Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Romeria Costa Rica - My Experience Partaking in the Pilgrimage

I had seen announcements on the local news about the upcoming Romeria in Costa Rica to be held on August 2nd.    The Romeria is a Catholic religious pilgrimage involving millions of people walking from their homes, or other far away places, to the Basilica of Los Angeles in the city of Cartago to pay homage to Costa Rica's patron saint, La Negrita.  My boyfriend and I received an invitation to participate in the Costa Rica Romeria this year from our friend, Melisa.  Although we are not Catholic, we thought it would be interesting, and perhaps even inspiring, to take part in the pilgrimage.

Melisa lives in the actual city of Cartago and so the plan was we would take the bus to a point about 18 kilometers away from the Basilica to start the walk.  It is the custom in Costa Rica that the people who live in Cartago (a city just east of San Jose), perform their Romeria in the weeks before August 2nd.  The purpose is to free up some room in the Church for the mass held on August 2nd for the throngs of people who will be walking on the official day of the pilgrimage.  As you can imagine, most people will be left standing outside the Church anyhow.

The Basilica de Los Angeles was constructed in 1639.   It is a beautiful Byzantine style church where, according to Costa Rica’s religious belief, an image of the Virgin Mary miraculously appeared to a young Indian girl on a large rock in 1635.  The Basilica was built around this rock, which you can see inside the Basilica's display area. The full story of the Virgin appearance can be read on a plaque on the wall by the rock.

Although I did not get the full experience of walking with 2 million people this past weekend, I think I did get to experience the full effect of the Romeria, thanks to Melisa and her family and friends who joined us.  They were very meditative during their walk, often uttering prayers, rosaries, and thanking the Virgin out loud for all the things they felt they had received from her in the past year.

Our 18 km walk took just over 3.5 hours to complete.  About one hour into it we were still on flat terrain.  During the second hour we were on an incline that seemed to never end.  This was about the time I started regretting my decision to participate in Costa Rica's Romeria.  Thankfully, the final hour was all downhill, a much needed break.

There was lots of loud traffic on the highway and at times we were in road conditions that were quite dangerous (such as attempting to safely cross a narrow and busy one-lane bridge).  There was one bus in particular that sped past us, coming onto the median we were walking on.  Also, the walk itself was physically taxing, and last year alone, the Red Cross attended to over 6,000 romeros (as the walkers are called), for things like muscle aches, dizziness, and trauma. The next day I couldn't even lift my legs to get out of bed or get into our car.  Amazingly, some will actually crawl their way from San Jose to Cartago this upcoming week, and others will carry large wooden crosses on their backs the entire way!

Everyone is welcome to participate in the Romeria in Costa Rica. It is a very good way to get to know the culture and people of Costa Rica.  Cartago is a pretty nice city to visit and the climate is cool and refreshing.  The display area beneath the Basilica de Los Angeles is also worth a stop to see the replica of the Virgin statue and the rock she was found on.  The original Virgin statue is now held at the Vatican. A replica statue, sanctified by the Pope, is kept at the Cartago Basilica.   You can see my friend kneeling before it in the picture below.  Below the church you can also receive some free holy water that flows from a river that sits below the church and has been blessed by the Basilica's priest.  We all stood in line to splash a little of it on ourselves, capture what we could in receptacles, and take a quick drink after our long walk.

My boyfriend and our friends starting our 3.5 hour walk to the Basilica

Some medians were not that shielded from the oncoming traffic!

The narrow one lane bridge with a car just skirting past us

Finally arriving at the Basilica de los Angeles in Cartago

Drinking from the blessed Holy Water in the Church

Inside the Basilica right before the start of the day's Mass

Our friend Melisa kneeling before the replica of the Virgin statue on the actual rock it appeared on in 1635

1 comment:

Adnan Munir said...

Nice sharing of informative experience of visiting Romeria which is Catholic religious Centre.This post tells about real Culture and Travelling Environment Of Costa Rica.I want more posts like
Costa Rica Real Estate,Give me some Guide about that type of Articles.
Thanks for the post.

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