Every 2nd of August, Costa Rica celebrates a very special day. A annual peregrination takes place, to visit our national Saint Patron La Virgen de los Ángeles. Her story goes like this.
During the colony Cartago was one of the preferred places for the Spanish to habit. It was and remain as the Capital City some time after the independence in 1821. The story I am telling you its thought to had happen in 1635. During those years the “Pardos” a mix in third degree between Blacks, Spanish and Indians, the “Mulatos” half spanish and half Indians and the “Zambos” half Blacks and half Indians, were forbidden to cross the Caravaca Cross. About 500mts North from the actual Basilica de los Ángeles.
The 2nd of August 1635 a young woman parda of race know known as Juana Pereira was recollecting wood in the forest and she used to do when she found a interesting doll like sculpture, sitting on stone next to a spring. The figure was that of a woman holding a baby in her arms. Juana liked the figure and so she took it to her house. And save it wrapping it on white handkerchief and placing it inside a wooden box.
The next day Juana visited the same place and once again, she found doll quite like the first one sitting on the stone next to the spring. Thinking that now she had two dolls. Quickly and happily she took that one too. As she had done in the past she wrap the figure on a white handkerchief and proceed to open the wooden box to put the new doll next the old one. To her amazement the first doll wasn’t in the box anymore, the only doll was the one she held on her hands, the first one was nowhere to be found.
Feeling a little down because now she only had one doll not two she proceed to secure the new one on the same box but keeping it closer and under strict supervision for as long as she could… Perhaps some one saw me yesterday. She thought. And that person may have liked the doll too and he or she entered my house and took it. Or perhaps could that new doll the one she had found today be same doll. If yes how?
Curious she return for a third time to the stone next to the spring. Juana found the same doll sitting on the stone. This time she didn’t took it. She went running to her house to check if the one found the day before was still where she put it. It wasn’t, but the box was in the same place… No one saw her hiding it and she made sure that if some was to stole the doll had to leave evidences behind, because of the place and the way she had hidden the wooden box. Scare and mystify she went to the priest. Don Alonso Sandoval who didn’t give Juana a lot of credit. He took the doll save it on a wooden box as Juana did and forgot about the issue. The next day he open the box to find it empty with no doll to be found.
Juana visited the stone next to the spring for a fourth time. She found the doll again as all the times before. So she took it and against the prohibitions of not crossing the Caravaca’s Cross she give it to the Don Alonso. This time and bearing in mind Juana’s story and his own experience from the day before. He saved the sculpture inside the church’s tabernacle. The safest place for anything to be store. No one would ever try to open the Tabernacle the holiest place in every church. The next day the priest went to the Tabernacle open it and saw everything as it was the day before. Everything but the sculpture, the doll wasn’t there. Don Alonso rush to the stone next to the spring to see the doll once again and against all odds resting there above the stone, as the very first day that Juana saw her.
Don Alonso then understood that that was the will of the doll. That woman with the baby on her arms had to be the holy Virgin Mary. And she had made clear that she wanted to be there and no where else. So Don Alonso and the entire town build a temple around the place. Where the actual Basilica de Los Angeles is today.
The story of Juana Perira is well documented, but her register what she did and ended up becoming after finding the image it’s unknown. Several historians had try to found her traces but Juana was an extremely common name during and even after the colony and Perira was one of the most common middle names for Pardos. It’s thought that Juana simply went back to live her life as before. When the proclamation of the Vatican came it was said that the name Juana Perira was not only to refer to that particular woman but also to refer to all the Pardas and Mestizas women who lived and grow in the catholic fate.
The name and avocation given to the image was that of Our Lady of los Angeles Nuestra Señora de los Angeles. Because every 2nd of August the Franciscans celebrate that avocation. Since that first story and miracles Nuestra Señora de los Angeles had been involve in the history and happenings of Costa Rica.
The figure is 20cm tall. It is compose by 3 different types of stone. Archeologist have told that the mix of those 3 stones is extremely difficult to achieve, the stones are. Graphite, Jade and Volcanic rock. During that period there was no Graphite in Costa Rica. Nor was the Volcanic Rock easily found in Europe, and Jade is impossible to find in natural conditions in Europe too. That is why is said that La Negrita (the blacky) as it is tenderly known here is also 1 part Spanish and 2 parts American as the Parda who found her was. It was sculpted with a tradition Jade technique proper of the Indians that inhabit Costa Rica. Her face faces front wild the child on her arms looks directly to her eyes and touch her brest with his hand.
The goldsmiths and Jewerly masters of Costa Rica build a pedestal for her. Made with gold and jewels . everything donated by thankful people as a recognition for a favor conceded or miracles. The custody its about 1 meter tall and its design corresponds with the apocalypses 12.1 “A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.”
For hundreds of years the country pilgrims to the Basilica de Los Angeles where the image of La Negrita was first found by Juana Pereira. For several years now it is said than every year more than 2 million people go to visit Cartago. Whatever the reason is: Fate, asking for a miracle, thanking for favor, paying a promise or mare entertainment. La Romería it’s one of our most dear traditions. And once again dear reader you are more than welcome to take part on it.
More photos will be uploaded today and tomorrow.
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This post is also available in: Français (French)