The Virgin of the Snow is worshipped for her miraculous actions at a grotto by her congregation and all those who wish to understand the reasons generated by faith.
At the foot of the hill, in a site where the wind blows with passion and lets itself be heard, the Virgin of the Snow is worshipped by her congregation in a grotto raised in the heights. We reached that spot eager to see that sanctuary ourselves. We went up its steep staircase and made contact with the image and the hundreds of souvenirs that the faithful have left in order to thank her for her blessings.
Everything has been built with local stone and the image of the virgin is nestled in the most protected area of the grotto, guarded by bars and a glass. She carries Child Jesus in her arms and wears a calm expression upon her face. All around, we could see candles. Some of them were still lit.
We were surprised by the great number of plates made of different materials (aluminum, plastic, and iron) hanging on the stones themselves. They just read a name, a date and “thank you”. The reasons were not detailed. Those who had placed the plates there kept those secrets to themselves. Only their faith in the virgin had made the miracle possible.
We discovered her hidden dwelling
The great number of plates
The patron saint of mountaineers
The secret of her many followers
We had already seen the image of the Virgin of the Snow in a side altar in Bariloche's Church Cathedral. Now we would see her almost in her own home. We say this because she is the Patron Saint of mountain activities and she is worshipped by the mountain regiments throughout the country, who visit her to ask for her blessing.
We were going all round the chapel to pay attention to each single detail when two people arrived and knelt down in front of the image of the virgin in order to pray. It was an old couple who left a bunch of flowers, probably from their own garden. In complete silence, just as they had approached the site, they left after a few minutes.
Devotion for the Virgin of the Snow dates back to the days of the foundation of the City of Buenos Aires, when Juan de Garay placed the port under the protection of this patron saint back in 1580. An annual pilgrimage to the grotto is organized on August 5, the date on which the Virgin of the Snow is remembered. Year after year, the number of pilgrims increases. It is then when a mass is held in order to bless the thousands of members of the congregation who share this encounter.
Entire families arrive from faraway places in order to give evidence of their faith in the Virgin in front of the community. This represents a traditional spiritual event, maybe the most representative of Catholicism in this mountain area.
“Mother of the Snows, as patron saint, may you shelter your children, lovers of mountaineering,
and from the summit of the Aconcagua to the plains,
and from the Northern Andes to the South of our country
may this prayer be heard: hail Holy Mother of God,
may you protect mountaineers and let the good snow
enrich our fields.”
We went through the chapel in silence and experienced a feeling of serenity that accompanied us during the rest of the afternoon.
Mónica Pons Eduardo Epifanio
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