The Basilica of Guadalupe, in northern Mexico City, is the world’s third-most-visited religious pilgrimage destination. It is here that the Aztecs worshipped at a pre-Colombian temple atop Tepeyac Hill. It is here that indigenous monk Juan Diego saw several visions of the Virgin Mary. And it is here that a series of churches exist today in honor of the Virgin’s first appearance.
Today is Feast Day, a spiritual celebration of the Virgin’s first appearance in Mexico, and a day when thousands – millions – arrive in reverence. Each December 12th, the street leading up to the basilica is closed to vehicular traffic and overtaken by pilgrims, many crawling the last several hundred meters on their knees. Mass is conducted around-the-clock, volunteers feed the homeless at a food station behind the basilica, and Aztec drummers keep the rhythm in the adjacent plaza while others dance in a haze of incense. The energy is infectious at any time of year, but doubly so on Feast Day and during the days leading up to it.