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  Mar 23, 2017.    

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12 December - Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe - Unofficial Holiday

Thousands of people join processions in Cozumel for this event, as they celebrate one of Mexico's largest religious events.

The pilgrims honor Our Lady of Guadalupe, an icon of the Catholic Virgin Mary who is said to have appeared near Mexico City over 470 years ago.

Islanders walk, run, cycle or drive right around the island, before completing their pilgrimage back downtown at Corpus Christi church.

The groups in the parades are mostly organized into families, clubs, unions or company employees, and many make the journey in the form of a relay.

The oldest known account of the virgin's apparition is called the "Nican Mopohua" and is written in Nahuatl, the native language of the Aztecs.

It recounts the tale of how Juan Diego, a recent convert to the Catholic faith, saw a glowing image of the Virgin Mary appear and call to him as he walked over a hill at Tepeyac, in the north of modern-day Mexico City.

The story goes that Diego, an indigenous Mexican, was asked by the apparition to build a church on the site where they stood, so that she could use it to show her love and compassion, and help to defend the local people and all those that believed in her.

It is said that Diego then took the news to bishop Juan de Zumárraga nearby, but the Catholic minister didn't believe him and asked for proof.

Eventually the virginal vision helped Diego by sending him to the top of the hill, where believers say he found an abundance of beautiful flowers.

This was seen as a miracle in itself for it was winter and none should have been growing.

He wrapped them up in his robe and quickly took them back to the bishop as proof.

When Diego opened his robe they fell to the floor and an image of the Virgin Mary appeared there on the fabric, right in front of the bishop's eyes.

This was finally proof enough for the religious leader and led to the construction of a church on the hill were Diego had seen his vision.

Today, that church is the Basilica of Guadalupe, which is considered one of the most important Catholic shrines in the world and receives millions of pilgrims every year, especially around these dates.

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