Vol.19 No.805
Monday Edition, August 5, 2019 Second news page

The last report from the basilica estimated that 2 million people walk to the Basilica of the Angels every year.
/ Los Angeles Basilica courtesy

La Romería: a tradition that moves
millions of people

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

La Romería, a tradition that began with the Catholic community, has become one of the most important events of the year. Romería, which means pilgrimage, is a mass journey of the faithful to pay homage to the Virgin of Los Angeles at the Basilica of the Angels located in the Province of Cartago*.

The last report from the basilica estimated that 2 million people walk to the Basilica of the Angels every year.

Many people start their walk to the church on Aug. 1 every year. The defined route is approximately 22 kilometers from San José to Cartago, but there are devotees who travel to the basilica from their homes which may be a great deal farther from the destination and their walk may take days to complete. A contingent from Golfito usually walks for nine days.

Friday, Aug. 2, is the most important day in this celebration. A solemn Mass is celebrated with the presence of the archbishop, dozens of priests and government authorities, including the president and representatives of public institutions.

Those who walk usually do so for two reasons, to ask for a favor or help from the Virgin or to give thanks for miracle already done by the Virgin.

The tradition includes a promise from the faithful, usually to repeat the pilgrimage every year.

It is a common practice to go on your knees from the entrance of the church to the altar, and visitors can see this practice daily as children, young people, and entire families continue this custom as a sign of gratitude to the Virgin.

Another tradition is to collect the holy water which comes from the pipes in the lower part of the church. Although this water is basically potable water, the pilgrims grant it curative benefits because the water is provided by the basilica.

According to historical reports from the Costa Rican National Library, these traditions began since 1635.

According to tradition, a young woman named Juana Pereira, a resident of the province of Cartago, was looking for firewood so that her mother would be able to cook the family meal when she found a little stone doll on a large rock next to a spring of crystalline water. The child took the doll to her home.

The next morning when the child went out to find more wood, she was surprised to find a stone figurine identical to the one she found the previous day.

Thinking it was another doll she happily took the new find home. When she arrived, however, she found that the first doll was missing.

The next day, the same thing happened: a new doll on a stone and the doll at home missing. This time the child was very frightened. She ran home to tell her mother what was happening and both went to the house of the town priest, Father Alonso Sandoval, to deliver the doll and tell him what was happening.

Sandoval took the doll, put it in a box and dismissed the matter. The next day, however, when he went to look for the little stone doll, it was no longer in the box.

That same morning, Juana, went back to the same forest to collect firewood as usual and again found the same stone doll, right over the same large stone. The child and her mother went again to Sandoval’s home to report the situation, and he advised them that it was a kind of message from the Virgin.

According to the tale, Sandoval and some villagers decided to take the little stone doll to the local church and lock it up in the tabernacle.

The next day when he opens the tabernacle he found that the doll is not there. Sandoval finally concluded that little stone doll, which looks like a mother holding a baby, is a sign from God and from the Virgin Mary herself, asking that the village of Cartago build a church at that same large rock where the stone doll was found the very first time.

The stone image is now in the church at Cartago. It measures about 20 cm and is composed of volcanic rock, graphite and jade. Since the rock is black, people call it La Negrita, but it is presumed to be the image of the Virgin of Los Angeles. The image has a round face, slanted eyes, a nose and a small mouth. In her left arm, she holds the baby Jesus whose right hand is raised in an attitude of blessing.

The name given to the image is Virgin of Los Angeles, because Aug. 2, the day of the discovery, the Franciscan Order venerates its patron saint, Santa María de los Ángeles.

On Sept. 24, 1824, by decree of the highest political authorities of the country, the Virgin of the Angels was declared official patron of Costa Rica.

Do you have a reason to give the thanks to La Negrita?
We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to news@amcostarica.com


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