Hundreds made the march from St. Mary’s Catholic Church to The Forum, where a bilingual Mass was celebrated to commemorate Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Leaders of the Knights of Columbus led the procession, followed by dancers and drummers decked out in frocks depicting the Virgin Mary. Bersi Orellana, a native of the Dominican Republic, said the celebration marks the appearance of the Virgin Mary to an Indian named Juan Diego.
“She appeared to him on the hill of Tepeyac and named him ambassador in front of the Bishop Fray Juan de Zumarraga,” Orellana said.
The lone float in the parade featured a young woman portraying the Virgin Mary and a young man representing Juan Diego standing in front of a large group of children.
“It is important because it is the Patron(ess) of Mexico,” said Alejandro Zavala, a native of Mexico who now lives in the Rome. “It is important to all Mexicans.”
While the event originated as a celebration in Mexico, the celebration has been adopted by Latinos across the western hemisphere.
“We all believe in the Virgin Maria,” said Pablo Vicente from Guatemala.
Ramon Almaraz, a parishioner at St. Mary’s, said the actual date of the miracle on Tepeyac Hill occurred on Dec. 12 but that the local community always celebrates on the Sunday closest to the 12th.
“As you can see, there’s a lot of faith to it. We celebrate the Virgin Mary because she was the one who brought the light to the word who was Jesus Christ,” said Almaraz, who is originally from Mexico City but has lived in Rome for nearly 20 years.
Father Patrick Kingery, St. Mary’s pastor, was among those who walked the parade route. He said Our Lady Of Guadalupe is not only regarded as the Patroness of Mexico, but of all the Americas.
Organizers estimated the crowd, which gathered at The Forum for a meal and Mass, at close to 1,200 people.