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Virgen del Cisne, El Cisne, Loja, Ecuador

Commemorated on October 12
Virgen del Cisne, El Cisne, Loja, Ecuador
Not long after founding the city of Loja, Ecuador in 1548, the Spanish colonized a mountain area 45 miles away, naming it El Cisne, The Swan. In 1594, a drought and plague of rats destroyed crops in the region. Threatened with famine in addition to pressure from the Spanish, the local Indians had decided to emigrate in search of a better land, when an apparition of the Virgin changed their minds. A young native woman herding sheep to pasture met "with a most lovely Lady crowned with fragrant roses" who stayed with her, conversing about God while the flock grazed. "Confide in me, because I am going to help and protect you so you will never be hungry again. Here I want to assist you. Build a shrine in this place, where I will always be with you," the Lady said. The people built the church, and rains fell. October 12, 1594, is sometimes given as the apparition date, sometimes as the end of the drought. (October 12, feast of the Virgen del Pilar, has long been a Marian holy day in Spanish-speaking countries.) The natives of El Cisne commissioned a statue from Diego de Robles of Quito, already known for the image of Our Lady of Quinche, another popular Ecuadoran Virgin with indigenous ties. Carved of oak, the statue of the Virgen del Cisne, "La Churona," stands 26" tall, holding the Child in her left hand and a scepter in her right. The statue was canonically crowned on September 8, 1930. A new shrine begun in 1934 was consecrated on August 12, 1979, attended by a crowd of regional clergy and officials. Annually in mid-August, thousands of pilgrims accompany La Churona on a three-day journey to the Cathedral in Loja, where the statue remains until returning to the Basilica of El Cisne on November 1. (Information from the Sanctuary's website, www.santuariodelcisne.org. Photo taken January 14, 2010, by Ivanova Preciado, "preciosa," Flickr - Photo Sharing!, www.flickr.com/photos/46586309@N08/.)

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