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UNESCO: 'La Romería an Intangible Cultural Heritage'

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December 3, 2018

Every year on October 12, millions of pilgrims, led by dancers and priests, accompany the Virgin of Zapopan on her 5-mile journey from the Guadalajara Cathedral to the Basilica of Our Lady of Zapopan.

Jalisco, Mexico - The annual pilgrimage in honor of the Virgin of Zapopan was added on Friday to the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage.

Every year on October 12, more than two million Catholics walk about 9 kilometers from the Guadalajara Cathedral to the Basilica of Our Lady of Zapopan accompanied by a 34 cm figure of the Virgin of Zapopan, an event known as La Romería.

The virgin is believed to have saved the inhabitants of Jalisco from a series of epidemics and floods in the 17th century and soon after became the local patron against storms, the website Religion News Service reported.

"The annual celebration of La Romería on 12 October, honoring the image of the Virgin of Zapopan, is a tradition that dates back to 1734," UNESCO said in a statement announcing the inclusion of 'La Romería' on the list.

"The day marks the final phase of the annual ritual cycle popularly known as 'The Carrying of the Virgin,' which begins in May and encompasses many community and liturgical activities," it continued.

More than 35,000 dancers belonging to a range of indigenous groups also participate in the pilgrimage, and music and fireworks add to the festive atmosphere on the city's streets.

Zapopan Mayor Pablo Lemus told the news agency EFE earlier last week that he was confident that the pilgrimage would be included on the UNESCO list because all local residents as well as many other people across the country banded together to support the cause.

The process began three years ago when the municipal governments of Zapopan and Guadalajara and the state government wrote letters to UNESCO in support of the pilgrimage's inclusion on the intangible cultural heritage list.

Federal authorities, including the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) and the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs (SRE), also supported the inclusion bid.

After a long wait, UNESCO, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, announced the inclusion of the Romería on its prestigious list during a meeting in the island nation of Mauritius. A small group of danzantes zapopanos, or Zapopan dancers, dressed in elaborate pre-Hispanic costumes performed after the announcement was made.

UNESCO also noted that La Romería plays an important role in bringing different sectors of the community together.

"Throughout the year, the planning of the activities depends on the interaction of different communities, helping them to renew and reinforce their social ties. Thanks to the community's support for the practice year after year, La Romería is considered one of the most popular and strongly rooted traditions in west Mexico," it said.

Among other traditions and customs included on the list were Reggae music of Jamaica, traditional Korean wrestling, and a traditional form of Sri Lankan string puppet drama.

Sources: El EconomistaEFE