The Virgen de Guadalupe annual pilgrimage to A Mountain a.k.a. Tortugas Mountain in southern New Mexico continued on Sunday as more than 1,000 people embarked from the village of Tortugas to the top of the mountain to pay respects to Guadalupe's altar, according to the Las Cruces Sun-News.
This regional tradition is only a microcosm of a bigger tradition that has millions of pilgrims visiting the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City to commemorate the anniversary of the storied Guadalupe apparition of biblical times. The shrine at the basilica is considered one of the most visited Catholic destinations in the world, especially for millions of Mexican Catholics, who also travel to Mexico City to celebrate the Virgin of Guadalupe Day on December 12.
The Guadalupe pilgrimage in Southern New Mexico, which has taken place from Dec. 10 to 12 for more than a century and includes religious ceremonies, feasting and traditional dancing, is one of the region's oldest continuing traditions to give thanks to the Catholic icon. This year's celebration, however, is more special for Tortugas residents because it marks more than 100 years since the celebration moved to the village reports the Sun-News.
This day is important to everyone in the village and everyone who makes the pilgrimage, said Felipe Nevarez, who transported the Virgen de Guadalupe to the top of A Mountain early Sunday morning. Throughout the year, people make promesas, or promises, to the Virgin throughout the year, and this is our time to give thanks and fulfill our promises to her.
Guadalupe's image was transported in a candlelit procession from La Casa del Pueblo to Sanctuario de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe before daybreak Sunday morning, followed by the pilgrimage to A Mountain where confessions, a Mass and a rosary occurred.
Many participants began the four-mile journey before 11 a.m. Sunday, and worshipers continued to make the journey throughout the day to pay respects Guadalupe, the patron saint of the village of Tortugas.
Nevarez, who expected a large turnout atop the mountain for the Mass, said he was pleased with the large crowd that gathered.
My father brought me along on the pilgrimage ever since I was 5 years old, he said.
Nevarez, who has followed in his father's footsteps for more than 25 years, awoke before the sun Sunday morning to usher the Guadalupe images to the altar at A Mountain.
The pilgrimage also has a lot to do with families and friends coming together to honor a tradition, Nevarez said. Sometimes our lives get so busy, but you know that when December 10, 11 and 12 come around, you're going to get to reconnect with people you love and pick up right where you left off.
View the slideshow of some shots of the pilgrimage to Mexico City.