The first week of February, Hondurans across the country participate in “La Feria de la Virgen de Suyapa” – festivities being held in honor of the patron saint of Honduras, The Virgin of Suyapa. The figure, also referred to as “Our Lady of Suyapa”, is a small sculpture of The Virgin Mary, made of cedar, and only six and a half inches tall.
The story of Our Lady of Suyapa dates back to 1747, when she was found one clear evening by a peasant, Alejandro Colindres. He and his friend, Lorenzo Martínez, had been working all day, and stopped to rest en route to the village of Suyapa. As Colindres was trying to sleep, something on the ground under him was uncomfortable, and he reached to dislodge it. He removed what felt like a carved wooden figure, and put the bothersome object into his bag of belongings. Once home, he gave the wooden figure to his mother, who was surprised to see a tiny hand-carved statue of the Virgin Mary, and was delighted with the gift.
Mrs. Colindres cared for the little figure, and kept it on display in their home, where many people visited. Eventually, people came to pray to the Virgin. Those asking her to cure their ailments led to reports of miraculous healings.
The most famous miracle of the Virgin of Suyapa came when a Captain, Joseph de Celaya, came seeking relief from an intense pain he was suffering, due to what was then called a “bad stone”. Captain Celaya promised the Virgin that if she cured him of the torment, he would build a temple in the village, where there would be a mass in her honor. The day after his visit, Mr. Celaya expelled the stones that had tormented him. The tale of the miracle spread among locals, and Celaya, with the help of the illustrious priest Don José de Simón, constructed the Cathedral of Tegucigalpa.
Our Lady of Suyapa was honored in Honduras on February 2nd of each year, until Pope Pius XII officially declared Our Lady of Suyapa Patroness of the Republic of Honduras, and chose February 3rd as the day to honor her with mass. Many Hondurans now light a candle at The Virgin of Suyapa on the evening of February 2nd.
The most devoted followers in the region make a yearly pilgrimage to the Basilica de Suyapa, located roughly seven kilometers outside of Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. This year of 2012, devoted followers commemorate the 265th year since the discovery of Our Lady of Suyapa by that young boy on a starry night in February of 1747.
Photo of the Basilica of the Virgin of Suyapa by Juan Bendeck:
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