“What does this day mean to you?” I ask my Mexican friend Beatriz, and she looks at me puzzled for a moment. Then she recalls: “it’s Our Lady of Guadalupe’s Feast day.” But she no longer lives in Mexico, and it’s been a while since she last joined the crowds at Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe up north on Tepeyac Hill, in Mexico City. She’s no longer one of the millions who crowd the basilica to celebrate La Virgen.
She is not the only Mexican in Treves – she is the only one I know. And there is only one place in Treves where Beatriz and her family can celebrate the patron saint of Americas today: the Church of Our Lady (Liebfrauenkirche), right next to the Trierer Dom, the oldest church in Germany.
But in Mexico City, the faithful started to arrive on the hill of Tepeyac at midnight, carrying Castillian roses in their hands, singing and praying for the saint who unites Mexicans everywhere in faith. This year, they celebrate the 480th anniversary of the apparitions of La Virgen in front of Juan Diego early on the morning of December 9, 1531.
The celebrations are filled with Mexican spirit: pilgrims from different parts of the country join at unison singing their love from the Morenita del Tepeyac together with mariachi, bands and capella. And beyond love, there is faith and the divine on earth, from early hours until dusk, when the Mexican faithful express their gratitude for everything that happens in their lives, good and bad. Then, there are those who will pray for the miracle that heals their loved ones from terminal illnesses.
The celebration of the Virgen del Tepeyac is an event between the human and the divine, a celebration of hope, unity and faith that drives all Mexicans to overcome the hardships of life. The new Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City may not be what you expect from a traditional church, but faith doesn’t care about modern architecture. This is the second most important sanctuary of Catholicism, just after Vatican City, considering the numbers of pilgrims who arrive here every year.