This is the first year that I am not producing a live newscast from the Placita Olvera's church, Our Lady Queen of Angels, celebrating the birthday of Mexico's patron saint, the Virgen de Guadalupe. I miss it because no matter what your religion, this is a sight to see. The church holds masses from 10pm the previous night every hour until 5am on December 12th. There is a mosaic outside the church that features the Virgen de Guadalupe and Juan Diego, and thousands, yes thousands, come out to place candles and flowers in front of the mural. It is amazing to see an entire community out celebrating a religious holiday together.
Worshippers sing the traditional Mexican birthday song, "Las Mañanitas" at midnight. The celebration mirrors the one held in Mexico city, there are street vendors selling champurrado, a warm and thick Mexican hot drink, street dogs, tamales and religious articles. I have lived in other cities with a large Latino community, but nowhere outside of Mexico is the Virgen Morena honored like she is here in Los Angeles.
This year marks 480 years since the virgin first appeared to Juan Diego. The story goes that the virgin appeared to the Juan Diego on the hill of Tepeyac. Juan Diego was instructed to ask the lady for a miraculous sign to prove her identity. The Virgin told Juan Diego to gather flowers from the top of Tepeyac Hill and although it was December Juan Diego found roses on the normally barren hilltop. The Virgin arranged these in his tilma, peasant cloak. When Juan Diego opened his cloak before the Bishop on December 12, the flowers fell to the floor, and on the fabric was the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Catholics believe she grants miracles and many travel dozens of miles on their knees, to ask her for a miracle. In Los Angeles, most come to give her thanks for a miracle that they have received. The tradition is an incredible one and there is something magical about the thousands sharing their beliefs.