December 1 Update: Giving the health of the people of Puerto Vallarta priority, the Municipal Government, in coordination with the Parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe, announced that the twelve day long celebration known as La Guadalupana will be virtual this year. There will be no pilgrimages or dancers in the streets of downtown Puerto Vallarta, nor food stalls in the Plaza de Armas or on side streets.
Mexico City – Mexico’s Roman Catholic Church last week announced the cancellation of what’s considered the world’s largest Catholic pilgrimage, the Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Celebrated on December 12, El Día de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe is an important religious and social festival that commemorates the miraculous appearance of the Virgin Mary to an Indian peasant and converted Catholic named Juan Diego on Dec. 12, 1531.
According to legend, Juan Diego was walking on Tepeyac Hill, outside modern day Mexico City, when he saw a vision: A pregnant Indian woman, clothed in a turquoise robe with bright stars, with rays of sunlight emanating behind her, her hands folded in prayer. She identified herself as “The Virgin Mary, mother of the one true God.”
Mary reappeared to Juan Diego over three days and told him, even though it was December, to gather flowers upon the hill. Juan Diego found a patch of Spanish roses, gathered them and dropped them before the bishop, revealing the image of Mary seared into his cloak. To this day, the cloth is on display in Mexico City at the Basilica of Guadalupe, which was constructed at the site of the miraculous appearance, and is the most visited Marian shrine in the world.
Bishop Salvador Martínez, rector at the basilica, said in a video that recently circulated on social media that as many as 15 million pilgrims typically visit during the first two weeks of December, bringing images of the virgin to be blessed.
But this year, “the health conditions the country is experiencing due to COVID-19 do not permit us to celebrate the Virgin of Guadalupe together at her sanctuary at this time,” the Bishop said.
The basilica will be closed from December 10 to 13 and a security perimeter will be erected around the church to ensure compliance, according to a statement issued by the bishops’ conference and city government. “While millions would like to attend the celebration in search of comfort in the face of anguish, despair and helplessness… the common good motivates us to take containment measures to avoid further spread of the virus.”
To prevent so many people from coming into close contact, this year’s Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe will be broadcast online.
Since the pandemic reached Mexico in the spring, most in-person religious gatherings, including Catholic Masses, have been pared back or simply canceled and replaced with online services.