An (Extra) Ordinary Day in Chapala: The Visit of the Virgen de Zapopan

It’s Sunday. A day of rest. At least for us here in Chapala. It’s also the day we head over to Ol-Lin for Sunday brunch and to pick up the weekly supply of scrumptious tamales to enjoy through the week. Then, some reading, some walking, maybe a few chores, just enjoying. An ordinary day, or so I thought.

Each week we procure a copy of the Guadalajara Reporter, the local English language newspaper that cover Guad, lakeside (as the Chapala area is called) and Puerto Valletta.  I’d read that the North to South bound lanes of Avenida Madero, the main entry and exit from Chapala, would be closed from 7AM until around Noon, for the annual summer pilgrimage of the Virgen de Zapopan. So noted.

When i left for Ol-Lin, I turned right out of our street and headed the couple of blocks to the malecon, where I turned right again toward the Centro and from there toward Ajijic and Ol-Lin. Looking ahead, I could see the telltale signs that Centro was blocked. Oh, yes, the visit of the Virgen. So I turned around and went to Ol-Lin the back way.

Not thinking too much about it.

After a delicious brunch, I started home. Remembering that Centro had been blocked, I retraced my route the back way. This would put on the the North-South part of the main drag, which I knew would be blocked but hoped that I would be able to turn off before the hubbub.

Headed up the entrance ramp to the Avenida, I saw a police car, lights on, parked on the shoulder just after the ramp. And looking at the road so I could merge, I see a tight cluster of cars and one that looked like the Pope-mobile. I had arrived at the exact same time as the Virgen.

Of course I pulled over and waited. After the official car and entourage, there were miles of motorcycles following. And bicycles. And cars. Ten minutes and they were still rolling by. Finally the traffic thinned out enough for me to merge, make my turn and get home.

Now I was curious. What was this all about? Apparently a much larger deal than I had assumed. So I grabbed my phone and headed for the malecon.

Buses linked the street bordering the park. Many of them. And people were streaming toward the malecon. As I arrived there I spotted motorcycles parked where typically cars and trucks would be.

Sure enough, the malecon was hopping. And as I approached the Centro side of the malecon, the crowds thickened.


Motorcyclists, mixed with the usual extended families, vendors, and lots of people outfitted in what I could only describe as looking like Wild West Days. Brightly colored “Indian” costumes. Eye-popping.


And a ceremony in process in front of the Cathedral. Attended by the bikers and caballeros and families in a swirling mass of humanity. Sprinkle in more than a few vendors–corn on the cob, ice cream, cotton candy, tortillas and lots of other goodies–and there’s a party, Mexican-style.

And yet, for all the color and party atmosphere, there was a sanctity. For this was the pilgrimage of the Virgen de Zapopan

. A most sacred figure with almost 500 years of history in this Mexican state of Jalisco.

So here was an ordinary day in Chapala. That is, extra-ordinary. Life here is full of surprises. Amen.

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