In September 1717, 105 miles from Sao Paulo, 3 men - Domingos Martins, Felipe Pedroso and Joao Alves - were sent to fish with their simple canoes in the river near Paraiba. They worked for several hours without catching anything. So they decided to pray, and then returned to try again. Joao's net didn't catch any fish, but instead brought back a small statue of the Virgin. And right after this, all three nets came back filled with fish. The people called the statue "Aparecida," because she had appeared in the water.
Felipe Pedroso, took the statue home and his family built a small oratory for the Virgin with a wooden altar. On Saturdays, neighbors and friends would come to recite the Rosary. In 1734 a chapel at the top of the hill of the Coqueros was constructed, from which sprung the city of Aparecida.
The statue is made of terra-cotta and is only 1 foot 3 inches high. The cinnamon or dark brown coloration is due to the smoke of the candles and lamps of the devotees. This color has made Our Lady of Aparecida a symbol near and dear, in a country with great racial and cultural diversity. In 1904 the statue was given a crown and the blue mantle. The image of Our Lady of Aparecida has become a national symbol present in the homes and hearts of Brazilians.
The shrine, a reference point for the Church in Brazil, receives 8 million pilgrims each year, more than 230,000 on the date of October 12, Feast of Our Lady of Aparecida. The devotees who come to Aparecida bring with them many anxieties and hopes, requests and promises: hopes for cures, employment, better living conditions, and desires for peace. They advance on their knees, with flowers in their hands, praying the Rosary. The pilgrims of Our Lady of Aparecida, with their sincere spirit and faith, have the power of the humble. Rich or poor, educated or illiterate, they represent the whole spectrum of Brazilian social and cultural diversity.