Q COSTA RICA – Every August 1 and 2, around 2.5 million faithful from all over the country descend on the Basilica de los Ángeles, in Cartago, in the traditional Romería de la Virgen de los Ángeles – religious pilgrimage -, an activity that after the Coronavirus pandemic was resumed last year under a series of security protocols, which authorities continue to recommend for this year.
Given the rise of infectious and viral diseases such as hepatitis A, influenza, rhinovirus and Covid-19 itself, experts in different areas of human well-being offer a series of practical advice so that the faithful can carry out their walk.
“It is essential to refrain from consuming food and beverages whose preparation is unknown and avoid bringing minors, especially if they have been exposed to recent viruses and flu,” advises Dr. Catalina Saint-Hilaire Arce, spokesperson for the Colegio de Médicos y Cirujanos (College of Physicians and Surgeons).
Likewise, it is important that the person plan the route of the pilgrimage according to their physical and health capabilities, taking into consideration their limits and make the best decision regarding the starting place, especially if they are not used to constant activity, according to Mauricio Matamoros, an expert in Physical Therapy.
In addition, it is advisable to make as few stops as possible and keep moving to avoid cooling the body. If a break is warranted, take the opportunity to stretch the back and legs.
Hydration plays a crucial role, so it is recommended to drink enough water before, during and after the pilgrimage, as well as drinks that provide electrolytes to maintain the proper functioning of nerves and muscles.
“Regarding food as such, it is essential to take care of a correct intake of carbohydrates such as breads, jams or fruit juices, which are what provide energy and allow adequate reserves of muscle glycogen, while avoiding proteins high in fat”, says Dr. Josabeth Azofeifa, from the Colegio de Profesionales en Nutrició (College of Nutrition Professionals).
In case of injury or discomfort during the pilgrimage, it is essential to listen to the body and analyze the possibility of not continuing, while at any sign of health complication, it is imperative to go to the Red Cross assistance posts to receive the necessary attention.
“If you feel tired, do not force your body, stop and wait until you fully recover. Go to the assistance posts in case of any setback to be assessed and transferred to a medical center in case attention is required”, recommends Dr. Marco Vinicio Boza, specialist in internal medicine from the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS).
Communicate to a trusted person the point and time of departure, as well as routes and share the location in real-time through WhatsApp, for example, for which it is important to carry electronic devices with maximum charge or a ‘power bank’, according to Dr. Carlos Siri, Dean of the Faculty of Health of the Universidad Latina.
Finally, carrying a light carrying case that contains primarily essential items such as identification documents, water, quickly absorbed food, sunscreen, an umbrella, a coat, and some band-aids is important to avoid carrying unnecessary weight during the walk and to be prepared for unforeseen events.
The 10 commandments for a safe pilgrimage
- Plan the route according to physical abilities.
- Bring medicines and notes with conditions.
- Use a light and essential carrying case.
- Hydrate before, during and after the pilgrimage.
- Choose appropriate clothing for the weather and the estimated time of the journey.
- Listen to the body and do not force in case of injury.
- Make as few stops as possible and keep moving.
- Prepare physically in advance and make an adequate recovery afterward.
- Avoid new shoes, wear suitable and comfortable shoes.
- Seek medical assistance in case of health complications during the pilgrimage.
Every year, people come from all over the country to join in the Romería to Cartago in honor of Costa Rica’s patron saint, the Virgin de Los Angeles.