Gutierrez Joins Other Horseback Riders in Celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe


Payton Van Pelt, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

“The day started off by waking up at four a.m.,” recalled senior Gabe Gutierrez.

On a chilly December morning, Gutierrez–along with eight other horseback riders from his ranch–headed down to Des Plaines, Illinois, for the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

“After we started driving, I took a small nap, and before I knew it, we were there.”

The Our Lady of Guadalupe Sanctuary in Des Plaines is the second most visited in the world and the most visited in the United States. The pilgrimage they made is the start to the two-day festivities in the northern suburb of Chicago. Our Lady of Guadalupe is celebrated on December 12 each year. The festivities draw hundreds of thousands of Catholics from around the country.

“When we got there,” said Gutierrez, “the horses had started going down the trail. So we quickly got saddled up and blessed before we hit the trail. We cantered to catch up because we got there a little late.”

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration branches from the story of Juan Diego. Juan Diego saw the vision of the Virgin Mary four times in Mexico. She then appeared on Diego’s tilma or outer vestment, and it soon became Mexico’s ‘most popular religious and cultural symbol’ and a messianic ‘rallying call’ to the American-born Spaniards, thus validating their Mexican identity.

“After we got caught up, we had a three-hour wait ‘til we got to our final spot,” Gutierrez explained. “Through the journey we crossed highways and city streets that the local police had to block off for us to get through.”

Along with Gutierrez and his eight fellow riders, hundreds of other riders made the same pilgrimage to the sanctuary.

Vaqueros Unidos (United Cowboys Club) is an organization that planned the event. Founded eight years ago, they started the pilgrimage in 2012 with a few horseback riders. This past celebration included over three hundred men, women and children riding to pay their respects.

“When we arrived, we waited in line to get another blessing and give Our Lady flowers. We pay our respects to her because she protects us,” recalled Gutierrez. “From breaking a horse, to teaching it new things that could make it buck and throw you off, that is a way we pay our respects.”