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Three times each year, once in December and twice in May, the small statue of the Virgin is removed from its glass case, dressed in finery, and taken in a procession through the streets of Tlaxcala.
The most important of these processions occurs during the Feast of Subida, on the third Sunday in May, one of the major events each year.
The chapel had been built over the ruins of a pre-hispanic temple.
When he hurried home to his sick relatives, Juan Diego discovered that the spring water worked as advertised.
This event occurred at a time of great trouble for the indigenous people of Tlaxcala.
After their initial alliance with the Spanish against the Aztecs, many Tlaxcaltecas became disillusioned with their new overlords.
In addition, a series of disastrous plagues began to ravage the indigenous people, who had no resistance to Spanish diseases.
Between the beginning of the Conquest in 1519 and approximately 1650, the Tlaxcalteca population plummeted by 90%.
The miraculous event was an apparition of the Virgin, which occurred during an epidemic of smallpox.
Before Juan Diego left the spring, the woman told him that her image would be found within the grove of ocotes.
She directed that it should be taken to the chapel of San Lorenzo, atop the hill above the spring.
This was exacerbated when Spanish priests attempted to eradicate the old religions and, in the process, turned children against their parents.
Revolts were followed by savage repression by the Spanish.
As the story goes, on February 27, 1541, an indigenous man named Juan Diego Bernardino was seeking water from a local stream that was reputed to have healing powers. After inquiring about his purpose, she directed him to a spring surrounded by ocotes (pines).