Catholics in Mexico are marking the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the day almost 500 years ago on which the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to an indigenous man near what is today Mexico City.
Every year, millions of faithful embark on a pilgrimage to the shrine on the outskirts of the capital dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe to pay their respects and pray in front of an image of the Virgin.
According to 17th-Century writings in the indigenous language Nahuatl, the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego several times between 9 and 12 December 1531, telling him that a chapel should be built in her honour at the top of the hill where there had once been an Aztec temple to the goddess Tonantzin.
Juan Diego took her request to the local bishop, who was hesitant and asked for a sign from the Virgin. Juan Diego, who had converted to Catholicism some years previously, said that when the Virgin appeared to him again, she instructed him to gather roses in his cloak and to take them to the bishop as proof.
According to the writings, when Juan Diego opened his cloak in front of the cleric, an image of the Virgin had been imprinted on its fabric, convincing the bishop to build a shrine to the Virgin.
Pilgrimages to the shrine and the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe have been held annually almost without interruption since then.
The faithful set off on their pilgrimage from as far away as Chiapas state, in the south of the country, and often carry statues of the virgin on their backs.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is popular with indigenous Mexicans who also treasure the memory of Juan Diego, an Aztec convert to Catholicism, who was canonised in 2002 and became the first saint indigenous to the Americas.
Many of the pilgrims camp in front of the shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe in the night of the 11 to the 12 of December in order to take part in one of the Masses held overnight and in the early morning.
Some of the pilgrims approach the basilica on their hands and knees to show their devotion.
The moment when they reach the shrine for many faithful is a deeply moving moment.
Many of the faithful make the pilgrimage as a family, with even young children taking part in annual tradition.
Source : BBC