Catholics honor Our Lady of Guadalupe with procession through downtown Yakima | Local


Music and prayer filled the streets of downtown Yakima on Sunday afternoon as a procession honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe made its way between St. Paul Cathedral and St. Joseph Church.

About 300 to 400 people walked the 1.6-mile parade route, with Yakima Police officers temporarily closing 12th Avenue, Yakima Avenue and Third Street to traffic as the procession passed by. Along the route, onlookers pulled out their phones to capture the moment and others watched from Yakima Avenue businesses or from cars in parking lots.

The parade was led by the Most Rev. Joseph Tyson, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Yakima, with two groups of dancers, the Azteca Dancers and Las Floresitas de Tepeyac, at the front of the procession in colorful costumes. A mariachi band played intermittently as the large group made its way toward downtown Yakima.

“I’m just grateful to have everyone out here, and grateful to the Yakima Police Department for helping us have this event,” Tyson said. “I’m grateful we can worship out here together on this special day.”

Dec. 12 is the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, an important figure in Catholic and Mexican culture. Catholic tradition holds that the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus, appeared to an indigenous peasant, Juan Diego, multiple times in December 1531 at a place called Tepeyac Hill near modern-day Mexico City.

Speaking in Diego’s native language, she asked to have a church built in her honor on the site. Tradition holds that Our Lady of Guadalupe cured Diego’s uncle, Juan Bernardino, of a serious illness and directed Diego to gather roses from the summit of Tepeyac Hill. They did not grow there, and by bringing the flowers to the local archbishop, Diego could prove Mary appeared to him and the church would be built.

When Diego opened his tilma, or cloak, before the archbishop to show him the roses, they fell to the floor, revealing on the fabric the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, according to Catholic tradition.

The cloak is now enshrined in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, and Juan Diego is now a saint, canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2002.

At the beginning of the procession, participants prayed the Rosary in English and Spanish. By coincidence, the fourth glorious mystery of the Rosary, the Assumption of Mary into heaven, was announced just as the bells of Grace of Christ Presbyterian Church, at Eighth and Yakima avenues, chimed “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”

The Rev. Jesus Mariscal, parochial vicar of St. Paul Cathedral, worked with the city to obtain permits for this year’s procession.

“We hope we can do this every year,” Mariscal said. “It’s really beautiful that everyone was able to come together and celebrate our blessed Mother.”

The procession took place last year, but due to COVID-19 restrictions and the lack of a parade permit, a much smaller group of participants walked on the sidewalks between St. Paul Cathedral and St. Joseph Church.

Procession organizer Alma Benitez said Dec. 12 is both a religious and cultural holiday for people from Mexico.

“It’s a day that we celebrate our Mother, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and her appearance to Saint Juan Diego,” Benitez said. “It’s a celebration of what her appearance did for Indigenous people. It provided hope during a difficult time in Mexico’s history.

“For a lot of people from Mexico, this reminds them of home. … It’s a way to go back to our roots.”