The following comes from a Dec. 6 story in the Riverside Press Enterprise.

Thousands of people walked to the top of Riverside’s Mount Rubidoux on Saturday to honor the Virgin of Guadalupe, and more processions and other events are planned throughout the Inland area during the next few days.

Many of the walks, festivals and special Masses will take place on Friday the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe and one of the most important religious dates of the year for Latino Catholics, especially those of Mexican ancestry. It commemorates the day in 1531 when, according to Catholic Church teaching, a brown-skinned Virgin Mary appeared to a poor indigenous man named Juan Diego on a hillside in what is today Mexico City.

“We feel close to God” during the procession, said Trino Tellez, 45, a Mexican immigrant who has participated in the event for 13 years and helped coordinate it this year.

Tellez said the procession reminds him and other Mexicans of Virgin of Guadalupe events in their homeland.

“We want people to feel like they’re in Mexico,” he said.

It was the 16th year for the 2.5-mile Mount Rubidoux procession, which set off from Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine on Riverside’s East Side.

What is believed to be the longest Our Lady of Guadalupe procession in the country will begin early Friday at Our Lady of Solitude Catholic Church in Palm Springs and end 32 miles later outside Our Lady of Soledad Catholic Church in Coachella, where Bishop Gerald Barnes is scheduled to celebrate a 7 p.m. Mass.

Every year, thousands of people walk all or part of the route. Some travel from the Riverside-San Bernardino area to participate.

Jesús Mora, coordinator of the event and one of its founders, said the procession unifies Catholics.

“Our faith in the Virgin of Guadalupe keeps us together,” Mora said.

The event will begin Friday with a rosary at 3 a.m. at Our Lady of Solitude, followed by a Mass and Mañanitas, songs in honor of the Virgin, before the procession leaves the church at 6 a.m.

Shorter processions will take place at parishes throughout the Inland area, especially those with a large number of Latino worshippers.

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