MEXICO CITY - Carrying large idols of the dark-skinned Virgin of Guadalupe on their backs, millions of devotees of all ages on Monday visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, breaking any previous attendance record.
As every Dec. 12, the Calzada de Guadalupe Avenue of the capital was flooded with the tide of pilgrims who formed long lines to enter the church with excitement, faith and exhaustion.
"She is everything to us and she is so miraculous. And that's why we come here to pray for a miracle. We come to ask for a baby. I already have babies, I have three, but (...) now I want (another)," 32-year-old Noemi excitedly told EFE during her first visit to the church.
2016 marks the 485th anniversary of the Virgin Guadalupe's appearance to indigenous Juan Diego on the Tepeyac hill several times, the last time on Dec. 12.
As reported by the Secretariat of Public Security of the capital, more than 7.11 million pilgrims have come to the church this year.
The pilgrims came from all over and arrived on foot, by car or bus and even by air. Pierre Gondard came from the south of France together with a group of devotees from his country.
His emotion was evident within a few meters of being able to see the Virgin closely, with which Pope Francis shared some 20 minutes of prayer alone in February.
"We are in a march of humility and God gives what he wants to give," he reflected shortly before entering the basilica.
Around the basilica, many of the believers spent the night lying on the street on cardboard boxes.
Covered with blankets, Jorge Antonio, 11, rested a few hours after riding a bicycle for six hours to visit the virgin and "pray for the family."
With an empty stomach, he said how difficult it was to be part of this tradition of his town, Atotonilco de Tula, Hidalgo, in central Mexico, which performs the pilgrimage on bicycle since 35 years.
The group of 150 people from his town spent a few hours to sing to the dark-skinned Virgin at six o'clock in the morning and then returned to the village.
Many devotees came as a family, such as the family of Luis Martinez, who said that he came walking from the town of Amecameca, Mexico State, to pray for the health of his wife, who had undergone operations at her knee several times.
The Ministry of Public Security of Mexico City mobilized 3,200 agents and 800 auxiliary police to receive the believers.