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Published: April 12th 2006
Basilica de Nuestra Señora de los Milagros
This tree lined cobblestone plaza in front of the cathedral can accomodate 300,000 pilgrims.
It was a two hour bus ride out of Asunción to Caacupé, the Mecca of Paraguay, a small town dominated by a large cathedral, the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de los Milagros (consecrated by Pope John Paul II in 1988). According to the legend, the Blue Virgin of Caacupé saved a converted Guaraní from a band of Mbayáes hostile to the Christian faith. To show his gratitude he carved and image of the Lady of Caacupé out of a large Yerba Mate plant (some grow to near tree size). There is some question as to whether the image on display in the cathedral is the original. Another version of the story has the Indian being pursued by a bull, and saved by a snake sent by the Virgin to bite it on the ankle. These stories were probably invented by the Jesuits in order to convert the Guaraní Tribes to Christianity.
Caacupé is the center of much activity on December 8th, the Dia del Virgen (the Feast of the Immaculate Conception). Pilgrims come from all over Paraguay, many on foot, to participate in the celebrations (including fireworks and a candlelight procession). The sick and injured come to the town in
Pope John Paul II
A stained glass tribute to the pope's consecration of the cathedral.
great numbers, seeking not only the miracle of healing, but also hoping to get monetary “gifts” from healthier pilgrims. The rest of the year the town is less active, but there are still children on the steps of the cathedral selling rosaries and other trinkets.
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