Pilgrims Converge On Cartago

July 30, 2004

THE annual pilgrimage has begun.The faithful will come together fromaround the country this weekend in anannual journey to the old colonial capitalof Cartago. The object of their devotion isCosta Rica’s patron saint, its belovedNuestra Señora de los Angeles (Our Ladyof the Angels).Tradition holds that on August 2,1635, Juana Pereira, an indigenous girl,found a dark-skinned statue of the VirginMary. She hid it in her house, only tohave it reappear at the rock where shefound it. Twice she took the statue to thelocal priest, and twice it returned to thesite.The priest interpreted the event as asign that the then-segregated city ofCartago should be integrated, and achurch be built on the site. La Negrita, asCosta Ricans affectionately know the statue,sits high above the altar in a 1926Byzantine-style basilica a few blocks eastof the town center. Many attribute miraclesto her.Some 1.5 million pilgrims are expectedto make the romería (pilgrimage) thisyear, the majority timing their arrival forSunday night. Expect lane closures on theFlorencio del Castillo Highway, the principalroute used by the pilgrims, betweenSan José and Cartago. Police and RedCross workers will staff several aid postsalong the way.

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