Costa Rica, Cartago


In the Basilica Our Lady of the Angels in Cartago, Av. 1 del Comercio before 1635, about 20 cm, carved stone.

The Dear Black One (La Negrita)
Our Lady of the Angels
Queen of Costa Rica
Queen of Workers
Princess of Peace 

The Queen of Costa Rica is called Our Lady of the Angels because she was found on the day the Franciscans celebrate the feast of Our Lady of the Angels. During the civil war of 1833 she was named Princess of Peace. Since then Costa Rica has been one of the most peaceful countries in Latin-America, abolishing its army and founding a University for Peace.

She was crowned Queen of Workers in 1956 because from the beginning she displayed solidarity with the poor and oppressed. She appeared as a small, black statue in the colored people's part of town, bent on making her home there. This was a time when strict racial segregation reigned in Latin America. Colored people not only lived in separate areas, but in Cartago they weren't even allowed to enter the city. Heaven was about to make a statement about this system.

On the morning of August 2nd,1635 Juana Pereira, a dark woman of mixed blood, was gathering wood near her house when she found a Black Madonna statue sitting on a rock. She took the "doll" home and set her in a box. In the afternoon she came by the same rock and found what she thought was yet another 'doll'. Bringing her home, she realized that the first one had disappeared. The next day, passing the same rock, Juana again noticed the same 'doll'. As she brought it home and again did not find the previous 'doll' in its place, she started to realize that this was a supernatural object which kept moving back to its rock on its own accord. Now she was scared and decided it was time to hand the statue and the story over to the nearest priest.

Like Juana, the Padre put the statue in a box, and as before, Our Lady returned to her home rock. The priest guessed that Our Mother didn't appreciate being stuffed into boxes, so he came to the rock with other church people to properly carry the statue to the church and place her in the sanctuary. But she disappeared again, and you know where she went! This time the people understood that the Queen of Heaven wanted her own sanctuary in the place where the dark people lived. To this day the rock on which she appeared is preserved in her basilica. So many millions of pilgrims have prayed at this rock that it is smooth from their caresses. From its base, a source of sacred water bubbles forth, which has cured many.

In order to spread the blessings and fame of La Negrita, Father Baltazar de Grado, the priest of Cartago at the time of Our Lady's appearance, instituted a fund to which he generously donated upon his death. This fund was committed to holding an annual celebration of the arrival of Our Lady of the Angels. Like in Einsiedeln, Switzerland a priest's money helped institute devotion to the Queen of Creation, as Costa Ricans call her.

Every year on August 2nd hundreds of thousands of faithful come from all over Costa Rica and neighboring countries to participate in this festival. No wonder, since Pope Pius IX declared in 1862 that all who visit this Madonna's sanctuary will receive a full pardon of their sins. On the second day of celebrations La Negrita is carried in solemn procession to the parish church of Central Cartago. There she spends a few days before she returns home to her basilica.(*1)

*1: A wonderful website called "Queen of all that is created".