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Basilica of Our Lady of Zapopan: Tiny Traveling Virgin Loves Coming Home

The tiny statue of the Virgin, made from corn paste, is no more than 10 inches high.

But she’s believed to be a miracle-worker. 

And her home – the Basilica of Our Lady of Zapopan – is stunning.

The Zapopan Basilica is one of the best things to see in Guadalajara

Basilica of Our Lady of Zapopan

The Basilica of Zapopan is a 17th century Franciscan sanctuary and one of the most visited religious sites in Mexico

On October 12th each year, more than a million people crowd around the streets surrounding the basilica to welcome the tiny statue of the Virgin back to her home on the outskirts of Guadalajara, Mexico.

That’s because “La Zapopanita” travels across Mexico’s state of Jalisco for five months each year, going from church to church.

Basilica of Our Lady of Zapopan at sunset
The Basilica of Zapopan at sunset

At the end of her journey, Our Lady of Zapopan makes the last five-mile trek from Guadalajara Cathedral to Zapopan on a flower-filled float.

It’s a lavish procession, with Indian dancers, cowboys and marching bands. Many devoted pilgrims follow behind her on their knees.

The whole celebration is one of Mexico’s largest and most important.

Archway entrance to Zapopan

History of Our Lady of Zapopan

Back in the 1500s, a Franciscan monk in Mexico always carried the little Virgin with him.

Legend has it that the local Chimalhuacano Indians were so awed by the light rays the Virgin statute threw off that they surrendered to the Spanish without bloodshed and converted to Christianity.

To honor her, she was installed at the Zapopan church (now replaced by the more stately Basilica of Our Lady of Zapopan).

Basilica of our Lady of Zapopan
The Zapopan Basilica is a popular attraction in Guadalajara

Later, in the 1700s, priests took her with them as they traveled the towns and villages around Guadalajara.

Wherever the tiny Virgin went, sick people suddenly got better.

Since then, several miracles have been attributed to her.

Zapopan Basilica a true gem

Guadalajara was the starting point for our visit to several colonial towns in Mexico’s heartland.

We visited the vast Basilica of Our Lady of Zapopan at sunset one winter evening.

Inside the Basilica of Our Lady of Zapopan
Inside the Basilica of Our Lady of Zapopan

Built in 1730, it’s a true architectural gem, with an ornately decorated façade (lots of flower designs).

Inside, we could barely make out the small Virgin behind glass above the altar.

When we left, night had fallen and the basilica was completely lit up – lovely!

The Zapopan Basilica is an important religious site, and visiting it is one of the top things to do in Mexico, when you’re in Guadalajara.

Experience more of Guadalajara!

Guadalajara’s hot art: Jose Clemente Orozco sure knew how to paint! Check out the fiery Orozco murals in Guadalajara.

Where to stay: The Villa Ganz is a delightful boutique hotel (and the best place to stay in the city).

Our top travel tips and resources

Hotels: is great for scoring a “wow” hotel – or at least a decent one. (We especially like their flexible cancellation policy!)

Vacation homes, condos and rentals: We prefer and use Vrbo (Vacation Rentals by Owner).

Tours: For the best local food, walking and other guided tours, plus skip-the-line tickets to attractions, check out Viator (a TripAdvisor company) and GetYourGuide.

Car rental: Renting a car is often one of the best ways to explore off the beaten path. Discover Cars searches car rental companies so you get the best rates.

Travel insurance: SafetyWing is designed for frequent travelers, long-term adventurers and digital nomads. It covers medical expenses, lost checked luggage, trip interruption and more. We also have and recommend Medjet for global air medical transportation and travel security.

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Photo credits: 5, 6, 7, 8 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase

About the authors

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George Mucalov are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents. See About.

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Alison Abbott

Monday 28th of April 2014

Beautiful architectural shots on this post! I love visiting Mexican churches, some are so ornate they just take your breath away. At night it must have been quite a sight to see!


Wednesday 23rd of April 2014

I like places like this one - historical and charming. I'm adding it to my bucket list :)! Bon voyage in Indonesia :)

Becky Padmore

Friday 18th of April 2014

I'm not religious but I often visit these kind of places, I can definitely appreciate the beautiful architecture!


Thursday 17th of April 2014

Fab photos! I always make a bee line for these kinds of places, I just love them.


Tuesday 15th of April 2014

Being an agnostic, I like to visit one or two -particularly religious places with interesting or unique stories such as this one - to pay my respects and keep my options open : )