The Dec. 12 pilgrimage honors the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexico’s patroness. Many carry large statues or other images of the cerulean-shrouded, contemplative virgin as they stream en masse to the temple. Some make the last stretch crawling emotionally — and painfully — on their knees.
According to church tradition, in 1531 the dark-skinned virgin appeared to the indigenous peasant Juan Diego and her image was imprinted on his cloak, which is on display inside the church. Juan Diego was made a saint in 2002 by Saint John Paul II.
The masses are so huge that people are often left to sleep on the sidewalk while they wait for a turn inside to view the cloak.