Undeterred by Distance Mexican Pilgrims Flock to Virgin of Guadalupe Site

In a second apparition, the Virgin Mary told Juan Diego to collect roses from the Tepeyac hill and take them to the archbishop, but this was happening at a time of year that roses did not grow in Mexico City, and Tepeyac was an arid hill where flowers were unlikely to grow, in any case. Still, Juan Diego obeyed and miraculously found red roses on the hill. When he gave the rose petals to the archbishop, removing them from his cloak, the image of the Virgin Mary that is now depicted in paintings, is said to have appeared on Juan Diego's cloak. This reportedly happened on December 12th, 1531.

Unclear Origins

There is debate among scholars however, as to how the Virgin of Guadalupe got that name. Some argue that the name was borrowed from a virgin of the same name in the Spanish province of Extremadura, who is credited for performing miracles. Others, argue that it is possibly an adaptation of several Aztec names including Coatlaxopeuh which means "the one who crushes the serpent." In this case, the serpent would be the Mesoamerican God Quetzalcoatl.

Millions of Faithful

The millions of faithful who attend the Guadalupe festivities are largely unaware of such historical debates. Mexico's City government estimates that six million people will attend this year's Virgin of Guadalupe celebrations, which begin on December 11 and end on Dec 12.

Dramatic Pilgrimage

For some pilgrims, the journey to the basilica is in itself dramatic. This man, named Jorge Mencini, travelled to Mexico City on foot from the state of Puebla. He said that while his family walked through a rural area near the town of Amecameca, a group of horses charged his group, and injured his brother, breaking his foot. Mencini, who entered the basilica complex on his knees, is now praying for his brother's recuperation.

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