Guadalupe celebration: LA braces for biggest celebration of the Virgin outside Mexico

Boyle Heights

Eric Zassenhaus / KPCC

A woman takes a photo of a child in front of a shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe outside of El Mercado in L.A.'s Boyle Heights.

Catholics in Mexico and the United States typically celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe in December, but on Sunday, Los Angeles will welcome nearly 100,000 Catholic faithful for what’s expected to be the biggest celebration of the Virgin outside of Mexico.

The 3:00 pm event at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum will be free to the public. It will feature singing, prayer, mariachis and dramatized performances that reenact the story of the Virgin’s appearance to a Mexican peasant almost 500 years ago.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is the most important icon for Catholics in Mexico and throughout Latin America. Sunday's event is billed as the biggest celebration of its kind in the U.S. in the last 75 years. The Knights of Columbus, one of the largest Catholic fraternal groups in the U.S., is sponsoring the celebration along with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Instituto Superior de Estudios Guadalupanos.

Ads for the celebration have been running for months, reaching out to Latinos who are leaving the Catholic Church in greater numbers for evangelical and Protestant denominations.

Los Angeles Archbishop José Horacio Gómez will be among the keynote speakers. Gomez was born in Mexico and more than 70 percent of his followers are Latino. He leads the largest and most diverse archdiocese in the U.S.

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