Pope Benedict XVI to visit Guanajuato

By Antonio de Jesús Aguado

For the second time since he became Pope the head of the Roman Catholic Church, Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI), will visit the North American continent. This time, Benedict XVI will visit Guanajuato from March 23 through 26. The state government is expecting the arrival of 750,000 visitors. This tourism will also have an impact on nearby cities such as León, Irapuato, Silao and San Miguel de Allende and a gross revenue of 850 million pesos. Through media coverage of the Pope’s visit, images and information about the state and the country will be disseminated across the globe.

Why Guanajuato?

On January 31, 2012, the Vatican officially announced the Pope’s visit to Mexico. On March 11, the Secretariat of International Affairs expressed his happiness at the news in a press release, which noted that “this visit is due to the invitation from the president of Mexico, Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, during his first meeting with the Pope in Vatican City in 2007.”

The previous Pope, John Paul II, visited Mexico five times, staying in Mexico City. In 2007, President Felipe Calderón invited the current Pope to also visit Mexico City. Sergio Enrique Rodríguez, head of the State Tourist Department (Secretaría de Desarrollo Turístico del Estado), said that Guanajuato was selected as the host state for this visit because “due to health matters, the Pope cannot be exposed to the altitude of Mexico City; for that reason, federal authorities along with Vatican authorities looked for a viable alternate city for his visit.” Rodríguez also commented that Guanajuato was selected because in 2010 a group of artisans from Guanajuato who were visiting the Vatican at Christmas time created a piece of art that greatly impressed the Church authorities, and thus began a relationship between the Vatican and Guanajuato.

Benefits for the state

Aside from the anticipated revenue from tourists who come to see the Pope, Rodríguez said the pontiff’s visit will yield a secondary benefit. “This visit is a promotional opportunity for the whole country because it will allow us to show the world the marvels and attractions of Mexico along with our infrastructure and our capability of planning and hosting massive events. With the Pope’s visit, more than 1,000 international media representatives will come to the state, and they are also interested in what is he going to do and the main attractions of the place that he is visiting.”

Rodríguez commented that hotel occupancy in cities such as León, Silao and Guanjuato (the main cities the Pope will visit) is expected to be close to 90 percent, and in cities such as Irapuato about 60 percent. “San Miguel de Allende, Dolores and Celaya will also be affected, and it will be noticeable closer to the scheduled date for the Pope’s visit because most of the visitors will be Mexicans and generally they don’t book hotels in advance. As hotels close to the cities the Pope will visit fill up, tourists will start seeking other options for lodging.”

Security for the papal visit

Rodríguez commented that Guanajuato is a safe state and a great number of large public events are held here during the year, such as the Festival Internacional Cervantino (International Cervantino Festival), Festival Internacional del Globo (International Balloon Festival in León) and the Festival Internacional de Cine Guanajuato (Guanjuato International Film Festival), among many others, with attendance between 100,000 and 400,000.  He also commented that local, state and federal security forces are coordinating to guarantee security at the events.

On the website of the newspaper Milenio it was reported that at a press conference the  governor of Guanajuato, Juan Manuel Oliva Ramírez, announced that “Guanajuato’s borders will be sealed during Benedict’s visit, surrounded by federal, state and municipal security officers. Security officers will set up security checkpoints along the borders with Jalisco, Aguascalientes, Michoacán and San Luis Potosí from Friday, March 23, through Monday, March 26. During these dates, the Guanajuato Secretariat of Public Security will guarantee security with more than 1,200 security officers.”

Official agenda

On its website the León archdiocese has published the Pope’s official agenda for his visit to Guanajuato. He will arrive on March 23 at 4:30pm at Guanajuato International Airport, where he will give a speech and then be transported in the “Pope-mobile” to the residence of the Colegio Miraflores nuns in León. On Saturday, he will hold private events during the morning and at 4:45pm will greet children in a public event at Plaza de la Paz in Guanajuato. On March 25 at 10am he will hold a mass for approximately 600,000 attendees in Parque Bicentenario in Silao. On March 26 at 9am a farewell ceremony will be held at the Guanajuato International Airport. During his visit, Benedict XVI will hold a private meeting with President Calderón.

Who pays for the Pope’s visit?

According to Rodríguez, financing the pontiff’s visit “is a coordination between different public offices, as with any other such event. The Mexican government must provide security. The expenses of ecclesiastic events will be paid by the religious authorities. All the expenses for official events are paid by the government. The Pope’s expenses are paid by the Catholic church.”

According to milenio.com, in a press conference it was announced that “the Guanajuato government will invest 35 million pesos in matters of health, security and civil protection for Benedict XVI’s visit,” and animalpolitico.com reported that “the head of the state public works department, Martín Malagón Ríos, said that 75 million pesos will be invested in several platforms that will be used as altars where the Pope will offer mass in Parque Bicentenario.”

Additional information

Rodríguez said that the official websites for the Pope’s visit are www.arquideleon.org and www.guanajuatoexperience.com and noted that information in English and Spanish is available by calling the toll-free number 01-800-848-3486.


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