Mexico’s Guadalupe pilgrimage draws huge crowd after one-year absence

A throng of Catholic pilgrims estimated at more than 1.5 million people gathered at a basilica in Mexico City on Sunday for the annual Virgin of Guadalupe gathering after the festivities were canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Virgin of Guadalupe basilica, the most visited Catholic shrine of the Americas, was constructed next to a hill in the north of the Mexican capital where Catholics believe that Mary, the mother of Jesus, appeared to an Aztec man in 1531, a decade after the Spanish conquest of Mexico.

The feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, celebrated annually on Dec. 12, features lavish pageantry at the basilica as crowds of pilgrims arrive on their knees in prayer. More than 1.5 million pilgrims came to the basilica on Sunday, Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum wrote on Twitter, adding that city security officials were monitoring the event.

“We’ve come from Nicaragua,” said Anabel Manzanarez, 46, wearing a crown and mask with the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe. “It has been my dream for 46 years. It is a great blessing to be here with the Mexican people.”

Mexican church and civic leaders last year canceled the annual gathering amid the intensifying pandemic, with festivities instead held online. Mexico City has since lifted most strict pandemic-related measures.