Before we leave Campeche and move on to the next city on our Mexico trip, we need to backtrack just a bit to share an interesting bit of Mexican culture that we knew nothing about but witnessed up close and personal during our travels.
As we were on the bus from Merida to Campeche, we started noticing both individual and groups of cyclists along the shoulders of the road. Some of them carried flags, posters, lights, and lots of other gear. We had no idea what this was all about at the time, but knew it had to be something other than random chance.
They were riding in pretty poor conditions in some places, like in this construction zone as we approached the city, which was hilly and had gravely shoulders and large vehicles passing by. Gotta give them lots of credit for this difficult journey!
As we took our walk in Campeche after checking into the hotel, we continued to see more of these groups of men on bikes as well as some in trucks.
And on the long walk to the ADO bus station the next day, we continued seeing more of them, riding in the midst of very busy city traffic. The mystery deepened.
Some of these guys had huge burdens -- I don't know how they managed to ride their bikes with these loads.
When we finally had a chance to do a little research online, we discovered that December 12 marks La Virgen de Guadalupe
(Our lady of Guadalupe, i.e., the Virgin Mary)
fiesta. This date is widely celebrated throughout Mexico's predominantly Catholic community. Many of the faithful make pilgrimages to Mexico City, where the Basílica of Guadalupe
is kept; while others travel, primarily by bicycle, to other churches throughout Mexico for the celebration. According to this site
almost everywhere there is an altar to the Virgin Mary, a celebration occurs on December 12, which is "one of the most important dates on the Mexican calendar." The photos above were taken on December 10 and 11th as the faithful headed to Campeche's churches for the celebration.
Here are two of the beautiful churches we saw in Campeche. I suspect that the second one, the large cathedral, was where the pilgrims were headed for the fiesta.
Perhaps the flags were up for the upcoming festival?
Same cathedral dramatically lit at night
Another fact we gleaned from our internet research is that firecrackers mark the night of the celebration. Little did we know how much that would affect us later. (Stay tuned!)