New book arrives just in time for Cartago pilgrimage

At exactly the right time of year Editorial Costa Rica is announcing a new work that captures the popular story of the discovery of the Virgen de los Ángeles, The book is called appropriately “El hallazgo,” meaning discovery in English.

The book is not a serious historical treatment but rather what the publisher is calling a hybrid between comic book and a novel. This is the first book of this type issued by the publisher.

The time is appropriate because Aug. 2 is the feast day of the Virgin, and the days preceding witness a massive movement of pilgrims to the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Los Ángeles in Cartago. Counting early birds, perhaps two million visit the Cartago church to pay homage to the Virgin each year.

The Fuerza Pública said Tuesday that some 250 officers will begin watching the roadways to give pilgrims security this weekend. The number of officers will grow to at least 1,000 by Aug. 1, and they will be joined by many other agencies, including the security ministry’s air wing.

A father and son team, both named  Franco Céspedes, wrote and prepared the new book.

Many Catholics here consider the Black Virgin, La Negrita, to be the Costa Rican manifestation of the Mexican Virgin of Guadalupe. A youngster, Juanita Perera, in 1635 found a dark stone statue said to be of the Virgin Mary. The statue mysteriously kept returning by unknown means to the site where the basilica stands now in the city some 23 kms. (about 14 miles) east of San José.

The actions of the statue were interpreted by church leaders as the desire of the Virgin Mary to have a church built on the Cartago site, and one was. Skeptics might suggest that the discovery was engineered by Catholic leaders intent on increasing the fervor of the people. But that view does not resonate well among Costa Ricans.

All that seems to be lost to history now including personal information on the girl.  Editorial Costa Rica notes in its newbook072215announcement that there was a sharp division in those days between colonos (whites) and pardos, mulatos, indians and free blacks. The discovery of the statute served to unite these two groups, the publisher said.

The Cartago basilica today is an elaborate complex with an extensive courtyard for pilgrims. The Virgin, a small black rock, is encased in gold and fine clothing at her place high above the main altar.  A nearby room holds the many valuable gifts and elaborate changes of clothes donated for the statue.

A spring, said to be the one near where the statue originally was found, has been converted into a complex area below ground level where water flows and is bottled for pilgrims.

The younger  Céspedes said that originally the team planned a series of stories and then some form of animation, which proved to be too expensive. The book tries to adhere 100 percent to the popular beliefs, said the son.

The Virgin is the patroness of the country, and a Mass Aug. 2 will bring out churchmen, politicians and hundreds of thousands of pilgrims.

The basilica is open year round, and the tradition is for a visitor to approach the main altar via the central aisle on the knees.

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