Cuba & Costa Rica Blog
About this blog
Written by Cuba and Costa Rica expert Christopher P. Baker, this blog will update readers on life in these two diverse and exciting countries.
- Last blog post on Costa Rica and Cuba
- First-ever group motorcycle tours of Cuba successful
- Cuba’s Mariel port readying for Panama Canal expansion
- Musings on wildlife encounters on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula
- Cuba’s Steam Trains puffing their last gasp
- My top five thrilling activities in Costa Rica
- Cuba’s fun February festivals include Harleys, Books, Cigars
- Five top volcano viewing experiences in Costa Rica
- New road along Costa Rica / Nicaraguan border mired
- Cuba’s Hotel Campoamor at Cojímar to be restored?
- Cuban revolutionary Celia Sánchez honored in new book
- Christmas challenge for Costa Rica’s sexually abused girls
- Costa Rica opens Chinatown in downtown San José
- David Soul films Hemingway’s car restoration in Cuba
- National Geographic Expeditions receives license for Cuba tours
Costa Rica health authorities ban this year's 'Romeria' pilgrimage
Cartago's imposing Basílica de Nuestra Señora de los Angeles, with its soaring all-wood interior painted in floral motifs, is home to Costa Rica's patron saint: La Negrita, or Virgen de los Angeles. It's also the goal of hundreds of thousands of Costa Ricans during the annual La Romería pilgrimage, each August 1 & 2, when superstitious Catholics journey to the cathedral to pay homage to an eight-inch-high black statue of La Negrita above the main altar.
As many as two million people participate in the pilgrimage during a two week period. Health officials believe that as many as 20,000 may become infected if the romeria were to take place (twelve Costa Ricans have died of swine flu since the epidemic began).
Hence, the Ministry of Health has suspended this year's romería due to fears that the congregation will spread the AH1N1flu virus. And the basilica has been ordered closed on August 1 and 2. It was also closed last weekend. The government will not be providing police escorts nor emergency-posts that attend to the many folks who collapse or are injured (many devotees crawl along on their hands and knees) on the 10-mile journey from San José.
However, the faithful have already begun massing in Cartago, intent on the pilgrimage. Hundreds arrived early last weekend, too, despite pleas by the Minister of Health, María Luisa Ávila, that people not make the pilgrimage.
Ironically many, if not most, of the superstitious devotees come to request medical cures of La Negrita. This year, one assumes they'll be asking her to protect them from swine flu. Crazy!