In the ever-evolving city of Los Angeles, some traditions never fade. This Sunday, just like every year around this date for the last eighty-seven, thousands of faithful descended on Cesar Chavez Boulevard to witness the oldest religious procession in the metropolis and to renew their devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe.

The festive event, marked by a mile-long procession with dozens of traditional “matachines” (dancers), floats and music, ended in a special Mass celebrated with thousands at the East Los Angeles College Stadium, led by the Archbishop José H. Gómez.

Among the many faithful lining up the streets, walking, making penitence or participating in the Eucharist was Leovigilda Aldaba. She is now in her seventies, but since she arrived in Los Angeles 40 years ago, she’s never missed the yearly procession honoring “La Morenita.”

“It’s my father’s heritage,” she tells Angelus, standing right on the corner where the procession was to start shortly after. “I grew up in Zacatecas, México and when I was little, my father became very ill and had to get surgery. He promised the Virgin that he would keep her vigil every year on December 12.”

The day of the Virgin the Guadalupe is December 12, but December 9 is the Feast Day of St. Juan Diego, to whom the Virgin appeared to miraculously in this day in 1531.

The procession in East LA started at 10:30 sharp. The first group to march included sixty youngsters from the St. Michael Parish, carrying flags from sixty countries in the world to signify unity and diversity. Then came the floats, adorned with fruits, flowers the image of “La Morenita” and San Juan Diego, or with singing angels, maguey plants, roses, vegetables and ribbons in many colors. 

The faithful lined up along the main boulevard eating fruit with chile, drinking café de olla and champurrado, waiting and praying. They were young and old, often all members of a family came together. 

“La Morenita” is not exclusive to the Mexican faithful.  Leticia Flores, a Guatemalan mother and grandmother stood with two friends and then followed the procession into the East Los Angeles College Stadium to be part of the mass. 

In Guatemala, her mother instilled in her the love for “La Guadalupana.”

“My mother was very devoted to her, I had an aunt named Guadalupe,” Flores says. “My 38-year-old daughter and son-in-law have a very large Virgin in their home. I personally always have her in my heart.”

Inside, Father Armando Lopez explained to the crowd finding their seats for the Mass that his own grandfather belonged to the “Cristeros”–the rebels who took up arms almost one hundred years ago in Mexico to preserve religious freedom.

“It’s in our blood,” he said. “Many Cristeros came from México to Los Angeles and they started this event. Today, we continue this tradition.”  

The Mass was preceded by mariachi music and a performance of “Ave María” by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Brennan, episcopal vicar for the San Fernando Pastoral Region.

In his homily, Archbishop Gomez began by thanking the Virgin for sending some clouds to block the full sun inside the roofless stadium. But he wasted little time in reminding the faithful of the need for her help in the midst of close-to-home topics like the caravan of Central American refugees and the “failure” of the government to pass immigration reform and to address the situation of “Dreamers.”

Full story at Angelus News.