As pious Costa Ricans march in the many thousands towards the basilica in Cartago, local Red Cross officials are warning them to do so with caution. So far this year during the annual pilgrimage known as the romería, the aid organization provided care and first aid to more than 400 walkers and had to take a dozen to nearby hospitals, according to a Cruz Roja report.
Officials say the main ailments to look out for are dehydration, fatigue and muscle aches, among others.
More than 1,000 Cruz Roja workers and 120 ambulances will be available today with 25 different checkpoints scattered throughout the route’s main roadways. There are doctors, nurses, psychologists, emergency technicians and first responders set up among numerous other types of volunteers.
Cruz Roja President Miguel Carmona said he has been impressed with his team of workers, who are spread throughout the country.
“These deployments of Cruz Roja workers are amazing,” he said. “To see the charisma of hundreds of volunteers to make this operation happen in the best possible way benefits all those who require our services.”
Workers have also been providing assistance for those making the long trek from the southern parts of Costa Rica. After more than five days of walking they said they hope to arrive at the basilica by this afternoon.
The Red Cross issued a list of precautions that should be taken into account before those making the trip leave their homes. The organization advises against doing the romería alone, be aware of the body’s physical condition at all times, and to wear proper clothing, especially since it’s the rainy season.
In all, around one million people are expected to converge upon the Basílica de Los Ángeles in Cartago for the holiday Saturday that celebrates the Virgen of Los Ángeles, the patroness of Costa Rica.
For the fourth straight year, Cruz Roja authorities are promoting recycling efforts and have more than 70 specialty bins set up from Curridabat to the basilica. The project, called Ecoromería, encourages trash disposal and appropriate separation in order to minimize the holiday’s environmental impact.
All money made from selling the recycled material will go towards funding environmental programs at the local municipalities along the route.
“It’s important to note that the Ecoromería is a project that provides viable alternatives for the efficient management of waste that is generated on August First and Second,” said Dennis Montiel, who is in charge of the recycling efforts.
Other mini pilgrimages are also taking place around the country in locations like La Fortuna, Cañas, Tilarán, and Guatuso.
The Virgen in Cartago is represented by a small, black, carved rock that is maintained atop the altar of the basilica. Pilgrims show their devotion by ending their trek by entering the basilica on their knees and traveling to the altar that way.
The Mass Saturday is at 10 a.m. It will be televised. Sunday there is another ceremony when the statue is moved mid great pomp from the basilica to the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de El Carmen, also in Cartago. That will be between 9 a.m. and noon.
The statue will stay there until Sept. 7.
Sunday there also is a fiesta outside the cathedral with traditional foods and artistic presentations.