Two of the most popular pilgrimage destinations in Mexico, Tlaxcala’s Basilica of Our Lady of Ocotlan and the San Miguel del Milagro Sanctuary, not only offer a truly spectacular array of visual splendour and a wonderful sense of peace, but each also has a very special miracle in its vibrant history.
Bordering the state of Puebla and close to Mexico City, Tlaxcala is tucked away in the midst of some absolutely breathtaking national parks. To its south lies the Iztaccíhuatl (Popocatépetl) National Park, famed for its majestic mountain and volcano scenery and, to the north, sit the rough-hewn cliff faces and abundant flora of the Canyon Metztitlán Biosphere Reserve. It’s no wonder, then, that, so many centuries ago, the new Latin population of Mexico found the natural beauty of Tlaxcala such a beautiful environment to settle in.
In the 1600s, Juan Diego, a young indigenous man from the town of Santa Isabel Xiloxoxtla, was hiking a hill near San Lorenzo. As he walked, a woman approached him and asked what he was doing; he explained that he was fetching fresh water for his family and community, who were suffering a deadly plague. He walked on, fetched the water, and brought it back to his village, where those who drank the water were miraculously cured of their fatal illness. The Virgin Mary had visited Juan Diego in his hour of need and guided him to the healing waters.
The Basilica of Ocotlan was built in thanks to this incredible and Holy event and, these days, is a magnificent structure. The large building boasts stunning twin towers either side of its immensely tall and ornate façade, dominating the town square in Ocotlan, which was named for the historic abundance of Ocote (pine) trees in the area. Walking through the magnificent entrance, visitors are struck by the grandiose décor, with intricate carvings and friezes depicting Biblical as well as more local histories. Pilgrims are particularly drawn to the basilica’s statue of the Virgin of Ocotlan, which is ornately carved out of pine wood and, after so many centuries, is still in a brilliant state of repair.
Just a short distance away lies the typically rural Mexican town of San Miguel del Milagro, where another miracle happened ninety years before the Virgin Mary’s healing of Juan Diego’s community. In 1631, San Miguel Archangel (Archangel Michael) appeared to Diego Lazaro on the Tzopiloátl hill, close to Cacaxtla. The angel asked Diego Lazaro, who was one of the first converts to Catholicism, to tell the local community that it was God’s will that a church be built on the site, and he blessed the hitherto dry earth, causing a fresh spring to appear. Hearing the news, pilgrims began to flock to the site, reporting the miraculous properties of the water; and, the town’s sanctuary was built around that spring.
The Sanctuary of San Miguel del Milagro, rebuilt in 1683 in order to accommodate the large numbers of pilgrim visitors, is now a much-loved site. While smaller than the Basilica of Our Lady of Ocotlan, it is a gorgeously unique structure, lined on the outside with red brickwork and featuring a charming tower. Inside the sanctuary, a peaceful atmosphere abounds, with many fascinating and beautiful artworks as well as frequent Mexican Catholic Masses and festivals.
A trip to the beautiful Tlaxcala is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, with each town in the area offering a warm welcome to the backdrop of its serene mountain scenery. There’s such a rich cultural history in the area that it’s simple for pilgrims to not only find new knowledge of God but also, with these wonderful Catholic sites and the nearby Tlaxcala ancient ruins, a true appreciation for the region’s unique history.
We invite you to join us on a journey to discover vibrant culture, spectacular scenery, incredible miracles, and meaningful connection with God.