Every year, Latinos in Chicago make a pilgrimage to the Des Plaines shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe

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Cerrito de Guadalupe in Des Plaines, Illinois

As a mariachi band played in a nearby parking lot, dozens of semitrailers parked one after the other on Western Avenue. Each one was adorned with images of Our Lady of Guadalupe, some with flags — Mexican and American ones. But instead of freight, this time the drivers transported only their families and friends.

They were getting ready for the procession to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, an annual celebration of their faith and gratitude for answered prayers throughout the year — prayers that kept them safe on the road and those that gave them a steady income to provide for their families.

“It’s like a calling that you get to go visit her,” said Maria Vargas, the organizer of the pilgrimage that precedes the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, celebrated on Dec. 12 to honor the Virgin Mary. “It’s something that you can’t see, you can’t explain, but you can feel. The Virgin Mary represents love and how important faith is in our lives.”

The convoy of truckers that takes off from Chicago’s South Side to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines is one of the dozens of pilgrimages that mirror the traditional commemorations for the Feast of Faith in Mexico to commemorate La Guadalupana every year. Hundreds of thousands of Catholic devotees also visit the Des Plaines shrine by walking, running, biking, and horse riding, making the Midwest celebration the second largest one after Mexico City and making the Des Plaines shrine the most visited monument of its kind in the U.S.

Most make the journey to the shrine to fulfill a promise — a manda — or give thanks to the Virgin Mary for her blessings. For others, it is a prayer for a specific need or concern.

For the truckers, this is a way to show the world the power of faith, Vargas said.

“Despite the struggles and the difficulties in the industry — the high prices of diesel and less work — we are still standing and able to provide for our families,” Vargas said.

Vargas is the co-owner of Mainland Corp., a family-owned flatbed transportation company that was established by Vargas and her brother, Ismael, a decade ago with only two trucks. Now they own 10 and manage others. Vargas, who serves as the company dispatcher, attributes their success to hard work, but also their faith.

Source: Chicago Tribune

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