Friday, November 13, 2009

Jalisco: San Juan de los Lagos

We were probably the only people who traveled to this town without knowing exactly why until we arrived.

By bus, bicycle or on foot, devoted pilgrims flock to this town to pray to the small statue of at the Virgin of San Juan de los Lagos, known to natives as Cihuapilli, Great Lady.

To do so they negotiate steep hills, cobblestones and cracked sidewalks, but the final challenge is ahead. Young and old, the faithful enter the Basilica and proceed down the long central aisle to the altar, on their knees.

It is a moving spectacle, an evocation of belief and faith rarely seen north of the border. I couldn't watch very long - my replaced knees ached with sympathy pains - but I'm glad I negotiated the steep hills to see it.

The small statue of the Virgin Mary is credited with many miracles. Pope John Paul made his pilgrimage in 1990 and since the 17th century the Basilica has become the second most visited shrine in Mexico.

Do make the effort to climb the stairs to the room to the right of the altar where exvotos,  expressions of gratitude for Cihuapilli's miracles, are on display. Notes, drawings, locks of hair, toys and other tokens are as fascinating as they are touching.

Not so touching are the hordes of souvenir sellers outside who surround visitors with religious knicknacks. Some have stands but the biggest pests are those who carry trays of jewelry and crucifixes right to you.

The town exists to serve the millions of pilgrims, especially the crowds that gather between Jan. 12 and Feb. 2, the day when the Virgin is taken outside for a mass procession.

It probably wouldn't be worth a special trip for any but the faithful, but if you are heading to Guanajuato as we were, it's well worth the stop.

If nothing else, the cultural clash in the juxtaposition of T-shirts, towels, even bedspreads decorated with images of the Virgin, Christ, wrestlers, super hero or cartoon characters are a sure sign you're not in Kansas anymore.


Jalisco said...

Great post Judy! We just shared it on our sites:

Join us!
Jalisco Es Mexico

November 13, 2009 at 4:00 PM

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