We Uber-ed from Ajijic up to Guadalajara on October 11 and checked into Hotel Morales. The hotel is in the historic center of the city and is classic and lovely. Courtyards with fountains, four stories of rooms, a pool, restaurant, and bar. Our room was very well-appointed with a spacious walk-in shower, lighted make-up mirror (!) and comfortable bed. We didn’t have much time to enjoy the hotel or explore on this trip, but the area around there is very walkable — lots of department stores, shoe shops, historic buildings, churches, and many, many stores with wedding and quincenera gowns. We look forward to returning!
We met up with some Oregon friends who became our tour guides. We had drinks at a nice bar overlooking a plaza and then saw the preparations for what we had travelled to Guadalajara for: la Romeria de la Vergin de Zapopan. The Romeria was to take place the next day, October 12, but some streets were condoned off the evening before and processions were headed to the cathedral for Mass. Many people with flags and long lines of men and women in religious order garb.
We had dinner at a restuarant called La Chata, very near to our hotel. We had good timing — the line looked hours long when we exited. The restaurant kitchen is in the front of the building, gleaming clean, filled with cooks (all female, it appeared, the night we were there) clothed head to toe in white, including white hoods over their hair. While we waited for a table, we got to see the cooks in action and check out the different types of food. I loved watching them! I was grateful to find an enchilada assortment that was all vegetarian (I will write another post about some of my struggles to eat well while travelling). It was might good, featuring enchiladas with beans, cheese, and (I think) panela (fresh cheese). My husband is a flan connoisseur and declared theirs very good.
We made it an early night as we wanted to see the beginning of the Romeria, which was reported to start at either 5:30 or 6:00. Either time is considered 0dark30 to me. We met in the lobby at 6:00 and joined the crowd at the cathedral. In a short time, the statue of the Virgin, in a glass or plastic case, was brought out and secured to a float covered with flowers. Another float and people with flags proceeded the Virgin and the procession began. We followed along, sometimes cutting down side streets to jump ahead and watch different parts of the procession. Walking through Guadalajara in the dark with about a million people (literally; they were expecting 1.5 million for the event) was a great experience, otherworldly.
Evidently, the statue of the Virgin has a home base in the Zapopan Basilica but travels to other churches in Jalisco from June until October 12. The Romeria is her procession home. According to what I have read, the icon of the Virgin is a small corn-husk statue and is credited with many miracles. The total route was about 8 kilometers and ended near the Zapopan cathedral. Along with multitudes of priests, nuns, seminarians, etc., the procession had several bands and many groups of dancers in different types of indigenous dress. As it got light out, a variety of vendors set up along the route with a special type of bread (looked like of like challah with some red and green candied fruit on top), ice cream, sodas, Romeria calendars, leashes so you don’t lose your children, and other items.
We waited behind barricades near the entrance to the Basilica grounds. Over the loudspeakers, a man led the crowd in choruses of Ave Maria (Catholic friends, it’s a different melody from the one we grew up with in the US), cheers, and prayers. The Virgin came in on her float and was then transferred to another float that was hand-carried onto the grounds and (though we could not see this) into the Basilica. We attempted to go toward the Basilica after this, but it was too crowded so we headed back. In our hotel bar, however, we were able to see some of the Mass on TV.
Ave Maria, salve Maria!