Monday, January 21, 2008

The Virgin of Altagracia

The Virgin of Altagracia

Today is the celebration of the Patron Saint of The Dominican Republic. Tens of thousands of pilgrims have gone east to Higuey to worship at her shrine.

The streets here in the Capital are empty and silent.

Julia Alvarez , the premier Dominican-American writer, now a professor at my alma mater, Middlebury College, has writen a book on the legend of the Virgin's appearance here.

Official Catholic documents tell this legend of the oil painting which now hangs in the Cathedral .

Legend says that the pious daughter of a rich merchant asked him to bring her a portrait of Our Lady of Altagracia from Santo Domingo, but no one had heard of that title. The merchant, staying overnight at a friend's house in Higuey, described his problem as they sat outdoors after dinner.

An old man with a long beard, who just happened to be passing by, pulled a rolled up painting from his bundle, gave it to the merchant, and said, "This is what you are looking for."

It was the Virgin of Altagracia. They gave the old man a place to stay for the night, but by dawn he was gone, not to be seen again. The merchant placed the image on their mantle, but it repeatedly disappeared only to be found outside. They finally returned it to the church.


Michael Deibert said...

Have you ever read Alvarez's In the Time of the Butterflies? A fantastic book, and a memorable depiction of a nation in the grip of dictatorship.

Babette said...

Yes, it is one of my favorites. The UN has named its day against violence toward women as the day that the Mirabel Sisters were murdered.