Festivities surrounding the annual summer visit of the Virgen de Zapopan to Chapala were replete with all the usual religious fervor and pageantry, plus some novel twists for the several thousand pilgrims in attendance.
Ensconced aboard an elaborately decorated float for the welcome procession down Avenida Madero, the revered statue was escorted by the San Francisco Church Drum and Bugle Corps, scores of colorfully outfitted ritual dancers, bicycle and motorcycle buffs, mariachi musicians, platoons of Basilica de Zapopan honor guards and Cardinal José Francisco Robles Ortega, the archbishop of Guadalajara, who was riding in a vintage Ford convertible.
Along the way the Virgin was greeted by cheers and applause, the release of soap bubbles, confetti and multi-colored balloons and the inevitable blasts of sky rockets shot into the air. Just before her arrival at the massive altar set up at the steps of the Fishermen’s Fountain, Chapala firefighters pulled out a long hose, showering the path with a huge gush of water symbolizing faith in an abundant rainy season and Lake Chapala’s recuperation.
The diminutive figure was removed from a protective glass case to be placed at the side of the altar during the service and displayed to the public while being carried along the waterfront afterwards for a traditional blessing of the lake.
With the image uncovered, spectators were able to get a good look at the opulent embroidered cape specially fashioned to mark the 60th anniversary of Virgin’s first visit to Chapala, held in December 1955 in thanks for the lake’s miraculous recovery from a dire mid-century drought.