Villa Quetzal

Villa Quetzal

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

One of the biggest holidays in Costa Rica is a religious holiday
"La Virgen de los Angeles Day"

"Virgen de Los Angeles Day" is one of the most important holidays in Costa Rica. Costa Ricans consider “The Virgin of the Angels” as their patron saint, because of the dark complexion of the stone statue, she is sometimes affectionately called La Negrita, or Reina de Cartago (Queen of Cartago).
It is fascinating how for over three centuries Costa Ricans have been placing their hopes and spiritual well-being in the hands of the beloved “Virgen de los Angeles”. Many Ticos (Costa Ricans) have had personal experience with some type of miracle performed by their patron saint, and almost everyone knows somebody who has been the subject of a miracle, ask any Tico. This is a country where religious beliefs have become a core part of the individual’s identity and even a part of the government’s overall portrait.
The story around this glorious holidays goes back to August 2, 1635 and talks about a little girl by the name of Juana Pereira from Cartago, who found the small statue on a rock and took it home because she thought she had found a cute little doll with a baby in her arms. The next morning she found that the statue (her new toy) was not there, and when she went to pick up the wood for the fire, she found the statue back at the rock; so she took it to the priest and he locked it in a small box thinking that it would be safe. The next morning the statue was not in the box and Juana the little girl, found it again back at the rock when she went to pick up wood. The priest of the Cartago church told everybody that the statue represented the Virgin Mary and she wanted to be there. Therefore, the community got together and started building the special church for her.

During the construction, earthquakes destroyed the church so many times, it was finally decided to move it to the location where the statue was found, and they were able to finish construction. Many people think that the earthquakes were signs that “La Virgen de Los Ángeles” wanted the basílica built there. The Basílica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles is located in the city of Cartago. This basílica was built in 1639 and was partially destroyed by an earthquake. The basílica has since been restored and constitutes a unique mix of colonial architecture as well as 19th century Byzantine style.

The original statue of The Virgin of the Angels is kept in a golden shell inside the basílica. An official decree issued on September 24, 1824, declared “La Virgen de los Angeles” the official patron of Costa Rica. The celebration takes place on August 2nd with religious pilgrimages from San José to the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Los Angeles in Cartago. Tourists and locals visit this basílica equally.

Close to 2 million "Pilgrims", including Costa Rica's president Laura Chinchilla, who walked from the Parque de Tres Rios, will be in Cartago this morning to pay homage to The Virgin of the Angels. President Chinchilla told the press that the walk is a personal commitment, as well as one of duty as president.

Although the ceremony is today, the pilgrimage began days and weeks ago, with some people walking hundreds of kilometers from the farthest reaches of Costa Rica.

What this fascinating exercise of faith means to me is the fact that no matter what religion, color or faith we prefer or profess, if we believe in a power higher than ourselves we can feel reassured that we are being protected and taken care by that superior power. In Costa Rica, Ticos have placed their faith in “La Virgen de Los Angeles”.

Today is her Day.

No comments:

Post a Comment