Saturday, August 04, 2007

La Negrita

August 2 is a national holiday in Costa Rica. It's the day of the Costa Rican patron saint: La Negrita (the little black one). Each year, as many as a million people walk hundreds of miles to beg for the statue's blessing. Wednesday night, I went to the main street of town and watched as thousands walked by. When the crowds reach the front of the cathedral that houses the statue, the crawl on their knees before the statue. The story is interesting and is repeated in other parts of Latin America.

On August 2, 1635, a woman found a small, black stone carving of Mary holding the baby Jesus on top of another stone. She took it home and hid it in a basket. The next day she found a black carving of a snake in the same spot. She took it home and, when she went to put it in the basket with the statue of Mary, found the original statue missing. The next day she found the statue of Mary back on the rock. She took it home and found the statue of the snake missing. After this happened a few more times, it was concluded that Mary wanted a Cathedral built on the spot. So, the cathedral of "the Virgin of the Angels," was built and now houses the statue. There is a small stream nearby which is believed to have healing powers. In 1824, the Costa Rican government declared the statue to be the patron saint of Costa Rica.

It's important to note that the idol is in the center front of the church. The church, even though Catholic, does not revolve around the image or story of Jesus. The church revolves around the adoration of a small stone statue. When I ask Costa Ricans if the statue is Mary or what the meaning of the statue is, they don't know. Latin culture is far less interested in making things make sense than North American culture. They don't care that their patron saint was never actually a person, since Mary is not the patron saint. Rather, the little black statue "La Nagrita" is the patron saint.

The fact that over a million people endure difficulty to beg a stone statue for a blessing is evidence of spiritual hunger. It is continued evidence of the need to bring a message of power and hope to this hungry people.

What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore come out from them and be separate,” says the Lord. “Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,” says the Lord Almighty. 2Co 6:16-18


RevKev said...

Bill, can't find a place to email you so I wanted to leave this comment. I pray everything is well with you. The news has just hit the services that Peru had a 7.7 magnitude earthquake. If you can, write back.
Be blessed,
Kevin and Alana Messer

Anonymous said...

To suggest that people from Costa Rica (where I was raised) are particularly illogical and spiritually backwards is grossly offensive and inaccurate. Criticizing Ticos for the pilgrimage is no different than criticizing people for celebrating Christmas or Easter. Superstition is universal, and everyone has their own way to express it, whether through Christianity or Hellenistic rituals or Amazonian witchcraft.

We don't need condescending foreigners to tell us what we're doing wrong, especially on religious grounds. If you genuinely want to help the less fortunate Ticos, donate money, but don't you dare tell us we've been living a lie. We freed ourselves from Spain, fought off American influence in Central America, and will gladly fight off other foreign powers to preserve our culture and identity. If you think we won't resist your cultural colonialism, guess again.