The word peregrination comes from the Latin peregrinari, which means to travel abroad, perhaps long distances and invariably with no other mode of transportation other than walking. In the sense that travelers come from far away and do so on foot to honor the Virgin, Our Lady of Guadalupe, peregrination defines their sojourn. In Spanish it’s peregrinacion.
Parades and fiestas mark the first twelve days of December, which are referred to as the Días de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. The main grand-lady celebration takes place on the twelfth and there is no shortage of music, food, drink, and merriment in the streets of Puerto Vallarta.
In 1943, Reverend Don Parra Castillo took over the vicarship in Puerto Vallarta. Reverend Parra was responsible for many church associated actions, including the construction of the cathedral, surrounding walls and plazas. Reverend Parra installed a dedicated generator for continual electric power to the church; assigned the sculptures for the Stations of the Cross, carved by a renowned Mexico City artist, Jesús Ramirez; restored the fading painting of the Lady of Guadalupe and had it properly blessed; added the christening chapel; and remodeled the parish offices, among many other accomplishments. His major undertaking was the famous church tower and clock, to which the elaborate crown was eventually added. The most memorable thing that Reverend Parra did was to promote the annual peregrinations.
There are few organizations in Puerto Vallarta who do not participate in these holidays. Hotels, supermarkets, schools, hospitals, and every fraternal group get involved. Planning for floats, many depicting the famous meeting of the peasant Juan Diego and the appearance of the virgin, begins months in advance. Over the years, we have observed locals from as far away as Mismaloya taking the trip barefoot all the way from their little village, arriving at the top of the cathedral steps and falling on their knees to travel the remaining few meters to the altar.
From the first day of December until the 12th, pilgrimages fill the streets, observed by tens of thousands who come to join in the festivities and make their own personal peregrination. Amazing amounts of food and gifts for the poor are offered by those who march, often carrying baskets heavily laden with gifts. Truckloads and carts with fruits, vegetables, grains and assorted groceries are unloaded each day and distributed throughout the community.
This tradition is a marvelous event to be a part of, even if only viewing from a convenient balcony or on the sidelines from the sidewalk. The pageantry and ceremony are wonderful memories of how Christmas is celebrated in Puerto Vallarta.
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Thanks to our guest blogger Adam Garcia for this article!
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