Somewhere in this mass of people were my lost friends, marching, inch by inch, hour by hour, to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe to see the holy manto of the olive-skinned Virgen and sing her "Las Mañanitas" at midnight on this her blessed feast day, December 12. The pilgrimage took on an epic quality, with success and even survival falling into doubt at the sight of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of the faithful pressing onward, body to body, some raising the Virgen's image above their heads to signal to the "Queen of Mexico" that they've arrived. This, without question, is the Mecca of the Americas.
The pilgrims slept wherever they could in order to greet the Virgen at dawn, as seen above, in a shot showing rare and precious walking space. There were plenty of moments of panic. People were seen carried away in stretchers every few minutes, overwhelmed by the fatigue. Fresh garbage piled up wherever there was room, near sidewalk campsites radiating away from the Basilica into neighboring streets. The sweet scent of marijuana hovered over huddled groups of faithful teens and 20-somethings. Even at 2 a.m., leaving the Basilica proved difficult. People were still pressing in by the thousands, with no end in sight. Pilgrims whistled and howled at others who, in desperation, were jumping fences to cut in line.
* More later.