As La Negrita is the patron saint of the country, the celebration of the traditional pilgrimage is one of the most important activities for Catholic Costa Ricans since 1635.
- Basilica Virgen de Los Angeles photo -

Published on Monday, August 2, 2021

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The holiday day of the Virgin of Los Angeles is celebrated today, Aug. 2, in Costa Rica. The Virgin, also known as La Negrita, is the protector saint of the country.

Most public institutions, such as banks, ministries, schools, as well as embassies are closed. No employee is forced to work today, but if the worker and boss agree, the employee must receive an extra day's salary if they have to work on holiday, according to the Ministry of Labor.

However, the  holiday is moved to today to boost tourism. The long weekend for many Ticos is a great chance to escape to the beaches and countryside.

As La Negrita is the patron saint of the country, the celebration of the traditional pilgrimage is one of the most important activities for Catholic Costa Ricans. Millions of people since 1635 make the pilgrimage from their towns to the Church of the Virgin of Los Angeles in Cartago Province.

However, for the second year in a row, the pilgrimage was canceled due to the increase in covid-19 cases and will be held virtually.

Students from the Technological University, TEC, created the free cellphone application "My Negrita" that is available for both Android and iOS devices.

More than 7,000 app downloads have been registered, according to the University statement. More than 5,000 of those downloads were made on Google Play. The app also shows a rating of 4.3 out of five stars.

Since May, authorities of the Ministry of Health announced there would be no mass pilgrimage again because of the pandemic. They also asked for pilgrims to avoid visiting the church today.

The same announcement was made by the Red Cross, this year it will not have first-aid posts to aid unauthorized pilgrims in case of an emergency.

The Episcopal Conference of Costa Rica, a Catholic leader organization in charge of the traditional pilgrimage, also called on the people to avoid visiting the church due to the cancellation of the activity. The church is closed today.
Only 250 people who managed to reserve their space since May are allowed to participate in the in-person traditional mass for the Virgin. No one else is authorized to participate in the mass or visit the church.

Since last year, when this religious activity was canceled for the first time, the Ministry of Security announced that groups of pilgrims found walking towards the church could be fined approximately $190 for disobeying the sanitary order input by the ministry.

The Catholic Church of Costa Rica prepared for their followers to post the list of their promises and requests to the Virgin on the church's official Facebook page.

La Negrita is the boss of Costa Rica. She is expected to help people throughout their life, according to Catholics in the country. She is physically a stone sculpture that measures about 20 centimeters and is composed of volcanic rock, graphite and jade.

Since the rock is black, people call it "La Negrita" but it is presumed to be the image of the Virgin Mother of Jesus. The image has a round face, slanted eyes, a little nose and a small mouth. In her left arm, she holds baby Jesus whose right hand is raised as in giving a blessing.

The name given to the idol is Virgin of Los Angeles because she was discovered on August 2, 1635, by the Franciscan Order venerating its patron saint, Santa María de Los Ángeles.

On September 24, 1824, by decree of the highest political authorities of the country, the Virgin of the Angels was declared as the official patron of Costa Rica.

La Romería, which translates to pilgrimage, dedicated to La Negrita has been celebrated for more than 400 years on this date of Aug. 2. The tradition that began with the Catholic community, has become one of the most important events of the year. Romería is a mass journey of the faithful to pay homage to the virgin located at the Basilica church.

This year is the third time in Costa Rican history that the Romería is canceled, also for health reasons.

In August 2009, María Luisa Ávila, the minister of Health at that time, said the official suspension of the annual pilgrimage was for the protection of the health of the population.

Avila was warning that the incidents of swine flu were expected to peak at the end of August 2009. Specialists had estimated 20,000 people would come down with the illness if the pilgrimage continued as planned.

The Catholic Church officials agreed to keep the Basilica closed, canceling the traditional day of mass and sermons in honor of the virgin.

That year, authorities reported 12 people died in Costa Rica from illnesses partially attributed to swine flu. Most of them had pre-existing health conditions that made them vulnerable. There were about 560 confirmed cases of swine flu.

This year, authorities call on La Negrita believers to stay home because of an increase of covid-19 infections. There are 72,145 active covid-19 cases in the country. Of the total 406,814 cases detected since last year, there were 5,030 deaths listed as covid-19 related, approximately 1.3% death rate in Costa Rica, reported the Health Ministry on Friday.

What miracle would you ask for from La Negrita?   We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to

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