Uruguay: Our Lady of the Thirty Three

The small image of the Virgin of the Thirty Three is a wood carving originating in the missions that the Jesuits had in Paraguay in mid eighteenth century. The image was made in one of the Guarani workshops that flourished in these famous missions.

Around 1779 the image was placed in the chapel that the Jesuits looked after in the village of Pintado and later, when the entire village moved to what is now the city of Florida, the residents took with them the beloved image before which their ancestors had prayed.

On April 19, 1825, thirty-three orientals, Uruguayan patriots, landed on the beaches of the Agraciada to commence the liberation of their country. When they reached Florida, they went to the small church and placed the future of the new nation at the feet of the Virgin. National Independence is proclaimed on August 25, and the members of the Constitutional Court having signed the Act of Independence, presented themselves again before the image and placed their nascent country under her protection.

Lady of the Thirty Three]

Ever since, the natives have called this image La Virgen de los Treinta y Tres (The Virgin of the Thirty Three). On August 25, 1975, on the 150th anniversary of its independence, the Uruguayan nation officially declared this image of the Virgin and the church where it was venerated "Historic Monuments."

The Virgin of the Thirty Three is thirty-six centimeters high. It is a baroque carving of the Assumption of the Virgin, whose cloak and robes seem to move becasue of their many pleats.

Since 1857, "The Liberator of Uruguay" has a gold crown with precious stones, a gift of the second leader of the Thirty Three, who later became president of the Republic. The disproportionate size of this crown - an extraordinary gold work - has become the distinctive feature of this Marian image.

The image was crowned canonically in 1961 by a concession of His Holiness John XXIII, who the following year proclaimed her officially "Patroness of Uruguay."

The solemnity of "Our Lady of the Thirty Three" is celebrated on the second Sunday of November with a pilgrimage to her shrine from every part of the nation.

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[Our Lady of Coromoto]

Lady of Coromoto]

Venezuela: Our Lady of Coromoto

When the Spaniards arrived at the region of Guanare, around 1591, a group of Indians of the Coromoto tribe decided to abandon their land and flee towards the Tucupido River, since they did not want to have anything to do with the white men or with the religion they brought with them. Fifty years later, still not having converted to the Gospel, the Indians live in a small village not far from the Spaniards' town. Both groups live in peace, but remain isolated from each other.

Such was the state of affiars when on a morning of the year 1651, the chief of the Coromotos and his wife watch an extraordinary vision: in the ravine of the Tucupido River, upon the waters, a beautiful lady is looking at them with a loving expression on her face; the small child she carries also smiles amiably. The mysterious lady summons the Indian chief and orders him: "Leave the forest with your people and go to the white men in order to receive the water on the head so as to be able to enter heaven."

Impressed by what he has seen and heard, the chief decides to obey the beautiful lady and leaves with his tribe to be schooled in the Christian religion.

But the Indian, used to the freedom of the forests, cannot become accustomed to the new way of life and he returns to his village with his family. The lady appears again, this time at the Indian's humble hut. Although the Virgin presents herself surrounded by a luminous aura whose rays fill the hut with fire, she does not succeed in moving the chief, who, annoyed, tries to throw her out and even takes his weapons in hand with the intention of threatening the inopportune lady. Smiling all the way, the Virgin approaches the chief gently and when he stretches out his hand angrily to catch her, she disappears before his eyes. A small holy card, where the image of the Lady was printed, was left in the Coromoto Indian's closed fist.

The Virgin of Coromoto is a tiny relic that measures twenty-seven milimeters high and twenty-two wide. The holy card's material could be parchment or tissue paper. The Virgin is painted seated, and on her lap sits the Child Jesus. It seems to have been drawn with a fine pen, sketched as a portrait done in India ink with dots and dashes. The Virgin and Child are looking straight ahead; their heads erect with royal crowns upon them. The back of the throne which supports them has two columns joined together by an arch. The Virgin's shoulders are covered by a crimson cloak with dark purple reflections, and a white veil falls symmetrically over her hair. She wears a straw colored tunic and the Child a white one.

The image is kept inside a richly adorned monstrance where it is presented for the veneration of the faithful.

At the request of the nation's bishops, on October 7, 1944 Pius XII declared her "Patroness of the Republic of Venezuela" and her canonical coronation was celebrated on the third centenary of her apparition, on September 11, 1952. His Eminence Cardinal Manuel Arteaga Betancourt, Archbishop of Havana, representing Pope Pius XII, crowned the sacred image of Our Lady of Coromoto.

The Venezuelans celebrate their patroness each year on three different occasions: on February 2 and September 8 and 11.

The National Sanctuary of the Virgin of Coromoto, meeting place of great pilgrimages, was declared a Basilica by Pope Pius XII on May 24, 1949.

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