Guatemala motorcycle pilgrims roar cross-country

GUATEMALA CITY (AFP) - Tens of thousands of Guatemalans on motorcycles roared across 222km of open road on Saturday in a traditional pilgrimage to the Cristo Negro basilica, venerated across Central America and Mexico.

The 53rd annual Caravana del Zorro kicked off in the capital with some 35,000 riders, many in costumes and masks.

Among them was President Otto Perez, dressed all in black, who offered blessings to the pilgrims as he urged them to "go forward in 2014" - but drive safely. Mr Perez accompanied the riders for a short distance.

Many of the participants camped out the night before in front of Guatemala City's cathedral ahead of the six-hour trek to the town of Esquipulas in southeastern Guatemala, where the basilica is located.

The pilgrimage began in 1961 when the late Ruben Villadeleon and five of his friends rode their motorbikes to the basilica. Mr Villadeleon's son, Eddy, is now one of the event's main sponsors.

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