More Than A Million Pay Homage to Patron Saint

June 24, 2005

“¡SÍ, se puede! ¡Sí, se puede!” These words rained down onthe pilgrims from the buses above that carried people back to SanJosé Monday afternoon. The walkers responded with cheers andcarried on in high spirits and such was the attitude of the crowd asit marched toward Cartago, east of San José, to pay respect to LaNegrita at the Basilica of the Virgin of Los Angeles.Some walked in silent reflection while most chatted freely withthe friends and family that accompanied them. Rosaries dangledfrom the hands of some. The pilgrims filled the atmosphere withlaughter and footsteps as they returned to the spot where, legend hasit, the Virgin appeared to a young woman nearly 368 years ago.The tranquility of Costa Rica resonated with nearly 1.5 millionbelievers walking to pay homage to Costa Rica’s patron saint.People filled the blocked highway for kilometers, while climbingthe hills of the country.Even for one non-Catholic, the event had a special meaning.“The energy of seeing so many people with one destination inmind was very impressive,” said Shannon Sanderson, a studentvisiting from the United States.Although not Catholic, Sanderson chose to participate in thepilgrimage as a cultural experience. She said all the people andtheir positive attitudes toward the event made it memorable for herbecause it reflects such a strong determination of will in so manypeople.PORTABLE stands selling food and souvenirs lined the road,as well as institutions asking for donations to help various charities.In the spirit of this religious occasion, they hoped to catch people attheir most generous moments. Stores situated on the pilgrimage trailplayed music and rented their bathrooms, although freestanding toiletscould be found every half hour.People walked arm-in-arm, holding hands, pushing baby carriagesand carrying young children. In parks and in the grass on theway, families rested, ate snacks and rubbed pain-relieving cream ontheir muscles that was handed out for free along the route.Upon entering Cartago, a giant electric welcoming sign greetedthe pilgrims. As night settled, in it was easy to see the row of lamppoststhat supported light decorations of red and yellow stars thatlead the way to the basilica.The crowd grew dense near the basilica, where thousands ofpeople stood huddled together watching the live musicians. Manywaited in a long line to enter the church on their knees. At about8 p.m. fireworks behind the basilica greeted the crowd.While most of the weekend was spent walking and enjoyingfireworks, the actual holiday was Monday celebrated with a middaymass at the Basilica before the pilgrams returned home.

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