Dominican Republic Our Lady of Mercedes Day

Dominican Republic Our Lady of Mercedes Day

September 24
A national holiday that illustrates the strong influence of Spanish colonialism and the Catholic Church on Dominican culture, this feast day honors Mary the mother of Jesus, often referred to by Dominicans by her patron saint title—Nuestra Señora de Mercedes (Our Lady of Mercedes). Observance of this celebration dates back to 1615, the year the Mercedians, a Spanish order, established the feast day.
According to legend, before returning to Spain Christopher Columbus placed a cross atop a hill overlooking El Cibao, a region on the northern end of the island. In 1495, during a battle between the Spanish and the native Taino Indians, the Lady of Mercedes appeared, scattering the frightened Indians and thereby securing the Europeans' victory. There were subsequent visitations reported at the site, and eventually settlers marked the spot by erecting a church and pilgrimage site they named Iglesia Las Mercedes.
Every year Iglesia Las Mercedes receives thousands of worshippers, many of whom arrive on the saint's day to pay homage. Another church in Santo Domingo, the Church of Las Mercedes, also attracts many followers on September 24. Typical ceremonies at the church in the capital city include masses throughout the day, the Blessing of the Waters, and a procession from the church through Santo Domingo's Colonial Zone.
CONTACTS:
Embassy of the Dominican Republic
1715 22nd St. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
202-332-6280; fax: 202-265-8057
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