Lakeside Guide to Lake Chapala, Ajijic, Mexico

The Virgin of Zapopan Visits Chapala

At a Glance

On the second Sunday in July, the Virgin of Zapopan comes to Chapala for a large procession before she gets ferried to the nearby Island of the Scorpions.

More Info

What is the Virgin of Zapopan?

The Virgin of Zapopan is a wooden relic which may have 16th-century origins in 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 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.

2018 Info

This year’s procession starts at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, July 8, in front of Soriana. Hundreds of dancers from various traditions will march down Francisco Madera Avenue, along with mariachis and other musical groups and marching bands.

The procession itself lasts about 90 minutes and is then followed by an outdoor mass on the malecón.

The next morning, July 9, the Virgin will be ferried to the Island of Scorpions accompanied by dozens of other boats filled with devotees. There is no cost, but space is limited.

Photos of The Virgin of Zapopan Visits Chapala

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.

Fine Art Photography of Lake Chapala

Day of the Dead Skull Wall

Candlelit Skull Wall on the Day of the Dead

Hundreds of candles illuminate a wall of handmade clay skulls on la noche de muertos during the Day of the Dead in Ajijic, Mexico.

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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.

Modern tennis shoes versus traditional huarache sandals.

Modern tennis shoes versus traditional huarache sandals.

Accordion Player in Chapala

Traditional Mexican Music Genres

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See this Photo Essay
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).

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

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.

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

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.

Fine Art Photography of Lake Chapala

Dance of the Little Old Men

Dance of the Little Old Men

A boy in Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, performs La Danza de los Viejitos, the Dance of the Little Old Men, a traditional dance from Michoacan.

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

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

Another word for

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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See this Photo Essay
Aztec dancers.

Aztec dancers.

The Tlahualiles sometimes come to Chapala from Sahuayo, Michoacán, near the southeast corner of the lake.

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.

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.

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See this Photo Essay
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

La Charra

La Charra

Escaramuza cowgirl Jaqui Gómez rides her horse along the shore of Lake Chapala, Mexico. “La charrería is a sport that gets everyone’s attention, but few understand it.”

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Purchase This Fine Art Print