Faithful from around Southern California braved the rain and cold the evening of Dec. 11 to fill the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels and celebrate another year under the protection of Our Lady of Guadalupe, “Empress of the Americas.”

The birthday celebration of sorts included a rosary and Mariachi performance, as well as Aztec dancers and free refreshments on the Cathedral Plaza. It culminated in a Midnight Mass to kick off the 491st anniversary of Our Lady’s final apparition to an indigenous peasant in present-day Mexico City. 

And in what has become an LA tradition, the evening attracted some star power to the cathedral to lead a late night “mañanitas” birthday serenade for the Virgin.

The tradition of singing to the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico — and televising it — began in 1951 —  when the serenade had to take place outdoors because the Vatican wouldn’t give permission to sing inside the original basilica in Mexico City. Five years later, the restriction was loosened and the live “mañanitas” event became a national TV spectacle with the biggest names in Mexican music singing before her image. 

The LA cathedral, which houses a small fragment of the miraculous Guadalupe “tilma” (“cloak”) fabric, was also the scene of a live special program aired by the local NBC and Telemundo TV stations that included coverage from San Diego, the Bay Area, and Mexico. The live transmission of the event itself was made possible through a collaboration with EWTN Español.

It is commonly said in Mexico that one is a “Guadalupano” first and a Mexican second. The evening’s festivities offered evidence that among the Mexican immigrant community, the Faith and its traditions have immigrated with them. Archbishop José H. Gomez, a native of Mexico himself, urged the hundreds who stayed for the midnight Mass in honor of Guadalupe not to forget those roots. 

“The Virgin of Guadalupe is our mother!” said the archbishop in his homily, delivered in Spanish. “She is who we are! She is where we come from! She is the one we long to be with — because she shows us Jesus, she shows us God.”

Full story at Angelus News.