As you know, Latin America is eminently Catholic. This is the obvious result of 3 centuries of colonial rule from Spain and Portugal. Often, the Catholic religion has resulted in a unique blend of Catholic and local beliefs. The fact is that every town and city in Latin America has a patron saint. In some cases, a country can have a patron saint. As a matter of fact, the Mexican Virgin of Guadalupe is the Patron Saint of America.
Our Lady of Suyapa is the Patron Saint of Honduras.
Her shrine, the Basilica of Suyapa is in the outskirts of Tegucigalpa. The Catholic Church celebrates her day on the 3rd of February. This is a holiday in Tegucigalpa and Comayaguela. If you happen to be in those cities, you are wondering why the banks and government offices did not open today, and there are no classes. The answer is because Honduras is celebrating the Virgin of Suyapa today!
Pilgrims from around the country arrive in Tegucigalpa to pay their respects to our Lady of Suyapa. To them, She is a mother, who will intercede on our behalf with Jesus to get miracles and special favors. The celebration starts the on the eve of February 2. Mariachis, musical groups fireworks and songs all form part of this celebration in Honduras.
The Story Behind Our Lady of Suyapa is Rather Unique.
It takes us back to the year 1747. Two peasants that had gone to work a cornfield far from their village. They where still en route back home when the night fell upon them. Tired, and unable to see the path home, they decided to sleep in the open that dark night. Alejandro Colindres, one of the peasants felt an unpleasant bulk under his makeshift bed. Reportedly, he rolled over, picked it up and threw it as far as he could. Yet, as soon as he rolled back to his sleeping position, he once again felt the bulk in the exact same place. When he turned around, he found the same wooden statue he had just thrown as far as he could. Tired, he just put in his bag and fell asleep again.
He took the small figure home with him and gave it to his mother. She in turn made a small makeshift altar in her home and placed the small wooden figure in it. With time, the people in the community would come to pray to the altar. It was in the humble Colindres family home. Soon it became known as a miraculous figure. The first recognized miracle was to an army captain who suffered extreme pain. He offered to build a small chapel for the sculpture if the lady of Suyapa would cure him. The next day, he was rid of his pain! So he built the chapel as promised. The Church held its first service in 1777.
Pope Pious XI declared her the Patron of Honduras in 1925.
He dedicated the 3rd of February as the day of the year to honor her. A new, much bigger church opened its doors nearby in 1993. Pope Francis gave it the status of Basilica on the 9th of September, 2015. It is interesting to note that the small statue usually is at her original church nearby. The locals believe that she prefers the humble setting of her old home over the much larger new Basilica.
A visit to Our Lady of Suyapa in Tegucigalpa is one of the highlights to your visit to Honduras. There you will feel the religious fervor of Honduran Catholics. You will also have a chance to see the local flower and food market close to the Church of Our Lady of Suyapa.