Mexico City, Dec 11 (EFE).- Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims on Sunday began arriving at Mexico City’s Basilica de Guadalupe on the eve of the Day of the Virgin, which will be celebrated in person once again after two years of coronavirus pandemic gathering restrictions.
Amid a religious and festive atmosphere, filled with faith and hope, thousands of the faithful – who are arriving from all over the country – moved through the capital streets en route to the great cathedral.
“Obviously, this year there have been more attendees than in the two prior years (due to) the pandemic,” Eduardo Hernandez, a university student and resident of the nearby town of Chimalhuacan, told EFE, adding that he had ridden his bicycle to the cathedral.
He said that this is the second time he has come to the basilica and now it’s a “more normal” situation after the peak of the pandemic and he came “to thank the Virgin for my being here to celebrate her. We always enjoy it.”
Exhausted after traveling for dozens or hundreds of kilometers, in many cases on foot, over the past few hours and days, the faithful are arriving at the basilica to visit their “mother” – as they refer to the Virgin Mary – for a few minutes and to sing “Happy Birthday” to her as well as to pray and ask her to grant requests and thank her for past blessings.
“During the pandemic we were under the protection of the Virgin and she’s going to take care of us,” Gilberto Ortiz, an electronic engineer who came to the cathedral to give thanks for his job and his health, told EFE.
As a Catholic, he said that it’s a great experience to be at the huge church at this time. “Being here is not the same as hearing about it,” he said.
Last Thursday, at a press conference, Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said that about 10 million people were expected to visit the basilica for the celebration of the Day of the Virgin after the lifting of the pandemic restrictions.
Meanwhile, the Citizen Safety Secretariat said that 5,400 police officers would be deployed as part of the “Welcome, Pilgrim – 2022” operation along with 20,000 public servants to attend to the needs of the visitors.
“We’re not accustomed to visiting the basilica on this date, but today we got the opportunity to come. There are many people here and much security,” said Natalia Medina, one of many thousands of visitors to the capital on Sunday.
Police were deployed in the vicinity of the Marian Church, as well as along the highway access routes to Mexico City and on the streets and roadways used by the arriving pilgrims.
A few days ago, the Mexico Archdiocese noted that this year the Basilica de Guadalupe was ready to welcome all the people who wanted to make the pilgrimage to the site, warning however that an “historic record” number of pilgrims were expected for the Day of the Virgin.
Sheinbaum had estimated 10 million people would arrive this year, but according to other official estimates, this year a record number of more than 10.5 million visitors are expected to come to the Basilica de Guadalupe.
Church authorities asked visitors to respect the public spaces in the capital and to take the necessary security precautions to arrive safely at their destination, whether on foot or by bus.
In addition, authorities recommended that pilgrims wear facemasks, saying that although the effects and risks of infection with Covid-19 have diminished, there could be a “resurgence of illness” during the winter season.
The Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexico’s patron saint, will be celebrated on Dec. 12 and millions of pilgrims are traveling from all over Mexico, from other countries in the Americas and even from other continents to visit the Mexico City basilica.
Legend has it that on Dec. 12, 1531, the Virgin Mary appeared on Tepeyac Hill to Juan Diego, an indigenous inhabitant of colonial Mexico who was canonized in 2002 by Pope John Paul II, and that is the site on which the basilica was erected to commemorate the miraculous event.