The Red Cross announced it will install 11 medical posts in Cartago, the old colonial capital east of San José, to assist Catholics that will walk to the Basilica de los Ángeles next Tuesday. The annual Costa Rican pilgrimage, known as the Romería, honors a small statue of the Virgin Mary, called La Negrita, which some believe possesses miraculous powers.
Authorities told the daily La Nacíon that they expect two million romeros, or pilgrims, this year. A Red Cross post has already opened at the basilica, which will provide assistance and treatment to pilgrims exhausted from the 22 kilometer journey.
People have marched to the basilica each year for the past 228 years, except for 2009, when it was cancelled due to the H1N1 flu virus. The majority of participants will leave start the pilgrimage Monday for a morning mass on Aug. 2, but some are already on their way. In the past, they’ve arrived from as far as Panama or Guanacaste, via horseback, bikes, or even while crawling.
The Red Cross told La Nacíon that 150 volunteers will aid the pilgrims this year.
In addition to the basilica, the other ten locations offering aid to the romeros will open Saturday. For those trekking from San José, posts can be found at the Antigua Galera, and Alto de Ochomogo y Taras.
There will be posts in Juan Viñas, Cervantes, and Paraíso for people trudging from Turrialba, the Caribbean slope town.
Just north of Cartago, the Red Cross will provide aid at the Alto de Cristo and at the fork between Tierra Blanca and Pacayas. Red Cross posts also can be found along the Interamerican Highway in Cangreja and Emplame.