Lakeside Guide to Lake Chapala, Ajijic, Mexico

The Virgin of Zapopan Visits Chapala

At a Glance

On the second Sunday in July, one of Mexico’s most important religious icons comes to Chapala for a large procession two days before she gets ferried to the nearby Island of the Scorpions.

More Info

What is the Virgin of Zapopan?

The Virgin of Zapopan is Mexico’s oldest Catholic icon, believed to have its origins in 16th-century Spain. Other histories say it was made in Michoacán. The original is currently kept at the Basilica of Our Lady of Zapopan, in the city just west of Guadalajara, and it only leaves the basilica, briefly, twice a year.

Four replicas of the wood relic tour towns and cities in Mexico to take part in religious processions made up of hundreds or sometimes thousands of followers and pilgrims. Almost 2,000,000 people attend her annual October 12 feast day procession in Guadalajara, making it one of Mexico’s more important pilgrimages.

The Virgin has visited Chapala each year since 1955 and in 2009 she was coronated as the “queen” or protectress of Lake Chapala.

2020 Info

In 2020, the Virgin of Zapopan will make here visit on July 12. She will be taken to the Island of the Scorpions the next day on July 13.

2019 Info

The procession starts at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, July 14, in front of the 7-11 on Francisco Madero Avenue. Hundreds of musicians, charros, and dancers from various traditions will march down Francisco Madero. The procession itself lasts about 90 minutes and is then followed by an outdoor mass on the malecón.

After the mass, the Virgin is taken around the malecón where she’s received by passersby.

The next morning, July 15, the Virgin will be ferried to the Island of the Scorpions accompanied by dozens of other boats filled with devotees. There is no cost, but space is limited. The boats are donated by the local fishermen, who have a vested interest in seeing that the Virgin blesses the lake and provides them with enough fish to last the year.

On the island, a mass is held and afterward a fish fry is held for the hundreds of parishioners who made the 30-minute boat ride.

WATCH: This video of the 2017 procession for the Virgin of Zapopan.

Procession Route for the Virgin of Zapopan in Chapala

Last updated November 7, 2019

Dane Strom

Dane Strom The Lakeside Guide

I moved to Ajijic in 2010 when I decided to quit my job of seven years as an editorial assistant at The Denver Post in Colorado. I'm the photographer, web designer, programmer, marketer, writer... the everything behind this website, The Lakeside Guide. All of the businesses on this website appear here for free at no cost to them. If you find this site useful, please consider giving a small donation to become a site patron. Learn more about The Lakeside Guide or check out my other website about photography of Mexico.

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Photos of The Virgin of Zapopan Visits Chapala

The statue of the Virgin of Zapopan arrives in Chapala in 2018, encased in a protective plastic shield.

The statue of the Virgin of Zapopan arrives in Chapala in 2018, encased in a protective plastic shield.

Hundreds of Aztec dancers take part in the procession for the arrival of the Virgin of Zapopan in Chapala each year.

Hundreds of Aztec dancers take part in the procession for the arrival of the Virgin of Zapopan in Chapala each year. The date is always the second Sunday in July at 11 a.m.

A danzante azteca with facepaint and feathered headdress.

A danzante azteca with facepaint and feathered headdress.

Dancers from various dance traditions take part in the procession.

Dancers from various dance traditions take part in the procession.

Clowns are a big part of children's television programs and entertainment in Mexico.

Clowns are a big part of children's television programs and entertainment in Mexico.

An Aztec dancer at the arrival of the Virgin of Zapopan in Chapala.

An Aztec dancer at the arrival of the Virgin of Zapopan in Chapala.

Dancing in a religious procession on the stone streets, sometimes barefoot, is serious, devout work. But sometimes a big smile breaks through.

Dancing in a religious procession on the stone streets, sometimes barefoot, is serious, devout work. But sometimes a big smile breaks through.

The Aztec dancers wear coyoleras made from ayoyote seedpods, which make a sound with every step. Some dancers abandon their shoes altogether, especially if it's a cool day and the ground isn't too hot.

The Aztec dancers wear coyoleras made from ayoyote seedpods, which make a sound with every step. Some dancers abandon their shoes altogether, especially if it's a cool day and the ground isn't too hot.

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Modern tennis shoes versus traditional huarache sandals.

Modern tennis shoes versus traditional huarache sandals.

Other dancers, not of the Aztec conchero tradition, wear other footgear, such as these wooden blocks with metal plates on the bottom.

Other dancers, not of the Aztec conchero or azteca tradition, wear other footgear, such as these wooden blocks with metal plates on the bottom.

A handheld shaker or rattle is part of the aztec dancer's atuendo (outfit).

A handheld shaker or rattle is part of the aztec dancer's atuendo (outfit).

Escaramuza Charra Minnie Klein rides her horse during the procession. A group of charros usually accompanies the procession.

Escaramuza Charra Minnie Klein rides her horse during the procession. A group of charros usually accompanies the procession.

Dancers come from around the state and even nearby states to join in the religious procession. Local dance groups, such as this one from Chapala, also participate.

Dancers come from around the state and even nearby states to join in the religious procession. Local dance groups, such as this one from Chapala, also participate.

Fine Art Photography of Lake Chapala

Cowboy Silhouette

Cowboy Silhouette

A cowboy demonstrates the precision of his lasso skills during an exhibition on the Day of the Cowboy in Ajijic, Mexico.

Purchase This Fine Art Print
Purchase This Fine Art Print
Some elderly dancers get a little help from a cane while dancing on the streets.

Some elderly dancers get a little help from a cane while dancing on the streets.

¡Hasta la muerte!

¡Hasta la muerte!

All sorts of unique and ghastly costumes appear during the procession, too.

All sorts of unique and ghastly costumes appear during the procession, too.

A child keeps busy while her parents dance for an hour or more after the procession ends.

A child keeps busy while her parents dance for an hour or more after the procession ends.

Dancers attend to their baby after the procession.

Dancers attend to their baby after the procession.

Humberto Ayala poses for a photo after dancing in the procession for Our Lady of Zapopan.

Humberto Ayala poses for a photo after dancing in the procession for Our Lady of Zapopan.

Devotees show up to take part in the procession rain or shine.

Devotees show up to take part in the procession rain or shine.

Another word for 'aztec dancer' is conchero.

Another word for "aztec dancer" is conchero.

A conchera dances during the procession to the malecón in Chapala.

A conchera dances during the procession to the malecón in Chapala.

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Aztec dancers.

Aztec dancers.

The Tlahualiles sometimes come to Chapala to dance with their incredibly large and colorful headdresses.

The Tlahualiles sometimes come to Chapala to dance with their incredibly large and colorful headdresses.

The Tlahualil dance tradition originated in nearby Sahuayo, Michoacán, close to the southeast corner of the lake.

The Tlahualil dance tradition originated in nearby Sahuayo, Michoacán, close to the southeast corner of the lake.

The Virgin is placed on the stage at the end of the procession.

The Virgin is placed on the stage at the end of the procession.

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Spectators watch the procession.

Spectators watch the procession.

Staff directs the procession.

Staff directs the procession.

A police officer helps coordinate the parade.

A police officer helps coordinate the parade.

A biker group from Tonalá, Jalisco, watches the parade go by. Chapala is a popular place for bikers to visit on Sundays.

A biker group from Tonalá, Jalisco, watches the parade go by. Chapala is a popular place for bikers to visit on Sundays.

A man sells religious objects to passersby.

A man sells religious objects to passersby.

Fine Art Photography of Lake Chapala

Tequila jimador in Jalisco fine art print

Tequila Jimador

A jimador uses a mule to transport freshly cut agave piñas from the field to the truck in an agave field in Arandas, Jalisco.

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Purchase This Fine Art Print
A man sells religious objects to passersby.

A man sells religious objects to passersby.

Like many parades in Mexico, this one involves several marching drum corps bands.

Like many parades in Mexico, this one involves several marching drum corps bands.

At the end of the procession, the dancers congregate and dance in front of the San Francisco Church.

At the end of the procession, the dancers congregate and dance in front of the San Francisco Church.

People walk through the crowd of concheros after the procession.

People walk through the crowd of concheros after the procession.

Fine Art Photography of Lake Chapala

Lake Chapala Sunset

On Horseback at Sunset at Lake Chapala

Taking a ride on a horse along the lakeshore is a great way to end the day at Lake Chapala.

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Purchase This Fine Art Print

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