During the darkest days of the pandemic in 2020, the Mexico City Basilica where the Virgin’s image is preserved was closed entirely for four days. It was open in 2021, but pilgrims coming from across the country were not allowed to maintain their tradition of sleeping outside it.
Early Monday this year, the patio was awash in a sea of tents and sleeping people.
People sleep at the basilica to show their devotion — one of the high points is a midnight Mass at which the traditional birthday song “Las Mañanitas” is sung to the Virgin — but also because many pilgrims are poor.
Hundreds of thousands walk, ride bicycles or take buses on the pilgrimage. This year, the Mexico City government estimated a total of 3.1 million people visited the shrine over the last few days.
“Thanks to God, we have recovered normality,” the Rector of the Basilica, Mons. Salvador Martínez, said in a statement inviting people to visit “if possible, avoiding large crowds.”
Such good intentions were impossible amid a human sea of believers.
The basilica holds an image of the Virgin that is said to have miraculously imprinted itself on a cloak belonging to the Indigenous peasant Juan Diego in 1531.
The day of the Virgin is also celebrated throughout Mexico with fireworks. At one such event in a town northeast of Mexico City, a truck reportedly carrying fireworks exploded, injuring an unspecified number of people.
There was no official tally of the wounded in the explosion late Sunday in the town of Nopaltepec. Photos posted by volunteer firefighters from the nearby town of San Martín de los Piramides showed the burned, twisted wreckage of the pickup truck lying in a street.
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