Monday, December 11, 2017

The Race for Guadalupe

Guadalupe Pilgrim, Tulum, Quintana Roo, MX
This may look like someone in a road-race, but actually it is a man on a religious pilgrimage, a pilgrimage for the Virgin of Guadalupe.  In many ways is it a race, or a mad scramble, because participants must reach their destination by 11 pm the night of December 11 for the celebration that begins the December 12 Feast Day of Guadalupe.

Pilgrims' Car, Tulum, Quintana Roo, MX

For people dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexico's Patron Saint, celebrating her December 12 feast day includes some sort of pilgrimage.  The Basilica de Guadalupe in Mexico City is the ultimate pilgrimage destination, but Mexico is a big place and not everyone can get there.  Other areas have significant Guadalupe shrines, such as the Guadalupe Church in San Cristobal de las Casas Chiapas and people will travel long distances, sometimes on foot, to reach them.

The towns of the states of Quintana Roo and Yucatan on the Yucatan Peninsula are very distant from the central Mexican shrines but other pilgrimage traditions for Guadalupe's Feast Day have grown up and are equally as compelling.

The car in the photo above is one of many on the road during the nine-day period that marks the celebration of Guadalupe.  In Mexico, most major saint's days are celebrated for a period of time before the actual day.  In Yucatan, the pilgrim's objective is to return to their home church by 11 pm on December 11,  At this time mariachi-led church celebration starts  that culminates in all singing  a special version of "Las Mañanitas", the traditional Mexican birthday song, to our Lady of Guadalupe, 

Typically, people undertake pigrimages because they have prayed to the Virgin of Guadalupe for some favor and received it.  The original prayer included a promesa, a vow, to Guadalupe that they would undertake a pilgrimmage if their petition were granted.

Pilgrims' Van, Quintana Roo, MX

Pilgrims' Car, Quintana Roo, MX
Signs on the cars show beginning of the journey on the top and the destination on the bottom. Typically the origin is where the people are working and the destination is where they originated. Most small pueblos have a church dedicated to Guadalupe, which becomes a sort of shrine to the saint.

There is a lot of excitement and frenetic energy in the Yucatan during these days, as pilgrims struggle to reach their goal.  Typically, they do not ride in the cars which are there for pilgrims'  support and breaks,  but run along the highways often bare-footed.

Guadalupe Pilgrim Group, near Tulum, Quintana Roo, MX

Some go the distance on bicycle with or without a support vehicle, carrying a heavy statue of Guadalupe on their backs.

Guadalupe Pilgrim on bicycle, Quintana Roo, MX

This bicycle was traveling from Cancun to Tixpehual, Yucatan, a distance of 296 
kilometers, a difficult journey for this kind of vehicle.

Pilgrims' Bicycle, Valladolid, Yucatan, MX

It is difficult to convey the excitement of the day of December 11, the day when pilgrims are making their final push to the destinations.  Roads are full of all sorts of vehicles bearing images of Guadalupe and each is really a shrine to the saint.

Cars in Pilgrimage Procession, Yucatan, MX
Pilgrim Truck, Quintana Roo, MX
Pilgrim's Vehicle, Valladolid, Yucatan, MX

After nightfall, there is extra intensity since people are nearing their destinations and making the final push.  On the Coba-Tulum road, a primary artery between the states of Yucatan and Quintana Roo where many pilgrims are headed, way stations have been set up for the support of pilgrims where food and drink are offered free of charge.  Everyone needs to be at their destination well-before the 11 pm service.

Pilgrims on the Coba-Tulum Road, Quintana Roo, MX
Pilgrims stopping along Coba-Tulum Road, Quintana Roo, MX
Guadalupe Altar at way-station, Macario Gomez Quintana Roo, MX
Most reach their destinations with some time to spare.  Here, in Akumal Quintana Roo, pilgrims are waiting to line up for the procession to the church, which begins around 10:45.

Pilgrim's Car, Akumal Quintana Roo, MX
Pilgrim's bicycle, Akumal Quintana Roo, MX
Pilgrims waiting for processions to begin, Akumal, Quintana Roo, MX

Pilgrim's car decorated for procession, Akumal, MX

The pueblo's population is waiting at the church to welcome the returning pilgrims. They are honored and acknowledged as they enter the church carrying their personal Guadalupe images that they have carried the long distance.

Outside Guadalupe Church, Akumal MX
PIlgrims enterring Guadalupe Church, Akumal MX

During evening service, Akumal MX
Each pilgrim presents flowers to the church's Guadalupe statue who, in the eyes of the pilgrims and the congregation, is more than just a mere image with a reality of her own.  Please click the photo to enlarge it and see the beautiful accumulation of flowers and candles.

Guadalupe Church, Akumal MX

Midnight ushers in the new day of Guadalupe and the mariachis lead the congregation in "Las Mañanitas", the Mexican birthday song. That night there is no mass for Guadalupe, that waits for the next day.  That night is a fiesta full of joy and song for their beloved Lady of Guadalupe.

Mariachi Band leading service, Guadalupe Church, Akumal MX

 For more information about Guadalupe celebrations in the Yucatan please click this link.

1 comment:

  1. Very good post,congratulations.The faith to the Virgen de Guadalupe in Mexico made possible that 10 million pilgrimages all around the country celebrates her festivity. Kind regards