On foot and even on their knees, pilgrims from across Costa Rica have walk the trek to the the Basílica Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles in the colonial capital of Cartago, east of San José.
Vatican’s has confirmed a miracle that took place in the province of Cartago and allowed for the canonization of the late Pope John Paul II.
Last year, was reported more than 2 million people from around the world — mostly Central Americans and Costa Ricans in particular — participated in the ritual honoring the Virgen de los Ángeles, Costa Rica’s patron saint.
Pilgrims march to attend a mass at the basilica on Aug. 2 in honor of “La Negrita,” or the “Little Black One,” a six-inch tall representation of the Virgin Mary. Legend says that on Aug. 2, 1635, a young indigenous girl discovered a small, crudely carved black stone statue of the Madonna with child on a rock in a forest outside the city. When attempts to remove the statue magically failed, word spread and the Virgin eventually became Costa Rica’s patron saint.
Some pilgrims, or romeros, start walking to the basilica days before the celebratory mass. As a sign of devotion or thanks for a deed attributed to La Negrita, some finish the last several hundred meters on their knees. Legend has it that the black statue is responsible for miraculous healings.
One such healing brought international attention to a small village in Costa Rica. Floribeth Mora, who lives in Dulce Nombre, Cartago, claimed John Paul II miraculously cured her of a brain aneurism. Mora arrived at the Calerdón Guardia Hospital in San José in May 2011 complaining of a headache. After undergoing diagnostic tests, doctors told her that she had an incurable brain aneurism, a bubble-like bulge on a blood vessel.
Upon hearing the news, Mora said that the late pope came to her and told her to “Get up.” After a second checkup, the aneurism disappeared without a medical explanation, according to the doctors who attended her. On July 5, the Vatican confirmed the miracle and gave credit to Pope John Paul II, paving the way for the late pontiff’s canonization. A date for the canonization has not yet been set.
The Costa Rican Red Cross announced that it opened help stations along the route at Tres Ríos, Ochomogo and the basilica on Saturday and Sunday. According to the humanitarian group’s website, there will be 1,225 staff and volunteers along the trail’s principal routes.