious and National Basilica of Santa Maria de Guadalupe“ and the church looks as epic as its name. Not only is it the most important Catholic shrine in Mexico but in the world: it is the second most visited after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Of the 20 million pilgrims who come each year, about half do so in December.
There is an old Basilica of Guadalupe and a new one, both sharing the space called “Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe”. To get there you must take the subway (line 3) and get off at the station “Deportivo 18 de Mayo”.
Obviously, you can not leave without admiring the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe that miraculously appeared on the cloak of the now Saint, Juan Diego. The story tells about a divine apparition of a dark skinned virgin in 1531: Our Lady of Guadalupe, to Juan Diego.
The Lady’s Icon was miraculously impressed in Juan Diego’s cloth and the image remains a strong national and religious symbol in Mexico. In the early twentieth century the picture was attacked with a bomb hidden in a flower arrangement but in 1929 it was placed back in the basilica. Today there is a peculiar system for visitors to see up close without causing crowds.
If you come to Mexico City, find a place in your schedule to visit the patron saint of all America.
Photos by Héctor Barrera