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PICTURES: Massive pilgrimage honours Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico

A pilgrim carries an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe during a procession as part of the feast of the virgin (Getty Images)

Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims converged on Mexico City’s Basilica of Guadalupe on Tuesday to mark the day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexico’s patroness.

The faithful ride bicycles, walk or take rickety trucks and buses every December 12 to reach the image of the dark-skinned Virgin, who appeared before indigenous peasant Juan Diego in 1531.

(Getty Images)

But Tuesday’s pilgrimage was overshadowed after 11 people died in a highway accident as they returned from the basilica.

Authorities in the central state of Puebla said the pilgrims were killed when the truck they were riding in crashed into another truck on a highway. Thirteen more were injured.

The state’s interior department said the pilgrims were headed back to their hometown of Huejotzingo, in Puebla state, on Tuesday when the accident occurred.

The mainly poor and working-class pilgrims often don’t get enough protection for their processions to the basilica, where the Virgin’s image is on display.

Once there, they often sleep on the pavement, awaiting a turn to see the image. They begin arriving days before; Mexico City police estimated that, as of Monday, over 3 million pilgrims had already come.

Because the physical space can’t hold them all, many pay their respects and leave before December 12.

(Getty Images)
A penitent crawls towards the Basilica of Guadalupe (Getty Images)
A pilgrim sleeps in the street near of the Basilica of Guadalupe (Getty Images)
Pilgrims gather around the Guadalupe Basilica (Getty Images)
A pilgrim raises an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe (Getty Images)
Pilgrims on bikes take part in a procession of Our Lady of Guadalupe on a highway in Mexico (Getty Images)