This annual walk by the faithful from all over Costa Rica to Cartago, has been cancelled for the first time in history, due to health concerns. Perhaps as many as 2 million persons make the trek, mostly from the Central Valley. However, others come from distant places in Costa Rica and even other Latin nations.
The pilgrimage is unique in that so many people walk long distances and frequently sleep outdoors. The gathering in the plaza of the basilica includes many who press forward to touch the gold case in which the representation of the Virgin is carried. The Romeria has been an annual event for the last 227 years, as faithful Catholics visit La Negrita to ask for a miracle or pay her back for her favours.
According to Catholic tradition, Juana Periera found the small statue of the Virgin in 1635 on a stone at the edge of a river.
This is a huge shock and disappointment for the faithful. We were living about an hour and a half, by car, from Cartago, in the first town we settled in here, and are now more than two hours away. We know many people who happily make the pilgrimage by foot from their homes far away. Most are on the road, literally, for two to three days. The government and the Catholic Church are suggesting people worship in their home town churches, and watch the closed ceremony on August 2, from the safety of their homes.
We are half way through an additional week of vacation for the students of Costa Rica, due to H1N1 concerns. It seems possible, that they may add another week to the vacation period, because officials believe the worst of this outbreak will be experienced during the next two weeks.
We are not panicking, just being sensible about washing hands, and continuing to live a healthy lifestyle to help keep the bug-a-boos at bay!