The Virgin of Altagracia It is the most important religious symbol of the Dominican Republic, a symbol of Dominicanness and a devotion that crosses social classes.
There are many ways in which Dominicans express their veneration for whom they consider to be the spiritual mother of the country.
Most Quisqueyans believe that the Virgin of Altagracia is of Dominican origin, however, the sociologist and folklorist Dagoberto Tejeda explained we can find it in other countries.
He said that this virgin belongs to the Catholic saints, that is, to the group of people venerated in the Catholic Church as saints or blessed. This is why there are different countries that also venerate it, such as Peru, Mexico and Cuba.
He added that one of the differences is that each country has its image, for example Peru has an indigenous face.
Is she the patron saint of the Dominican Republic?
During a conference called “Tatica, la de Higüey”, at the BanReservas Cultural Center, Tejeda clarified that the Virgin of Altagracia She is considered by the Dominican people as the spiritual mother of the country, “despite the fact that the official patron saint of the Dominican Republic, since the colonial period, was and is the Virgen de las Mercedes.”
This occurs since the Altagracian dedication has had a greater spiritual and cultural weight in national history.
He stated that the Virgin of Altagracia it has “a feeling of identity at the popular level, because its colors, white, blue and red, fully coincide with the colors of Dominicanness, of the Dominican flag.”
Tejeda said that “hundreds of people came from the entire country, originally on foot, sometimes they left a month or two weeks before walking to get to the Church, to go to give thanks.”
For this reason, he asserted that “the basilica really becomes the most important pilgrimage center”, not only in the country, but in various parts of the world.
He narrated that people from different countries of the world go to the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Altagracia to bring offerings for the miracles performed by the Virgin.
“People from Puerto Rico, Curaçao, Aruba, Cuba, come to visit the basilica,” he said.
He said that among the most common offerings are carrying an allusive image of the “affected organ suffered by the devotee and, some even, especially women, cut their long hair.”
He added that visitors to the basilica carry everything from scapulars to images of the Virgin as protection mechanisms, in their purses, in their pockets, at home.
In addition, he said that “the image of Altagracia is extremely popular in Haiti”, so much so that, in some traditional transport, the “tac, tac” buses, he has observed his image.
Tejeda stated that the devotion “It even takes it to magical levels.”
“Faith is so great that there is a glass that covers the original virgin as protection, it is enough to pass your hand for cures,” he said.
The Virgin of Altagracia and politics
Historically, there is a very important relationship between politics and Virgin of Altagracia.
Tejeda narrated that Rafael Leónidas Trujillo was faithfully from Altagracia “although it was only by word of mouth”, he was even the one who had the work built.
Trujillo sought “to create a structure, at the level of a temple, that would have a relationship with the magnitude of what the symbol of the Church meant for the Dominican people. Virgin of Altagracia”.
Joaquín Balaguer, who was president of the country for 12 years, confessed that he did not believe in God, but he did believe in Virgin of Altagracia“I always carry an image of the Virgin on the lapel of my jacket”, narrated the anthropologist.
The former president was the one who inaugurated the cathedral basilica Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia.