Credited with making peace, ending plagues, healing broken bones, and raising the dwindling waters of Lake Chapala, the Virgin of Zapopan is the official patroness of Guadalajara and the state of Jalisco, defender “against storms, lightning, and epidemics.” The tiny painted statue is crafted of wood and hardened corn husks. Brought to Jalisco in 1541 by a Franciscan missionary, she was the first Catholic icon to gain widespread acceptance from the region’s native tribes. In times of need, the virgin is removed from her sanctuary and paraded through the city. “The Queen of Jalisco” is credited with hundreds of miracles and civic accomplishments. When Mexico achieved independence from Spain, the new government named her “General of the Army of the State,” and, with due pomp and ceremony, dressed her appropriately in a tiny general’s sash.
Over the past 500 odd years, the virgin has received many distinguished visitors, including Pope John Paul II. In the winter you can visit her at her home, the Basilica of Zapopan.
Located approximately four miles (7 km) northwest of the city center, the baroque basilica was completed in 1730. On October 12 of every year, the church is the site of a massive pilgrimage: Hundreds of thousands of people gather to march the virgin back home after her annual six month tour of the city’s other churches.
Zapopan is a reasonable cab ride from the Centro Historico, or you can go to either Avenida 16 de Septiembre or Alcalde, where you can flag bus 275 heading north to Zapopan.