Honorable #1 son has decamped for the summer to Paraguay, previously best known as the retirement home of Dr Joseph Mengele & friends; currently best known as the site of the assassination of Anastasio Somoza, by a Sandinista commando team calling themselves Operation Reptile. My son did not allow Paraguay’s reputation to deter him from volunteering for One Laptop/One Child. (Do check out the website; there is a very entertaining interactive map.) Honorable son, being a smart and intrepid young man, anticipated playing soccer in the rain (as it’s the rainy season), dealing with a recalcitrant bureaucracy and eating lots of beef and hard bread. He did not expect to find himself in the home of the gigantic Basilica of Caacupé, where resides the famous little statue of Our Lady of the Miracles.
Her story begins in the early 16th century when a converted Guaraní prayed to the Virgin to save him from certain death at the hands of his enemies. He hid inside a tree trunk and was saved. Afterward, in gratitude for her succor, he carved a statue of the Virgin, featuring blue eyes and blonde hair, for reasons unexplained. Then in 1603 Tapaicuá Lake flooded the surrounding valley, including the statue of the Virgin. When the waters receded the Guaraní Virgin reappeared, and she has been revered by the locals ever since.
Of all the places he might have gone in Paraguay, it seems to me serendipitous that my son has gone to a place where the Conception of the Virgin Mary is annually celebrated (December 8th) with great fanfare.
Full disclosure: After some prodding, my son did enter the basilica; but he evinced little (no) enthusiasm.