Cruz Roja workers getting ready for pilgrimage to Cartago

hose who live in San José have it easy. The pilgrimage to Cartago is a mere 20 kilometers, about 12.5 miles. And the road is great.

But pilgrims are coming from such distance points as Sixaola on the Panamá border, Ciudad Neily in southwest Costa Rica, and even Nicaragua.

The Cruz Roja said Wednesday that it is setting up aid stations in spots as distant as Puerto Viejo de Talamanca to provide comfort to pilgrims. The bulk of the effort begins Saturday. Some 400 Cruz Roja workers are involved, as well as 60 of the agency’s ambulances. More than a million persons will make the trek.

In all, the Cruz Roja plans to staff 25 aid stations on the principal highways for 72 hours into Tuesday. The number of pilgrims is expected to increase into Monday in the metro area.

Meanwhile, Cruz Roja workers in Cartago are providing assistance in the vicinity of the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles this week for the benefit of those who choose to complete the pilgrimage other than on the traditional days.

The Cruz Roja also has given advice to those who would hike to Cartago. High on the list is to wear a hat, bring two pairs of shoes and extra socks. Of course, this is the rainy season, so pilgrims should be prepared to downpours as well as scorching sun, so the Cruz Roja advises everyone to carry sun screen.

Police have other suggestions, including not to consider everyone on the pilgrimage as a potential friend. Crooks join
the columns of pilgrims to steal or worse. Police urge pilgrims to travel in trusted groups.

Some schools take that one step further. Entire classes will be seen walking behind a truck with rope defining the perimeter of the group.

In addition to the religious aspect that culminates Tuesday with a Mass at the basilica, the pilgrimage is big business for Cartago. Food vendors and others will profit over the next few days.

Pilgrimages have been a boon to various cities since Medieval times. They have influenced literature, too. The famous “Canterbury Tales,” by Geoffrey Chaucer is a series of narrations supposedly told to amuse themselves by pilgrims on the way to Canterbury Cathedral in the 14th century.

In an unexpected development, a Hindu leader has sent greetings to Catholics and others making the pilgrimage here. He is Rajan Zed.

In a release from the U.S. state of Nevada, Rajan Zed expressed warmest greetings on the upcoming Virgen de los Angeles Day, wishing that it brought joy, happiness, blessings and cheer to all. He said he is president of Universal Society of Hinduism and stressed that all religions should work together for a just and peaceful world. Dialogue would bring us mutual enrichment, he added.

Hinduism, the oldest and third largest religion of the world, has about one billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal, he explained.

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