But what happened when he reached the top of the hill changed his life, and that place, forever...and this month, almost 500 years later, an astonishing six million people are expected to gather there to remember the man and what happened to him – and to revere the precious memento of the events that he witnessed.
What happened on that hill all those years ago was the apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The man to whom she appeared, Juan Diego, is now St Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, canonised by John Paul II in 2002. And the place where the apparitions took place, and which is today the busiest site of Catholic pilgrimage anywhere in the world, lies in the north of one of the world’s biggest conurbations, Mexico City.
The Shrine is the busiest site of Catholic pilgrimage anywhere in the worldTo reach the most famous shrine in Latin America, I took the metro from central Mexico City. In Juan Diego’s day the place where the Virgin appeared was a rural idyll outside the town itself – today, in this vast metropolis of 21 million people, it’s been swallowed up into the hectic sprawl of concrete buildings, traffic-choked roads, and market stalls. As befits its vastness and significance, the shrine even has its own tube stop – La Villa Basilica on Line 6.
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