On a hill on the outskirts of Mexico City 474 years ago, a brown-skinned incarnation of the Virgin Mary appeared before an Aztec named Juan Diego.
Almost half a millennium later, millions of Catholics around the world join processions in December to honor Guadalupe, the patroness of the Americas.
"Processions are a very religious expression of movement," says Father Francisco Javier Quezada, director of Hispanic ministry for the Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs and pastor of the city's Our Lady of Guadalupe church.
Quezada joined more than 400 faithful who marched down Tejon Street on a cold but clear Sunday afternoon two weeks ago en route to Saint Mary's Cathedral for a holy mass.
They walked behind a painting of Guadalupe, hoisted by men in traditional Indian dress -- symbolic of the conversion of Indians such as Juan Diego to Christianity.
"It is very important to Hispanic Americans," he says. The event "opens the doors" of the Catholic Church to Hispanics, and enables people to feel "as at home as possible."
During a visit to Mexico City in 2002, Pope John Paul II designated Dec. 12 as a holy day. The Colorado Springs diocese began its Guadalupe procession last year.
Both last year and this year, Quezada says, the weather forecast was terrible. In both cases, "she cleared the skies."
-- Dan Wilcock
Photo by Bruce Elliott