Campus Ministries makes pilgrimage to Mexico

The bright colored clothing of dancers captivated the eye as a cacophony of sound washed over the sea of 2 million pilgrims. They came by car, plane and foot to the city of San Juan de los Lagos, Mexico, for the festival of Candlemas. Among the visitors was a group of 20 College of Idaho students and staff. 

“I almost got lost a couple of times,” said C of I senior Patrick Mallory. “It was like playing Frogger, trying to cut through the crowds.”

During winter break, The College of Idaho’s Campus Ministries department traveled to Mexico for a Catholic Pilgrimage. The trip included touring Guadalajara, dropping in on a YoteFam wedding and visiting the Basilica of San Juan de los Lagos.

For Mallory, the day spent at San Juan de los Lagos was his favorite part of the trip. The Campus Ministries group visited the city along with the countless pilgrims who had traveled to pay homage to the small statue of the Virgin Mary. Known as Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos, the statue is credited with several miracles.

Outside the basilica, there were dancers, mariachi musicians, poetry readings and other various performers. The scene inside was similar.

“There were rows of people chanting, singing, dancing, walking down the aisle to the altar and praying to the image of the Virgin Mary,” said C of I junior Paloma Magana.

Though it was a chaotic and loud environment, the reverence displayed was evident, Mallory said. But it was an entirely different experience from his first trip outside the United State— a previous Campus Ministries pilgrimage to Mexico City and the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which he described as more solemn and quiet.

This year’s group began its trip in Guadalajara, sightseeing around the Mexican state capitol of Jalisco, before traveling to the town of Ayotlán for the weekend. There, they watched as C of I seniors Ivan Esparza and Yesenia Lozano tied the knot. The two met during freshmen orientation in McCall and had the wedding in Ayotlán, where much of Yesenia's family lives.

“I know them from the [C of I] Association of Latino American Students and have been part of the club since I was a freshman,” Magana said. “It was really fun to see them get married.”

For Magana, who grew up spending time in Mexico, the trip also offered her the chance to learn about her own history. Her mom grew up in a town an hour away from Ayotlán.

On the way back to Guadalajara, the Yotes visited historical sites relevant to the oft-overlooked Cristero War (La Cristiada), which was a struggle in the late 1920s between the Mexican government and the Catholic Church.

“I never knew about the Cristero War,” Magana said. “I recently learned that from a Spanish class that I had at the C of I, and this winter I was able to actually visit significant sites from the war.”

It was a jam-packed week, with so many sights and places to see. Mallory sums it up best as a “cultural, historical, and spiritual trip all intertwined.” For some students, the trip connected them more closely to their religion as they were surrounded by a new culture and a different way of life. For others, it was a chance to watch their dear friends say, “I do.” No matter the reason for attending, all found new knowledge and fulfillment south of the border.

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