The Pilgrims Cometh

Ξ July 30th, 2005 | → 0 Comments | ∇ Costa Rica |

Not long after I first arrived in Costa Rica, I remember traveling along the pista (highway) between the international airport and downtown San José. Walking along the road were dozens of people, usually in small groups, though sometimes alone. They were all ages, all sizes, and seemed to be having a fine old time. The next day… same road… the numbers tripled and now there were people on horseback as well. Driving back home around 10 PM… there were still more people! Hundreds now, walking and laughing in the darkness. I was seeing for my first time, the annual pilgrimage to the Basilica of Los Angeles in Cartago.

The Basilica is a beautiful old church and home to La Negrita, the Black Virgin of Los Angeles. La Negrita is the patroness of Costa Rica and is certainly the most important religious object in the country. La Negrita first appeared 370 years ago. Originally found by a young girl, it is believed that she moved from different locations, always to reappear on a large stone in the forest. True or not, the believers come to honor the Virgin and to pray at the alter in the Basilica. Costa Rica will see hundreds of thousands of these pilgrims, most of who walk to the town of Cartago from as far away as Guatemala. The trip can takes days or weeks, and many will finish the journey on their knees to approach and enter the church. By Tuesday… there will be a million people in this small town.

August 2nd is the big day… a holiday here in Costa Rica and everything will close.

I am not Catholic, but I have always been impressed with the enormous faith manifested by these travelers. ML, however, is Catholic and made a few comments tonight about making the trip. She exhibits a simple faith which, while I don’t always understand it, I admire greatly.

Now Luisa is in pretty good shape, excercises every day, sports a pretty flat belly, and doesn’t smoke. I am in crummy shape, avoid excercise, sometimes can’t see my feet, and burn through two packs per day (Marlboros cost $1.25 a pack here… bad place to quit).

If we make this pilgrimage, it will most assuredly be by car.


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