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San Juan de Los Lagos, Jalisco: More than Religious Tourism

  • Joel CZ 
  • 10 min read
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San Juan de los Lagos is a small town in Jalisco, Mexico. It is known for its rich livestock production and poultry farming.

However, tourism, primarily religious, has turned this place into one of the most outstanding in the country, and millions of visitors come to marvel at its surroundings.

For this reason, I will share with you the 12 best things to do and see in San Juan de Los Lagos to get to know this place in-depth and make the best out of your visit.

1. Pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos

san juan de los lagos
The Cathedral – Source: Arturo Verea / shutterstock.com

This is one of the most important celebrations in the city, and every February 2, it congregates approximately 2 million parishioners.

This pilgrimage begins on January 28 and ends on the 31st of the same month.

The route includes four stages: Ixmiquilpan, Queretaro, Leon, and then (on January 31) they arrive before the image of the Virgin.

Later, on February 2, the lavish celebration in honor of this venerated Virgin takes place.

2. Walking through the Historic Center

In the historic center of San Juan de Los Lagos, you will find museums, handicrafts, hotels, and restaurants that will undoubtedly captivate your attention.

3. Enter La Capilla del Primer Milagro (The Chapel of the First Miracle)

The Chapel of the First Miracle will take you back to the past, specifically when the Virgin resurrected a little girl after a tragedy in which she lost her life performing a circus act.

4. Visit the Rita Perez School

As a legacy of the late heroine, you must visit the famous school in San Juan de Los Lagos.

The Rita Perez school houses more than 500 students.

5. Go to the Independence Monument

In front of the Cathedral are the Plaza Rita Perez de Moreno and the monument to the city’s independence, which is surrounded by a beautiful fountain.

6. Look at the Miracle Paintings

The paintings depicting the first miracle of the Great Lady are one of the most appreciated works of art in this beautiful Mexican town.

7. Eat at Sabrozone

Eating at Sabrozone restaurant is one of the things that will make you want to return to San Juan de los Lagos. Their food and service are the best!

8. Celebrate the Fiestas de Primavera

Among so many celebrations, the “Fiestas de Primavera” is one of the most entertaining in the city, where you can spend days learning about its traditions.

9. See the Post Office building

This is one of the oldest buildings in San Juan de Los Lagos and represents the beauty of the baroque style in its facades.

10. Enjoy the typical food

You can’t leave San Juan de los Lagos without tasting its tamales, chile relleno, cajetas, and alfajores. You can get them in almost any store in town.

11. Shop at the handicrafts market

The handicrafts market is huge, and you will find everything from embroidery and women’s clothing to purses, handbags, and pottery hand-made with local materials.

12. Visit the Cihualpilli Museum

In this museum, you will find priceless objects that date back to the region’s first civilizations related to the Virgin of San Juan de Los Lagos.

Pope John Paul II visited the Cihualpilli Museum because of its importance.

When is the Day of the Virgin in San Juan de los Lagos?

san juan de los lagos jalisco
The Virgin of San Juan de Los Lagos – Source: Arturo Verea / shutterstock.com

The celebration of the Virgin is held every August 15, the date of her first coronation.

During this day, millions of pilgrims travel to this city from different parts of the world to venerate the miraculous image and share their expressions of faith.

When is the pilgrimage?

One of the most important dates in this region is the day of the Candelaria, which is celebrated on February 2 each year.

However, the faithful perform various activities from January 25 to date (launching fireworks, processions, dances, among other things) to gather a large crowd that will eventually make the pilgrimage to the Basilica.

Town history

Formerly, the region was inhabited by the Nahua Indians, who abandoned their lands after the Spanish domination.

Nevertheless, many of these tribes settled in the surrounding area forming new towns until, finally, Fray Miguel de Bolonia took the initiative to reconquer Metzquititlán with the name of San Juan Bautista de Metzquititlán.

By that time, the indigenous people, having already been taught by the Gospel, kept the image of a virgin that later became the Great Lady of San Juan de Los Lagos.

What does the name San Juan de los Lagos mean?

In the middle of the 17th century, the Royal Court of Guadalajara allowed the mestizos, Creoles, and Spaniards to live in San Juan Bautista.

However, as it depended politically on the town of Santa Maria de Los Lagos, the inhabitants of that town occupied the region over time, thus earning the name of Villa de San Juan de Los Lagos.

How miraculous is the Virgin?

The first miracle of the image of the Virgin comes from the second decade of the 17th century.

At that time, the town was still known as San Juan Bautista, whose image represented a small chapel.

In that same chapel was kept the image of the Great Lady, which once brought a little girl back to life.

The event occurred after a circus performance, where the girl fell on some knives and died immediately.

From that moment on, she is considered a miraculous Virgin, the reason why millions of people prostrate themselves in front of her to ask for acts of faith.

When was the town founded?

There are two important dates according to the foundation of San Juan de Los Lagos. March 27, 1824, is the day when the town was granted the title of Villa.

On October 30, 1869, a decree was approved that finally gave the famous town the “city category.”

Where is San Juan de Los Lagos located?

The city of San Juan de los Lagos is located in the state of Jalisco, specifically 150 km from Guadalajara.

Among the municipalities bordering it are Lagos de Moreno, San Julian, Encarnacion Diaz, and Teocaltiche.

Population:

In 2015, there were 69 725 inhabitants, which was almost 7% more than the census conducted in 2010.

However, it is estimated that by 2020, the population could grow to 75,898 inhabitants, with approximately 37,452 men and 38,446 women.

Who was Rita Perez de Moreno and what did she do?

Rita Perez de Moreno was a militant of the Mexican independence movement who accompanied her husband in his battles during her life.

During her participation in this movement, she was dedicated to cooking, distributing food, and even healing the wounded in the battles.

Unfortunately, in the process of an attack, she was captured by the royalists while pregnant and in the company of four of her children in 1817.

During the two years she was kept prisoner, she saw two of her children die and received the news of her husband’s assassination.

However, upon her release, she returned to her hometown, where she lived to the age of 82, without any recognition other than the honor of having served her country faithfully.

Subsequently, a series of honors for her hard struggle has been made, such as statues, books, and ceremonies to her remains.

What to visit in San Juan de Los Lagos?

Again, there’s a great variety of tourist and religious attractions that you cannot miss if you visit this town in Jalisco.

Let’s recap:

  • Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan de Los Lagos
  • Historic Center
  • Carnitas El Chito Restaurant
  • Los Pocitos
  • Handicrafts market
  • Mezquitic de la Magdalena
  • San Juan de los Lagos Church

The Cathedral was built between 1732 and 1769 and is known as the second most important church in Mexico after the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

For that reason, more than five million people visit it annually to make offerings and ask the Virgin for miraculous acts.

It is worth mentioning that for its construction, Castilla stone was used for the foundations, pink quarry stone, and tezontle for the walls and other finishes.

It is also the tallest and most emblematic building in the city, and its baroque style ornaments can be seen from almost anywhere.

You can find a large square and markets with items that you can bless after each mass in its surroundings.

Lodging

Due to its immense religious tourism, among other attractions, the city has had to build hotels to accommodate the millions of pilgrims who travel there each year.

Among the most important hotels you will find:

  • Hotel Royal Aqua
  • Hotel Hacienda los Narcisos
  • Quinta Cesar Hotel
  • Grand Marques Hotel
  • Hotel AMD
  • Hotel Posada Arcos

How to get to San Juan de Los Lagos?

You can get there by car or bus. It’s about 2 hours from Guadalajara and 5 hours from Mexico city.

However, in the case of traveling by car, there are two routes: the free route and the toll road.

Take the road to Silao and then the Aguascalientes-Lagos de Moreno highway.

San Juan de Los Lagos Virgin

This Virgin dates back to the middle of the 16th century when the image was given to the indigenous people of San Juan Bautista by Fray Miguel de Bolonia.

Later, this image deteriorated inside a chapel in the region due to the little use, since at that time, the image of San Juan Bautista was venerated.

It was much later that the image of the Virgin acquired fame, precisely at the time of the first miracle.

Currently, the image has been restored on some occasions but has retained the essence of the Virgin and the materials with which it was made (corn cane paste, among others).

In addition, she has performed a significant number of miracles according to her most faithful devotees, who go on pilgrimage every year and bring offerings of gratitude for her acts, making her the second most admired Virgin in Mexico.

Typical food

Among the typical foods, you will get pozole, chile relleno, meat tamales, and golden tacos are a delight.

You will also find sweets such as cajeta de leche, chilacayotas, biznagas, higos enmielados, sweet potatoes and the famous jamoncillos (a type of milk fudge).

As for drinks, the natural fruit punch is the most traditional in the region.

Climate

This town enjoys a very stable climate since it doesn’t have specific seasons but rather marked rainy and dry seasons.

For that reason, its average annual temperature is between 5 and 30°C, although the weather is mostly warm.

Therefore, you can go comfortably at any time of the year, but if you are not a fan of the heat, then I recommend you avoid the months between April and June.

Festivities

According to the festivities, the Virgin of Our Lady is celebrated on two occasions.

The first one is from January 25 to February 2, with dances of the Conquest and Moors and Christians, mechanical games, processions of some towns, among other things.

Secondly, from the first to August 15, when practically the same activities take place.

In the middle of these dates, the Spring festivities are celebrated from May 15 to 31, where cockfights, serenades, and even bullfights occur.

Finally, from the first to December 12, the most important Virgin of the country, Guadalupe, is celebrated.

In synthesis, one of the greatest attractions here is faith, religiosity, and devotion. These qualities have made the city offer excellent accommodations, restaurants, and sightseeing tours.

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