From the middle of July the trickle of pilgrims grows into a flood headed to the basilica in Cartago.
There is a long tradition of early bird pilgrims. those who seek to avoid the crush of a million or more fellow faithful on the roadways.
The feast day of Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles has been celebrated since 1635, and in the present Costa Ricans and others from more distant lands take days or perhaps a week to walk to the basilica.
The national holiday, the Anexión del Partido de Nicoya, is July 25, and that weekend will unleash the flood. The feast day of the Virgin is the following Sunday, Aug. 2, so many businesses and organization will take off July 31. Among these is the U.S. Embassy.
The 9 a.m. Mass Aug. 2 will see all the nations bishops and most of the politicians in attendance. The day also will be a test of the nation’s rail service, which will be a key element in moving the faithful back to their valley homes.
The Virgen de los Ángeles is the patroness of the country.
The history of the Virgen de los Ángeles is wrapped up in the social situation when it was discovered in 1635. The diocese of Cartago points out that in those days the whites were separated from the Indians and the mulatos. So it was a mulato woman, Juana Pereira, who discovered the small statue that is now venerated as a holy object.
The black rock that had been engraved with an image of mother and child continued to return on its own to the place where it was found, according to the legend. Eventually this resulted in the construction of a church there.
The full name for the basilica is the Santuario Nacional Nuestra Señora de Los Ángeles.