Copacabana, Bolivia: Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana
Although many recognize Copacabana Beach in Brazil, especially after World Youth Day 2013, the Copacabana we are talking about here lies a thousand miles west of Rio de Janiero, Brazil, in the country of Bolivia. And, in fact, Copacabana Beach in Rio was named after the shrine in Bolivia.
About Our Lady of Copacabana (Patron Saint of Bolivia):
The story goes all the way back to the 16th Century, when the Spanish explorers began to build churches in the country. The town is set in a cove on lake Titicaca, and was at one time a center of Incan culture. With the advent of Christianity, churches were built in the town.
A young native Indian who had converted to Christianity decided to make a statue in honor of Our Lady. He was not a skilled artist and apparently did a rather poor job of it, so much so that he was mocked by all those who saw it. The local priest had it removed from the church.
Not to be deterred, he set off to visit various places in the country where such statues were being made in order to learn the craft. The statue he made as a result turned out to be a true work of art and showed the physical features of the native people in the area, with the Blessed Mother holding the Baby Jesus.
The people of the town immediately welcomed his labor of love, and the statue was placed in a church in 1583, thereby becoming one of the first shrines to Our Lady in the Americas.
The statue is about 4 feet tall and was encrusted with many jewels until, in 2013, thieves broke into the Basilica and stole many of the jewels from the statue. To date, they have not been recovered, but the statue itself remains as an object of reverence for the thousands of people who visit here.
About the Shrine of Copacabana:
A colorful event takes place here, the blessing of vehicles; cars, buses, trucks and just about any mode of transport.
The Shrine is open daily, with Masses scheduled on a regular basis. There is no official website for the Shrine.
Traveling to Copacabana:
The town itself is not very large, and you can easily cover it on foot. There is no airport here. You can get transport by bus from La Paz, Bolivia or from the city of Puno in Peru. Each takes about 3 1/2 hours.
Address: Av 6 de Agosto
GPS coordinates: 16° 9′ 58.1292” S, 69° 5′ 8.1168” W
There is a good selection of hotels here in Copacabana, ranging from hostels to quite luxurious.