Brazil, Aparecida do Norte:
Our Appeared Lady of the North
In the basilica in her own city Aparecida do Norte, 160 km South of São Paulo, 39 cm, terra cotta, cleaned during a renovation.
In 1717 three fishermen were sent to catch fish in the Paraoba River for the governor of São Paulo because it was a religious day of abstinence and he wasn't allowed to eat meat. The three companions tried and tried, but no fish were entering their nets. When they were at the point of giving up, they caught in their net the headless body of a statue of the Blessed Mother. Bewildered they continued fishing and rowing down the stream. Soon they also caught the head of Our Lady. Now that the Mother of God was on board with them, they caught so many fish that their boat almost sank. This was reminiscent of the story in Luke 5, where the disciples couldn't catch any fish until Jesus appeared and told them where to cast their nets. Soon their boats filled almost to the point of sinking.
Since the Brazilian fishermen recognized the statue as the type called Immaculate Conception, they called the statue Our Appeared Lady of the Conception (Nossa Senhora da Conceição Aparecida).
Our Appeared Lady was installed in the village of the men who found her and many miracles and blessings continued to gladden the whole country.
In his book God-Sent: a History of the Accredited Apparitions of Mary, Roy A. Varghese retells the story of Our Appeared Lady the way the Brazilian faithful think of it:(*1) The Black Madonna was found at a time when Brazilian slaves were demanding freedom and Princess Isabel was refusing to sign their freedom act. When the Queen of Heaven intervened by performing many miracles through a "black" statue, the earthly princess saw the light and understood the message. She signed the papers abolishing slavery and offered the black Virgin a precious crown.
According to China Galland on the other hand, all the efforts of the Divine Mother in Brazil accomplished little to end slavery, though it did ensure her a great following among the oppressed to whom she is a symbol of liberation. Galland also retells a traditional story: "One day a slave was traveling with his master near the small shrine that had been constructed for Aparecida. The man entreated his master to stop the wagons and let him pray at the door of the shrine. As soon as he knelt down in the doorway, the heavy chains he wore fell off his hands and feet, and the wide iron collar around his neck broke apart. His master declared him free: the Virgin herself seemed to command it."(*2)
Galland paraphrases Archbishop Dom Aloysius Lorscheider's explanation
of the Virgin's title 'Mother of the Excluded of Brazil': "All who have
been marginalized by conventional society are upheld and revered in the
figure of this Virgin - the poor, the broken, and the dark. She is their
champion. She is black because she is the Mother of All." Brazilians call
her Mari-ama. Ama to them is the black wet nurse who nurses black and
white children without discriminating.