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Our Lady of Aparecida

As the patron saint of Brazil, Our Lady of Aparecida serves multiple roles: she is a religious entity, a political symbol, and a cultural icon. Found in 1717 at the bottom of a river with mud coating her face, Our Lady of Aparecida quickly became a strong image of the Black Madonna for Brazilians. Our Lady of Aparecida’s influence in Brazil has remained strong for almost three centuries. Similar to Ismael Rivera’s personal devotion to the Black Christ, Brazilians’ continued veneration for Our Lady of Aparecida shows the great impact of the Black Madonna and the Black Christ’s color.

In 1717, three fishermen prayed to Our Lady of Aparecida when they were unable to catch dinner for the visiting Governor of São Paulo. After praying to the Virgin, they cast out their nets and pulled a statue of her body up from the Paraíba River. When they threw their nets out again, they pulled out the head of Our Lady of Aparecida caked in mud. The fishermen no longer had problems catching dinner for the governor. One of the fishermen took Our Lady of Aparecida back to his home, where she continued to perform miracles, accruing a larger and larger following. By the mid- eighteenth century, Our Ladyof Aparecida had a large enough following that a church was erected in her honor. Reflecting her immense following in Brazil, construction for the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida finished in the late twentieth century.  Brazil recognized Our Lady of Aparecida as its patron saint in 1931.

Many Brazilians and pilgrims manifest their devotion to Our Lady Aparecida tangentially. Followers of Our Lady of Aparecida light candles at the Basilica of Nossa Senhora Aparecida. They also leave offerings, which vary from photographs to toy planes, representing the miracles the Virgin has performed.

Our Lady of Aparecida is a product of the syncretization. The melding of African and European cultures helped slaves in Brazil keep aspects of their African culture alive.Afro- Brazilians syncretized the Yoruban deities Yemaya, Oya, and Oshun with Our Lady of Aparecida. These three Orishas are most frequently syncretized with Our Lady of Aparecida because of their shared relationship with water.



Works Cited:

  • “Holy Wars: Brazil.” The Economist, November 11, 1995.
  • Kramer, Eric W. “Law and the Image of a Nation: Religious Conflict and Religious Freedom in a Brazilian Criminal Case.” Law and Social Inquiry (2001): 35-62.
  • “Lighting on new faiths or none; Religion in Latin America.” The Economist, November 9, 2009.
  • Oleszkiewicz- Peralba, Malgorzata. The Black Madonna in Latin America and Europe: Traditions and Transformation. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2007.
  • Tate, Karen. Sacred Places of Goddesses: 101 Locations. San Francisco: Consortium of Collective Consciousness, 2006.