On December 12th, completing a two month journey that began October 3rd at the Basilica de Guadalupe in Mexico City, native Mexicans will arrive on foot at New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral to celebrate the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe with fellow Mexicans, Americans of Mexican descent, and anyone else along for the ride.
The celebration, one of Mexico’s most holy days, has in recent years taken the shape of the bi-national “Run of Unity” that follows a 3,800 mile route through northern Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington D.C., Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, stopping at Catholic Churches along the way to celebrate, pray, and rest up for the next leg of the trek. With over to 7,000 runners helping to carry a torch and an image of the Virgin, this pilgrimage has become a way to shed light on the plight of the roughly twelve million undocumented immigrants estimated to live in the United States.
December 12th commemorates the day in 1531 when the Virgin of Guadalupe (an apparition of the Virgin Mary with dark skin and native features, rather than the traditional Caucasian look) appeared before Juan Diego, a poor Aztec field worker who had been converted and baptized with the Christian name of Juan Diego. The Virgin asked that a church be built on Tepeyac Hill – the hill on which the Basilica de Guadalupe now stands. Legend says that as a sign of her will, her image miraculously imprinted on Juan Diego’s cloak, which according to tradition is the same one on display in the church today.
The runners are scheduled to arrive around 5:30, with mass beginning at 7.