Every October 24, for the last 31 years, hundreds of gauchos (cowboys) make the pilgrimage from Morelia to Patzcuaro, nearly 60 kilometres away, called La Cabalgata (the cavalcade). They leave Morelia at 6 a.m. and arrive at the Basilica de Nuestra Senora de la Salud (Our Lady of Health) in Patzcuaro nearly 12 hours later, picking up more riders along the route.
The Basilica sits atop a pre-Hispanic ceremonial site, although the church itself wasn’t completed until the 19th century. A figure of the Lady, or Virgin, crafted from a corncob and honey paste by 16th-century Tarascans, stands behind the altar. When pilgrims claimed to experience miraculous healings, Vasco de Quiroga, the revered first bishop of the state of Michoacan, whose tomb sits just inside the main doors, had the words Salus Infirmorum (Healer of the Sick) inscribed at the figure’s feet. Apparently people from all over Mexico still make the pilgrimage to pray for their own personal miracles. In fact, the founder of the cavalcade organized this annual trek to express his thanks to the Lady for helping his son recover from an illness. Once the horses are cooled and watered, these pilgrims on horseback will attend a mass at the Basilica to offer their own personal prayers and thanks.
Click on the image above to see a slideshow of some of Rick’s pix of the event.