Lady of Zapopan
Miracle Worker Returns to Zapopan
by Tara A. Spears
One of Mexico’s largest religious festivals is celebrated October 12 in the Guadalajara area. The homecoming celebration for a tiny cornhusk statue of the Virgin Mary-the Virgin of Zapopan- is a very large and festive gathering centered around the Romeria, a Catholic ceremony that consists of a trip via car/float/horseback/ or on foot that ends at a sanctuary. The procession bearing the Virgin is preceded by hundreds of groups, including charros, honor guards from numerous Roman Catholic organizations, Indian dancers in native costume, choirs and marching bands, who will lead the statue with dance and music to its ancestral home in the Basilica of Zapopan. You don’t have to be a believer to enjoy the parade and accompanying entertainment.
Miracles and legends:
Since the Virgin of Zapopan arrived in Mexico in 1541, miracles have reportedly occurred. In 1721 the city of Guadalajara was confronted with the plague so the Virgin was transported there to protect the inhabitants. . Miracles attributed to her over the years have included saving Guadalajara from the plague and impending earthquakes, as well as restoring Lake Chapala to health in times of drought.
In 1734, the Virgin was named Patroness against storms and lightning and, in 1821, Patroness of the State of Jalisco. On January 18th of the year 1921, to the joy of all her followers, the Virgin of Zapopan was canonically crowned. Today, the Virgin is the patron saint of Guadalajara and is highly revered by millions. Ever since that first summer centuries ago, she has passed the whole rainy season in Guadalajara, from June through September, staying two weeks in each church. Since she began to make her sojourn the storms have never again been so violent. For decades in early October, the statue is taken back to her own shrine in the Zapopan Basilica outside the city accompanied by a great pilgrimage.
Annual Procession and Festival:
If you plan to go, be aware that the banks and businesses along the route will be closed, and that viewing vantage points, especially those in the center of Guadalajara and Zapopan, begin filling up predawn. It’s best to pick a spot before 7 a.m. in order to see the procession. The Virgin is dressed in a regal gown, placed on a flower-laden float, and at 6 a.m. begins her journey from the Guadalajara Cathedral down Avenida Alcalde and Avenida Avila Camacho (a route about 8km long), which leads into downtown Zapopan to the Basilica of the Virgin. Devotees can be seen crawling on their knees from the church entrances all the way along the route. At about 10 a.m. the archbishop of Guadalajara presides over a solemn mass outside the Basilica in the plaza. The traditional folk dancers gyrate in the huge Plaza Juan Pablo II for several hours thereafter, and there are fireworks in the evening.
Many still believe that Nuestra Senora de la Expectacion (Our Lady of Expectation), or simply Zapopanita, can perform miracles and provide protection. Attending the festival is a wonderful way to experience the culture of Mexico.
Romeria start at Guadalajara cathedral ends here at Basilica Zapopan