The Dominican community of Meriden celebrated Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia — Our Lady of Altagracia — the “protector of the Dominican people” earlier this month like millions of their compatriots in the island nation.
Parishioners walked through St. Rose of Lima Parish at a special mass on Sunday, January 23, carrying the image of the Virgin as the choir sang. Organizers made their way to the altar wearing Dominican national costumes. The church was decorated with flowers, highlighting the colors of the Dominican flag: red, blue and white.
Hundreds of thousands of devoted visitors make the trip to the Basílica Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia in Salvaleón de Higüey in the Dominican Republic to see the painting of their patron saint.
The story of Our Lady de Altagracia dates back to when Spain first colonized the island of Hispaniola. Alonso y Antonio de Trejo, are said to have brought a painting of the Virgin to Hispaniola from their home in Placencia in 1502.
The legend states that the image of the Virgin mysteriously disappeared from the house of the brothers Trejo and later reappeared in an orange bush. The location of this bush is where the first church of Higuey was built.
The image of Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia is believed to have been painted in the late 15th century in Spain. It was mysteriously delivered by a shrouded elderly man who dropped off the painting and disappeared. The painting shows the scene of the birth of Jesus.
Another miracle story tells how Dominican soldiers appealed to the Virgin to help them win victory over the French in the 1691 battle in La Limonade, near Cap-Haitien in northern Haiti. They won the battle.
Virgen de la Altagracia was crowned the spiritual mother of Higuey by pontificate of Pius XI in August 15, 1922. The ceremony was held in Santo Domingo at the Puerta del Conde. Later, President of the Dominican Republic, Doctor Joaquin Antonio Balaguer Ricardo declared that Día de la Altagracia would be celebrated on January 21 as a national holiday.
According to Colonial Zone-DR, 1in every 12 Dominicans are named Altagracia in honor of the patron saint.
“Personally, it has been an enriching experience for me,” Rev. James Manship said in an interview with the Record Journal’s Latino Communities Reporting Lab.
St. Rose of Lima started to celebrate a special Mass honoring Our Lady of Altagracia in 2018, as it recognized the growth of the Dominican community locally, Manship noted.
We invite you to read stories about Virgen de la Altagracia from parishioners: Dominicans in Meriden honor Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia.
Publisher’s Notes: This story is an aggregate from Colonial Zone-DR and the Latino Communities Reporting Lab.
CTLatinoNews partners with the Latino Communities Reporting Lab in best serving the Hispanic-Latino communities of Connecticut.