Scores of young boys dressed as miniature Juan Diegos and little girls donning multi-colored hair ribbons and traditional Mexican-style dresses marched beside Aztec and Matachines dancers, indigenous drummers, mariachi musicians and everyday Catholics along Cesar Chavez Avenue in East Los Angeles on Dec. 7 during the 83rd annual procession and Mass honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The mile-long morning trek began at the corner of Cesar Chavez and Ford Boulevard, and concluded inside the open-air Weingart Stadium at East Los Angeles College in Monterey Park, where the celebration of faith, culture and family continued with diverse music, a moving performance by award-winning Mexican singer Miriam Solis, and a Mass with Archbishop José Gomez presiding.

“Today we gather to once again say to Our Lady of Guadalupe: ‘We are a family united under your mantle. We place ourselves under your loving protection and care, under the mantle of your love,’” the archbishop said in his homily. “We are a family in the Church — a family of families — and our families are so important. In God’s plan of love for the world, the family is a sacred reality — a gift that God has given to us for our happiness and for the happiness of our society.”

Archbishop Gomez described the gift of family as the “foundation of our society and our culture” because it serves as a vehicle for passing on “our values and our traditions and our faith” to current and future generations. As such, we should actively nurture and protect our families, in church and at home, he explained.

“My brothers and sisters, it takes love and grace and patience and hard work to live together as a family,” he said. “It is a journey that you have to make together — with God, his Spirit, [and] the intercession of Our Blessed Mother — every day.”

Eric Cordeta, Lucy Anh Dao and Soana Lasalo Moimoi were among several ethnic ministry leaders on hand for the Dec. 7 celebration to represent the diversity of races and cultures that make up “our global Catholic family,” according to Dao, who was invited as a representative of the local Vietnamese Catholic community.

“God created us all, and we are composed of many different nations and we have many different cultures, and they are all beautiful,” she said. “No matter what language we speak, we are all children of God, and we share the language of love.”

Moimoi, a member of the Tongan Catholic community at St. Anthony Church in Long Beach, shared similar thoughts with The Tidings, emphasizing that “Our Lady of Guadalupe belongs to all of us.”

“We are all part of God’s house, and there are many faces in God’s house,” said Moimoi. “We are all one, and this is our mother, under one Catholic faith.”

For Cordeta, a member of the leadership council of Filipino ministry for the archdiocese, his main emotion was gratitude for the chance “to be a part of this wonderful celebration of the Blessed Virgin, who is very important in our faith.”

At the end of Mass, Archbishop Gomez released one white dove, which was immediately followed by the release of dozens more. As the doves circled above, the mariachi began to play the Spanish hymn “Paloma Blanca” in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, accompanied by the voices of thousands filling the stadium.

"¬°Que Viva le Virgen de Guadalupe! ¬°Que Viva Cristo Rey! ¬°Que Via San Juan Diego!" said Archbishop Gomez in farewell. “¬°Que viva! ¬°Que viva! ¬°Que viva!” replied the people seated in the stands and across the stadium field, many waving flags or wearing attire emblazoned with images of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

According to Roberto Gutierrez, a parishioner of St. Genevieve Church in Panorama City who has attended the annual procession and Mass for the past seven years, the celebration is the perfect opportunity to honor and celebrate “my eternal mother” with thousands of others who share his lifelong love and devotion.

“For me, this is always a very special day,” said Gutierrez with a smile.

 The winners of this year’s “float” contest — which provided commemorative plaques to three winning parishes with the best decorated vehicles in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe — included St. Gerard Majella Church, Inglewood, which placed third; St. Marcellinus, City of Commerce, which was the second place winner; and St. Ignatius of Loyola, Highland Park, which earned first place.

The Dec. 7 celebration concluded a month-long pilgrimage of the official framed images of St. Juan Diego and the Virgin of Guadalupe to churches across the archdiocese. The Guadalupe image — referred to as la Peregrina — is a digital reproduction of the original image of Our Lady of Guadalupe housed at the Basilica in Mexico City. The special reproduction, which was blessed by the late St. Pope John Paul II, was a gift to the Los Angeles Archdiocese from the Basilica.