The Mecca of Paraguay

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March 26th 2006
Published: April 12th 2006
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Basilica de Nuestra Señora de los MilagrosBasilica de Nuestra Señora de los MilagrosBasilica 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 IIPope John Paul IIPope 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.

Additional photos below
Photos: 8, Displayed: 8


Carving the ImageCarving the Image
Carving the Image

From one of the murals that line the walls on the long climb to the top. This shows the Guaraní carving the image of the Lady of Caacupé.
Mount Doom?Mount Doom?
Mount Doom?

A view from the cathedral roof. The hill in the distance looked volcanic to me. Rosa said it wasn't, one of the locals said it was, but people in Paraguay tend to tell you what they think you want to hear (except for Rosa, who tells it like it is).
Healing WatersHealing Waters
Healing Waters

The water from this spring was said to have healing properties.
Coca-Cola ExplosionCoca-Cola Explosion
Coca-Cola Explosion

In the Soft Drink Treaty of 1985 the pope divided the world between Coke and Pepsi;) This part of South America belongs strictly to Coke. There is nowhere in Paraguay where you can't have a Coke and a smile.

13th April 2006

That's what we called a place near Manzanillo, Mexico, because EVERYTHING was Coca-Cola. I'll have to dig up that photo. Also, those Virgin sightings and miracles are quite the money-maker for towns, aren't they? I remember taking pictures of people crawling on their knees to the Basilica in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, but the photos miraculously didn't develop properly.
15th July 2006

lived there..
I lived in Caacupe for 2 years as a volunteer for Peace Corps.. the people, the place... it is all amazing. One word can describe everything you see there... (including the dogs with udders)... LOVE. Thank you Paraguay. Rohaihu

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