Tuesday, August 5, 2008

She's the Patron of the Bolivian Navy

One of the weirder aspects of the Catholic religion is the devotion to a specific statue of the BVM ( The Blessed Virgin Mary; acronym also used to describe a specific color: BVM BLUE). Weird, because it is the statue that is honored, feted and treasured, not as a representation but as itself.

You have the Black Madonna in Poland.

In Nicaragua a replica of the statue of the Virgin in Fatima makes the rounds from house to house, and parties are held in her/its honor. Fancy parties - something between a ladies bridge luncheon and a Quinceañera. I could not make this up.

In Bolivia, on the shores of the glorious Titicaca (highest navigable body of water in the world; vertigo-inducingly so), you will find Our Lady of Copacabana (not the beach in Rio, not by a long shot), more properly called Virgen de Candelaria. Today is her feast day.

Sometime in the late 1570’s an Incan artist named Francisco Tito Yupanqui – grandson of the Inca leader Tupac Yupanqui – carved a statue of the Virgin Mary (thus she is also called Dark Lady of the Lake) out of plaster and maguey fiber, and covered her in gold leaf and dressed her as an Incan princess. She wears a dark wig.
Nowadays she is encased in glass and never leaves the lovely white Moorish style cathedral because to remove her would cause Lake Titicaca to flood.
Not only is this statue the patron of Bolivia, she is also the patron of the Bolivian navy, and it is a well known fact that Bolivian sailors need a patron saint since they are always lamenting the loss of their coastline.
And I know this how? We visited Bolivia last year to see CSB's nephew in the Peace Corps there. In Copacabana CSB experienced terrible altitude sickness, worse than mine because he has those extra 14 inches to deal with. And naturally I visited the Virgen and lit some candles. Directly outside the cathedral you can buy all the fireworks you want.

No comments: