Fray Juan de Zumárraga No. 2, Villa Gustavo A. Madero, Gustavo A. Madero, 07050 Ciudad de México, CDMX
55 5118 0500
In 1531, Aztec Indian Juan Diego was walking on the hill of Tepeyac when he encountered a young woman who told him to go to the bishop’s house and ask that a church be built on the hill in honor of the Virgin Mary. Juan Diego did as told but the bishop didn’t acquiesce. Finally, in one of his encounters with the young woman, who turns out was the Virgin Mary herself, she asked Juan Diego to go and gather a bunch of fresh roses (in the middle of winter) and bring them to her, again Juan Diego did as he was told and when he came back, with the roses piled on his poncho, or tilma, he discovered, once he had laid the roses at the feet of the woman, that the image of the Virgin Mary was now imprinted all over the front of his garment, as a miracle testifying her apparition. And thus, the bishop was finally convinced.
This garment, Juan Diego’s tilma or cloak, is now featured inside the Basílica de Guadalupe for all to see, believers and non-believers. The Basílica is the country’s most important religious gathering place and sees up to 20 million visitors per year, 9 of those coming on December the 12th, the “Día de la Virgen”, where loyal pilgrims make the journey to honor the Virgin, some even make the last part of the trek to the altar on their knees.
Juan Diego’s cloak sits front and center inside the Basilica, behind bulletproof glass (it suffered a bombing attempt in 1921; the bomb exploded, yet the cloak remained unscathed), and there are up to 30 masses per day. Locals show up to offer prayers, baptize babies, and light “veladoras” (thick candles). They bring with themselves an assortment of cherished objects so they can be blessed by the priest. Outside there’s the bustle of vendors selling yummy local snacks and drinks, t-shirts, trinkets, and any sort of souvenir you can purchase as a memento of your visit. Surrounding streets, part of the larger Villa de Guadalupe area, feature “fondas” or local eateries where homemade meals are served to comfort those long walks.
Access to the museum inside the Basilica costs $10 pesos, and the rest of the complex is free, although you may wish to leave a voluntary contribution, $20 pesos should be fine.
This “new Basílica”, which was constructed in the ’70s after the original one from 1660 was suffering damage due to the fact that the building was sinking (the original one still stands next to the new one), is located in the northwestern part of the city and can be accessed by Metro (“La Villa Basílica” station) or by Metrobus (exit Indios Verdes station at the northernmost limit of Línea 1, and then prepare yourself for a long brisk walk), and probably the most convenient way, by taxi or Uber.
The Basílica de Guadalupe is the most visited Catholic landmark in the world, it’s a day trip that’s important in order to understand the cultural identity of Mexico.