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Our Lady of Mount Carmel Imprinted Her Feet On A Rock In Catemaco

Locals say that she appeared in a cave near a lagoon and a volcano.

Beyond its celebrated gastronomy and ecotourism, tourists associate the Mexican town of Catemaco, Veracruz, with the practice of white magic. But many people go to Catemaco for another reason: to visit Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

The devotion for her began in the 17th century and is connected with a statue. However, there are two competing stories about the belief and the image.

The first version says that a fisherman, Juan Bautista Catamax, was in El Tegal’s cave at the lagoon’s foot when the Virgin Mary appeared before him. As proof of her divine presence, she left her feet engraved on a rock and transformed herself into a statue on the spot.

Catemaco, Veracruz. (Urvashi Makwana)

The locals brought the statue to San Andrés Tuxtla, a municipality near Catemaco. To their amazement, the Virgin returned to the cave, less than a kilometer (0.6 mile) from the San Martín Tuxtla volcano. So, the believers decided to leave the statue there, at the foot of the cave.

The second version claims that some Catholic missionaries of Puebla’s Carmelite order were traveling nearby. Heavy rain prevented them from continuing their way to Coatzacoalcos, so they spent the night in Catemaco.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel has many faithful followers in Mexico and Peru. *** La Virgen de Nuestra Señora del Carmen tiene muchos feligreses en México y Perú. (Charlie Ramírez/Café Words)

The missionaries saw the opportunity to spread the Gospel, and they showed the locals a statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel brought from Valencia, Spain. The people’s interest was such that the missionaries left the image there, and the locals built a basilica in the town square to celebrate her.

Today, the devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel continues.

“For us, it is our Virgin, the one who takes care of and protects us, especially now with the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Gloria del Carmen Perdomo Aguilar, a believer and resident of Catemaco. “I always ask her for my family, and she has performed for me several miracles that were impossible, but nothing is impossible for her. I always pray her novena so that she never leaves us and continues to take care of us.”

Our Lady of Mount Carmel is among the most venerated Marian devotions in Mexican and Peruvian churches. She has many believers among indigenous peoples, who may have learned the devotion from their ancestors, as their beliefs integrated Christian elements centuries ago. Since then, Our Lady of Mount Carmel has received extensive samples of love and offerings of gold, silver, flowers, candles and traditional dishes on the day of her celebration, made official by the Vatican as July 16.

“She helped me heal from some burns I got in a severe accident,” said Luis Solano Torres, who lives in Catemaco, Veracruz. “My family entrusted me to her, and she looked after me. I am here as a token of my faith in her power to perform miracles. I didn’t have any sequelae despite having burned a complete side of my body. That is why I do not stop praying to her and being here on her birthday, every July 16.”

(Translated and edited by Gabriela Olmos. Edited by Melanie Slone and Carlin Becker.)