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Neela Kale Answers:
Exact statistics are elusive, but according to a survey by Forbes.com, an estimated 20 million pilgrims visit the shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City every year. (By comparison, visitors to the Vatican number approximately 18 million.) The shrine houses the cloak of St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, to whom Mary appeared on the hill of Tepeyac in 1531. She brought a message of hope and consolation to the indigenous peoples of the Americas, who had been brutally colonized by the Spaniards only a few years before. According to legend, she sent Juan Diego to the bishop with the request that a church be built in her honor on the site. When the unbelieving bishop asked for a sign, she sent Juan Diego to gather roses from the hilltop and arranged them in the folds of his cloak. When he opened up his cloak in front of the bishop, an image of Mary, appearing as an indigenous princess, was miraculously imprinted there. The image has been preserved from decay through the centuries. Devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe spread quickly and she is now known as the Patroness of Mexico and Empress of the Americas. Pilgrims from throughout Mexico and around the world flock there year round, especially in December on the feast days of St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (December 9) and Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12.)