Pilgrimage to Cartago already under way during this vacation

During this mid-year vacation that ends Sunday many Costa Ricans have gone to the beaches or mountains., But others are getting a head start on the annual visit to Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles in Cartago, la Negrita.

The Virgen de los Ángeles has a feast day Aug. 2. This is a national holiday because this manifestation of the mother of Christ is the patroness of the country.

That will be a big day in Cartago with highly placed clergymen and politicians attending a Mass and series of speeches.

But before Aug. 2 perhaps 2 million persons will hike to Cartago, and some will come on foot from other Central American countries. The pilgrimage climaxes Aug. 1 with a flood of pilgrims or romeros, as they are called, taking over the plaza in front of the Cartago basilica. Streets will be closed and special lanes for pilgrims will be installed on major highways.

The crowds area good reason some prefer to get a head start. There were pilgrims on the highways in small groups over the weekend. There is a trickle each weekday.

At the basilica, the faithful are supposed to enter the center aisle on their knees to show reverence to the small, black statue that is said to represent the Virgin and her child.

The color of the stone generates the name La Negrita.

Aug. 2 is a Thursday this year. That means that nearly the entire week is dedicated to the pilgrimage and the outdoor Mass. Friday will be a day of recuperation.

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