More than 100,000 Latinos and non-Latinos are expected to venerate and celebrate the “Mother of the Americas” at the long awaited Virgin of Guadalupe Celebration taking place Aug. 5 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.Most will also see, for the first time, a relic of the tilma or woven cloak of St. Juan Diego. The relic was removed July 30 by Archbishop José Gomez from a permanent case at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. It is the only piece of the saint’s cloak that remains in a church outside the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico City (see separate story).During the celebration, sponsored by the Knights of Columbus as an opening of their annual national convention Aug. 7-9 at the Anaheim Convention Center, about 650 traditional Mexican dancers will participate in the opening. A giant Rosary will be formed by more than 850 members of different ethnic groups that dressed in their native attires will represent each bead. “We wanted to show solidarity and that Our Lady of Guadalupe is the mother of all of the communities and not just for the Hispanics,” Michael Lau, president of the archdiocesan Office of Ethnic Ministry’s executive council, told The Tidings.“We are one, the children of God,” added Lau. “While we may have different cultures and heritage, we share the same faith, we need to learn to co-exist with each other and tolerate and enjoy our differences and focus on our similarities.”Many native and naturalized Angelenos have found in the Virgin of Guadalupe that common ground.Journalist Alicia Morandi was born in Uruguay to practicing Catholics who instilled in her strong Catholic values. In her early years she even contemplated becoming a nun, but things took a different turn in her life. Her father died when she was only 14 years old and her only brother was 11. Despite limited resources, Morandi’s mother managed to provide for the home and send her children to school.As an adult, and looking for a better future, Morandi arrived in L.A., where for the first time she started hearing about the Virgin of Guadalupe.“Although I was raised Catholic, I had never heard of her,” she said. “The only virgins we venerated were the Virgin of Lourdes and Mary — and, with due respect, I felt their images were too fragile, ethereal.”But when she first saw the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, she felt something different, a special connection.“I could identify with her,” she said. “I was only used to seeing virgins with light skin, blond hair and European features, whereas this virgin had darker skin and a very tender look.”Morandi’s connection to the Virgin of Guadalupe grew stronger after a challenging event in her life where she “could not find a way out.” A colleague who knew about her struggles recommended that she go to the Virgin of Guadalupe Chapel at Our Lady Queen of Angels Church (“La Placita”) on Olvera Street.“Once I got closer to the image of the Virgin in the Chapel, I fell in love with her,” she said.As she prayed and talked with the Virgin, Morandi started feeling this “very special energy and strength.”In the image she saw such a generosity and solidarity with her and unlike her idea of the other images of virgins she had seen, this time she thought, “This woman is actually capable of raising an individual such as Jesus, destined to create a different world.”In the image she saw a representation of “campesinos” (farm workers), factory workers and of ordinary people walking on the streets.Then she heard a generous voice telling her, “The difference between a loser and a winner is the time each take to get up.” And she felt at peace.Four days later, she said, a miracle happened. Her difficult situation was resolved, and Morandi has no doubt that it had happened through the intercession of the Virgin of Guadalupe. She is also sure that the Virgin had interceded to solve another challenging event in her life ten years later.Today, many members of her family and friends living in Uruguay know about the Virgin of Guadalupe through her and some venerate her. “She transcends borders,” Morandi said.Maria Zuluaga had heard of the Virgin in her native Lima, Peru, but no church in that city kept any image of her, so she did not know what she looked like until she visited the Basilica in Mexico City with her ex-husband and two children.“I was living in the world back then; it was a regular day and I was surprised to see so many people and impacted by their faith,” said Zuluaga, a volunteer at Sylmar Juvenile Hall.That was about 30 years ago and she had already moved to L.A., where her devotion to the Virgin grew as she got involved in church following a bitter divorce.“I could see first-hand people’s faith and heard them talk about the miracles she made in their lives.”She started praying to the Virgin, even more so when her son was diagnosed with cancer and then died.“I couldn’t have done it without the Virgin. She is the advocate of the weak and as I prayed to her I felt great hope and strength and the joy that only faith gives,” said Zuluaga.The Guadalupe Celebration is the second event of this kind sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. In 2009 the organization hosted the Guadalupe Festival in Phoenix.The Aug. 5 event will feature Mexican singer and telenovela star Pedro Fernández, Irish recording artist and television personality Dana Scallon, and Italian singer Filippa Giordano.Doors will open at 12:30 p.m. and the event will begin at 3 p.m. For more information about the Virgin of Guadalupe Celebration visit{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2012/0803/guadalupe/{/gallery}