The Warrior

El Dia de la Virgen de Guadalupe: 15 mile walk for faith

People gather around a shrine of La Virgen de Guadalupe to honor the Virgin Mary, at el Cerrito del Tepeyac, in Des Plaines, in late August. (Photo courtesy of William Garcia)

People gather around a shrine of La Virgen de Guadalupe to honor the Virgin Mary, at el Cerrito del Tepeyac, in Des Plaines, in late August. (Photo courtesy of William Garcia)

People gather around a shrine of La Virgen de Guadalupe to honor the Virgin Mary, at el Cerrito del Tepeyac, in Des Plaines, in late August. (Photo courtesy of William Garcia)

By Jorge Corral, Reporter

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It’s the last mile. The homestretch. The last 14 miles of snow, sleet, slipping, and frigid cold have now paid off as the brave individuals can hear the liveliness of thousands of people that have all gathered to celebrate their beloved Virgin de Guadalupe.

Dec. 12 marks the day of the celebration for the patroness of Mexico and Latin America, La Virgen, the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe. One of the largest celebrations is the 15 mile pilgrimage to the Cerrito del Tepeyac in Des Plaines, a massive shrine honoring the Virgin Mary for all she has done for her people.

The Saint John Bosco Parish, on the northwest side of Chicago, has done an immense amount of preparation to take part in this annual celebration.

On Dec. 11, hundreds of devoted Catholics gathered at the parish at 5 p.m. to embark on their journey, each for their own reasons.

According to Araceli Delgado, who made the 15 mile journey, going to el Cerrito is a way to further your faith.

“One should make a sacrifice at least once a year like this,” Delgado said, in Spanish.  

Ranging from elders who need canes to walk, to babies bundled up in layers in a stroller, people of all ages participate in the pilgrimage despite the weather and the distance.

With people guiding the pilgrimage and blocking the street when necessary, the large group left the parish and took off down Austin Blvd at approximately 5:20 p.m. The residents and drivers of Belmont Cragin, a predominantly Latino neighborhood, aware of the celebration, cheered, beeped and wished luck and blessings onto the participants.

This celebration is unique to the Mexican community because of the importance that La Virgen holds religiously. Dating back to 1531, she appeared to an indigenous man by the name of Juan Diego on the Tepeyac mountain in present day Mexico City. Ever since then, she is known to bring miracles. According to the story she cured his dying uncle of his terminal illness.

Gloria Rodriguez, a participant, did a pilgrimage in Mexico for six years. This is her third time participating with the St. John Bosco Parish.

Rodríguez says she goes to pay off the promises that she has made for the miracles that she has received.

“Se siente algo muy bonito, mucha fe. Hace frío pero no me importa,” Rodriguez said. “Y pienso que  muy importante seguir haciendo esto para que esta cadena no se rompa.”

This roughly translates to, “One feels something very nice, there’s lots of faith. It’s cold but I don’t care. I think this is very important to continue doing so this chain will not break.”

Rodriguez, like many others, began to feel the effects of walking in the cold as she approached Higgins Ave.

This was not a problem because the parish ensured cars to follow the pilgrimage in case someone could not continue walking.

As the group arrived, to the Jefferson Park and Edison Park neighborhoods, they again received positive smiles and waves from people looking out from windows.

But they also received a lot of negative feedback. Cars grew impatient and started beeping on multiple occasions as the group blocked large intersections, such as Nagle and Northwest Highway. Many drivers also began to start arguments with the people directing traffic.

For Michelle Schmitt, this only encouraged her to keep going. Schmitt drove six hours from Minnesota to experience how the Latino community celebrated the Virgin Mary.

“The pilgrimage is for the love of our Lady and to ask for graces,” Schmitt said. “We witness the faith in a very festive beautiful way with joy and happiness.”

Arriving in Park Ridge there was a “break point,” where there was complimentary champurrado, coffee, tamales, and pan dulce.

The rest of way led to Cerrito del Tepeyac, where the real celebrations for La Virgen took place.

Although the pilgrimage is a common celebration, parishes from all over find ways to celebrate this day.

Darina Villegas, Div. 878, is part of a parish in Little Village, located on the southside of Chicago. Her parish celebrates with flowers, beautiful altars, traditional Aztec dances, mariachis, and a pilgrimage around the neighborhood that leads up to the church to sing “Las Mañanitas.”

“I was brought up religiously since I was little,” Villegas said. “We would go to church every Sunday. I would say that I defend my religion.”

Villegas said she believes that her family imprinted values on her have encouraged her to further her own faith, and would continue celebrating throughout her own life because of the significance it has had on her.   

Both religious and nonreligious students around Lane celebrate this holiday because of their family traditions.

William Garcia, Div. 979, celebrates el Dia de La Virgen because of his family, not because he is religious himself.

“To the Mexican community,” he said. “ La Virgen is a sign of hope, and whenever you are suffering you can reach out to her someway.”  

Even though he doesn’t attend church every Sunday, and does not consider himself particularly religious, Garcia enjoys taking part in the celebration and said it is important for people to know the story behind La Virgen.

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El Dia de la Virgen de Guadalupe: 15 mile walk for faith