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Virgen de los Angeles, La  

Manuel Benavides Barquero

also known as “La Negrita” (The Little Black Lady), became the patron saint of Costa Rica in the early nineteenth century. In physical form, La Virgen is a small statue almost 6 inches tall and made of a dark granite, a representation of the Christian religion’s Virgin Mary. This black Madonna cradles an infant Jesus. The first written record of La Virgen’s existence appeared in 1629 in the Puebla de los Pardos (Colored or Brown Town) on the outskirts of the Spanish colonial city of Cartago (now in Costa Rica). Tradition states that she was found by an Indian girl, but it was the free black community that first embraced her as their protector and that in 1662 would rename their community “Puebla de la Reina de los Angeles” (Queen of Los Angeles Town).

Her presence among this ethnic group played a key role in forming the identity and defending ...