**Inspiration from Mary+Virgin+Mother
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.Our Lady of the Rosary of Chiquinquirá or the Virgin of Chiquinquirá is a title given to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the northern Andean region of South America. She is the patron saint of Colombia, the Venezuelan state of Zulia, and the town of Caraz in Peru.
In Colombia, her painted image rests in the Basílica of Our Lady of the Rosary in Chiquinquirá, where thousands of pilgrims arrive not only for the Feast Day on July 9, but also every Sunday, when they celebrate masses and processions. On July 3, 1986, Pope John Paul II visited the sanctuary and prayed for peace in Colombia at the feet of the Virgin Mary's image. The title given to the Virgin is from the city of Chiquinquirá, where the first of the Virgin's miraculous manifestations occurred, and where the original image from the sixteenth century is kept.
An image of the Virgin of Chiquinquirá can be found at the Basílica of Maracaibo, in Maracaibo, Venezuela, where it is also called La Chinita. Every November 18, the city celebrates the traditional Feast of La Chinita with masses and processions in honor of the Virgin.The Story of Maria Cárdenas
An old lady named Maria Cárdenas made a living by washing other people's clothes, a job she did every morning at the shores of the lake. On November 18, 1709 she took a bulk of clothes, and as usual, went to the lake to start washing them. This old lady was at her chores when she saw a small wooden slab floating towards her. She picked it up thinking that it might be of some use.
When Cárdenas finished her work, she went home carrying the clothes, the wooden slab and a small vase with fresh water. She then placed the board on top of the vase, before noticing a small figure in the board but could not tell what it was. Feeling curious about this, she went directly to see what was happening and found the slab glowing with a bright light to later find the image of the Virgin Mary.
Surprised and filled with a strong emotion, Cárdenas immediately ran out of her house located on the 2nd avenue, screaming and shouting the words “Miracle! Miracle!” Her neighbors went where the woman was to find out that the apparition of the Virgin Mary was real. From that day on, the faith of the zulians found their Queen in the “Chinita”. As it has been expressed by many people, “She is the way that leads to Jesus”.
Since that day the street where Cárdenas lived was renamed "El Milagro" which means Miracle in Spanish, and to this day it is one of the most important streets in the neighborhood of "El Saladillo" in the city of Maracaibo. To this day the wooden slab with the image on it can still be seen in the Basilica in Maracaibo.
Legend has it that the government decided that the wood with the image belonged in the capital city, Caracas. So they ordered it moved. As the soldiers following the order carried the image away from Maracaibo it got heavier and heavier until finally no one could lift it. They returned it to the Basilica of Maracaibo where it has remained with the belief that no one can remove it.The Wooden Slab, the Crown and the Square
Since the wooden slab depicting the image of the Virgin Mary arrived to the shores of Maracaibo 298 years ago, the Marian faith has grown exponentially. It was first taken to a small sanctuary built to honor San Juan de Dios and later, under the rule of the governor Francisco de la Roche Ferrer, a bigger chapel was erected to venerate the newly found Virgin of Chiquinquirá. The wooden slab remained in there for the next generations until the final stage of the Basilica was completed in 1858.
The wooden slab is relatively small. The dimensions are: 26 centimeters wide by 25 centimeters long with 3 millimeters deep. If you look at it, you will find the image of the Virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus in her left arm. To her left, there is Saint Andrew holding an open book and to her right there is Saint Anthony holding a chastity lily in his right hand. The slab was restored and preserved, and 18-karat gold was engraved to magnify its beauty.
The crown weighs 10 kilograms and it was made of 18-karat gold, donated by all parishioners who had a strong devotion towards the Virgin. Its inner arch measures 27 centimeters by 44 centimeters and a number of precious stones were embedded. It is indeed one of the most highly prized relics in all of Zulia. By the time the crown was made it cost around 250 thousand Bolívars.
By the year 2004, the local government inaugurated the “Square of Our Lady of the Rosary of Chiquinquirá”, an open sanctuary reminiscent of the old times when the Saladillo existed. The great monument of the Virgin of Chiquinquirá is located exactly where Maria Cardenas’ house once was. The total area of the square is 30 thousand square meters whose epicenter is a 15-meter-high allegorical statue of the Virgin Mary. There are also three mirror-like fountains as well as a smaller square devoted to Saint Sebastian, the patron saint of Maracaibo.Annual Celebration
The people of Maracaibo celebrate the Chinita's fair in November with an all-night party. One of the main city avenues, Bella Vista, is closed for several blocks and the city puts lights along the whole avenue. The lights stay up for months, until after Christmas. There are stages set up, sponsored by the government and businesses around the city. There are firework shows and street vendors, and hundreds of thousands of people line the streets and celebrate all night.
The Chinita’s fair officially begins on October 27th when the Virgin is taken down from the altar in which she rests. She tours all over the Zulia State and returns to the Basilica to start all the religious festivities. Around October 2nd, Bella Vista Avenue sees itself lit up by all the Christmas decorations and the local government promotes a series of public concerts with national and international artists to begin the “real” fair. Crowds of people flock together to the different stages or platforms devised to house such concerts.
Other cultural activities are held during the fair. Expo-Zulia is a temporary marketplace where the zulians show a great deal products that characterize our region. Many merchants, stores, companies and artisans offer their products at reasonably low prices. The Bullfights are also popular and a number of these are held in our bullring. The “Toros coleados” is another event that people don’t usually miss. Many “gaiteros” gather in front of the basilica to sing their best gaitas to please the patron virgin of our people putting an end to the “gaita season”.The 17th and 18th of November
The last two days of the Chinita’s fair are the most special ones. It is during these days when all the great parties around the city are held. By the afternoon of the 17th, many people enjoy the multiple concerts and gaita bands that sing in the different pubs, clubs and discos of our city. The party begins on the 17th and lasts way into the wee hours of the 18th, having fun in the “Gaitero Daybreak”. A lot of people usually go to the Chinita’s baseball game right after this traditional party and to the “Toros coleados” in the afternoon.