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.