|A more verifiable explanation is the story of missionaries of
the Carmelite order from Puebla on their way to
Coatzacoalcos being stranded in Catemaco in 1714 during
heavy rains. In their luggage they carried a copy of a statue
of "Our Lady of Mount Carmel" from Valencia, Spain.
Apparently, the local population was enthralled by the statue
and requested she be left in Catemaco.
Thus began the wondrous story of "La Virgen del Carmen"
culminating in the grand basilica now gracing Catemaco´s
|The Virgin has also been known as "La Virgen del Volcan".
(Virgin of the Volcano), and she is also the patron saint of
thousands of churches, dozens of other cities (Ciudad del
Carmen and others) and a country (Peru). Her feast day is
one of 18 Mary days in the catholic calendar.
At present her celebration is keyed to her apparition to an
English friar of the monastic "Order of Our Lady of Mount
Carmel" in 1251. Mount Carmel is a range of hills near Haifa,
Israel. The hills supposedly housed religious hermits since
before Christ. The anniversary date of July 16 was officially
set by the Vatican in 1726, accepting the Carmelite tradition of
her appearance on that date.
|Throughout her existence in Catemaco, the Virgin statue has
been credited with numerous miracles and cures, and tens
of thousands of believers visit her local shrines throughout
the year, seeking communion with the mother of God.
At first, the Catemaco community housed the virgin in a
palapa style building, which soon was converted into a
stucco chapel, possibly around 1719. Catemaco´s catholic
worshippers were not declared a parish until 1896 and as
of todate the parish is still part of the diocese of San Andres
In 1953 began the construction of the current church,
ending in 1961. By 1964 the Vatican bestowed the title of
basilica to the church, only one of 27 in Mexico. It is
considered a minor basilica, associated with Saint Mary
Major Basilica (or the Liberian Basilica), in Rome, Italy, one of
the 5 major basilicas in the world.
The basilica appears a lot older than its less than 50 years
because its architectural features borrowed from
neoclassicism, barocco and romanesque styles. It features
a 70 feet tall gold laminated cupola, and the 23 stained glass
windows of its interior naves illustrate the life of Jesus and
|The sanctuary is equipped with money slots for donations and
accepts gold, probably for golden roof repairs. Outside the
church, vendors sell bunches of sweet basil, which
worshippers carry to the Virgin statue to be blessed and then
to wave over themselves in a form of ritual cleaning.
The brujos of Catemaco have incorporated that gesture in their
|the first church
|Basilica de La Virgen del Carmen
|Catemaco is a pilgrimage destination for much of coastal Veracruz, Mexico and as far as Oaxaca and Puebla.
Allegedly, Mary, the mother of God in Christianity, appeared to a fisherman in 1664 in a cave at El Tegal, on the shores of
Laguna Catemaco, a half mile northeast of downtown Catemaco City, coinciding with one of the recorded eruptions of
Volcano San Martin.
She supposedly left her foot steps in the basaltic rock in front of the cave and transformed herself into a statue.
|Fiesta of the Virgen del Carmen
|The days surrounding July 16 form an annual spectacle to celebrate th e"La Virgen del Carmen´s" birthday,
often focusing on a huge county fair. Walking processions from many of the outback communities of Los Tuxtlas congregate in
Catemaco City to enjoy both its spiritual welcome and sponsored entertainment.
Every yearly celebration is a noteworthy event, drawing together much of Catemaco´s population in a whirl of activities, ranging
from the boat men´s parading the Virgin around the waters of Laguna Catemaco, its horsemen forming a cavalcade to El Tegal, the
mayor welcoming the processions from outlying communities, a huge communal dance, cattlemen competing in milking their cows and
its sanitary workers cleaning up after 100`s of bus loads of pilgrims who flooded the hotels and any public sleeping spaces.