January 26

Nuestra Señora de Belén, Tumeremo, Sifontes, Bolívar, Venezuela

On January 26, 1788, Catalan Capuchin friars established a frontier mission in Venezuela, against the governor's wishes, in a valley near the eastern border. Baptizing the town Tumeremo, meaning spotted snake in the Guyanese Indian language, they designated Our Lady of Bethlehem as the settlement's patron. Tumeremo is now a city of 60,000 residents and capital of Sifontes municipality.

Around 1880, the friars installed a 4.5' statue of the Virgin and Child in the Church of Our Lady of Bethlehem there. Following a series of damages, its third restoration in 1994 removed the crescent moon on which Our Lady originally stood. The restorers reported that the old plaster image had become too fragile to be carried in procession. A newer statue in Our Lady of Bethlehem School now has that honor during the annual fiesta on January 26, while the old one retains pride of place above the central altar of the parish church.

Festivities last over a week, culminating with solemn mass, procession, and consecration to the Virgin on the founding anniversary.

Sources include:

bulletJosé Miguel Reyes, "Celebrando los 218 años de la población de Tumeremo," Monografias.com, www.monografias.com
bullet"Madre Amada Ntra. Sra. de Belén," Facebook, es-es.facebook.com (information and photo of older statue, above)
bullet"Hoy inician fiesta patronal de Tumeremo," Boletín Informativo, pastoralmcsdiocesisguayana.blogspot.com

Where We Walked ~~~ Mary Ann Daly