How Mexico is getting ready for the pope

What does it take to prepare for a papal visit?  More than you may think:

One hundred fifty-thousand communion wafers? Check.

Campsites for 350,000? Check.

Three hand-embroidered papal souvenir sombreros? Check.

Official song? Check.

It takes a lot to prepare for the coming of the pope and the 3 million people the host Archdiocese of Leon says he is expected to draw. Facades must be spiffed; campgrounds must be sprayed for dengue-bearing mosquitoes.

The visit of Pope Benedict XVI, his first to Spanish-speaking Latin America, begins in just a week in Mexico’s central state of Guanajuato, where he will spend three days and give an outdoor Mass for some 300,000 people before heading to Cuba on March 26.

In the Bicentennial Park in nearby Silao, hammers and heavy equipment pound out the contours of a massive stage large enough for a Madonna concert. The religious order of the Capuchin Poor Clares in San Isidro is making 150,000 Frisbee-sized hosts for the Mass, though it won’t require vats of wine. While the masses eat bread, only the officiates will sip a mere 2.5 gallons (10 liters) of consecrated wine on stage.

Maria de la Luz Yepez of nearby San Francisco del Rincon is overseeing the stitching and stretching of faux suede and velvet on three artisanal sombreros that will be given to Benedict. Each took three weeks to decorate by hand. One has an embroidered face of Benedict inside the cap and features a map of Mexico on the brim. Another shows the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexico’s patron saint.

She said the whole community, a suburb home to tennis shoe factories and makers of the black, spangled sombreros sold in airports and tourist stalls, wants to chip in.

“Even to make the boxes to pack the sombreros,” said Yepez, whose 55-year-old family business, Sombreros Salazar Yepez, made the signature Mexican hats for popes Paul VI and John Paul II as well. “They want the sombrero to carry a little bit of everyone here in San Francisco.”

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  1. “Three hand-embroidered papal souvenir sombreros?”

    LOL. Sounds rather cheesy. I think a papal coin would have done the job.

  2. Hi Deacon: Interesting story! It’s a welcome sign that the drug cartels have reportedly promised to refrain from violence during the Holy Father’s visit, but this itself is a reminder of their grim hold on society there. I hear this from fellow parishioners who hail from Mexico and worry for the physical safety of relatives back home.

    As you know, the Pope is set to visit Cuba three days after arriving in Mexico. Today’s WSJ has an interesting story on the Pope’s visit to Cuba by long-time correspondent Mary Anastasia O’Grady. The Holy Father will be walking a tight-rope during his visit to Castro’s island jail.

    You can check her story here at:

  3. Love mexico, They will be good to him :)

  4. pagansister says:

    Expect he will be careful of the water he drinks! I understand from friends that have visited Mexico that the water can have very uncomfortable side effects!

  5. No it’s not cheesy. It’s highly symbolic. You can get coins anywhere. The sombrero represents Mexican culture around the world and these are being hand decorated, and everyone in San Francisco del Rincon is chipping in to make them. There’s a lot of love going into those sombreros. These aren’t tourist trinkets.

    Just because many people in the U.S. only see them in Tex-Mex restaurants or as part of a joke on Seinfeld doesn’t mean they don’t remain a valued part and symbol of Mexican culture for people of Mexican heritage.

    (I’m sorry if I’ve been sounding really contrarian lately…)

  6. They call it “Montezuma’s revenge.” It happened to me from the ice in a lemonade.

  7. pagansister says:

    Thanks, HMS. I couldn’t remember the name of the nasty consequences!

  8. I’m sure that the pope will be well protected. As for me, my family and friends refused to believe that I was only drinking lemonade and not a Margarita.

  9. Thank you Sancho. You make an important point that we need to be reminded of from time to time.

    God bless

  10. I apologize. I thought I typed Pancho. I really to look at what I write and let my fingers catch up to my head :-(

    Apologies Pancho, and God bless.

  11. Thank you, Deacon. Don’t feel bad. I look over my post a few times before I press “submit” and I *still* end up cringing over all the typing mistakes I make :-) .

  12. pagansister says:

    HMS: Maybe if you had been drinking a Margarita,(though I would rather have a lemonade too!) it would have killed the causes of the “revenge!”. :o)
    Yes, I’m sure nothing will touch the Pope’s lips without close scrutiny!

  13. Pancho, I apologise. I didn’t intend my comment to ridicule Mexican culture.

  14. I hope (the old german) lays down some strong words for the cartels and corrupt government officials that perpetuate the extreme human misery that is going on down there. I know he is perfectly capable. It’s a beautiful country with a lot of resources and a great people.

  15. Elizabeth McDonald says:

    Is it just me, but if there are camping spots for 350,000 doesn’t it sound like they would want more than 150,000 hosts? Especially since the outdoor Mass is expected to be for 300,000?

    I have not been to a Papal Mass on one of his visits to the U.S., I’ve only seen then on TV. But it sounds like they’ll need more hosts!

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