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Hundreds of Sonoma County faithful walk to honor Virgin of Guadalupe

In an annual pre-dawn pilgrimage, hundreds of faithful on Wednesday morning walked from Santa Rosa to Windsor to show their devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe.

In a trek that began at midnight in Santa Rosa, the estimated 600 or more people made their way north, some carrying votive candles and small statues, clutching flowers and pushing infant strollers. Some even walked barefoot.

The four-hour-plus march commemorated what Roman Catholic believers say was the apparition of the Virgin Mary more than 480 years ago to a peasant outside Mexico City.

Feast Day Of Our Lady of Guadalupe

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"It's to celebrate the Virgin of Guadalupe and to give thanks for everything she has given throughout the year," Francisca Mu?z said in Spanish. The Santa Rosa mother pushed her 16-month-old daughter in a stroller over the nine-mile route to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Windsor.

"It's to show faith. It's for life and being healthy," her husband, Jose Luis Vega, said of why they braved the cold, the dark and fog to walk with their family alongside Old Redwood Highway.

The procession included Aztec dancers and a half-dozen or so horse-mounted riders.

As they arrived at their destination, some of the pilgrims broke into "Las Ma?nitas," a traditional Mexican birthday serenade sung in early morning.

The crowd at the church swelled to more than 1,000 people who shared hot chocolate, coffee, tea, Mexican pastries and gathered for mass. Organizers were expecting 3,000 to 4,000 would attend church events there by the end of the day.

"A lot of them walk it because of something she's done, a miracle, or they owe her for everything she's done in their lives. She's going to be there for them," Maria-

elena Perez of Windsor, a supervisor of the event, said of the Virgin adoration.


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