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Virgin of Cuyo
(At Mendoza, Argentine Republic).
Historians tell us that the statue of the Virgin of Cuyo, styled Nuestra Señora de Cuyo or Nuestra Señora del Carmen de Mendoza, was venerated from the times of the earliest Spanish settlers. Though it origin is uncertain, its antiquity admits of no doubt. According to V. Gambon this statue is probably the one which, together with the church in which it stood, was given to the Franciscans when the Jesuits were expelled (1767) from the country by Charles III. In 1864 the church was ruined by an earthquake, and in its place the Franciscans erected the new church where the statue is now venerated.
The celebrity of the shrine has resulted more from national gratitude for one great favour than for the countless miracles connected with it. José de San Martin (1778-1850), to whom more than to any other single person the South American republics owe their independence, had great devotion to Our Lady of Cuyo. After confronting Napoleon in Spain, San Martin returned to his native country at the outbreak of the War of Independence to organize the forces of his country. Well fitted to command, and possessing the full confidence of his countrymen, he soon gathered about him a little army, which he led to invariable success in battle, until his good fortune was checked by the Viceroy of Peru. Withdrawing to the Province of Cuyo (the territory which now includes the three Provinces of San Luis, San Juan, and Mendoza), San Martin soon strengthened his forces previous to his invasion of Chile. Before crossing the Andes he ordered the statue of Our Lady of Cuyo to be brought from the church and placed in a conspicuous position. As his troops passed in review before the statue, every man jubilantly proclaiming Our Lady as his especial patron in the campaign, San Martin, confident of victory, led his army across the Andes; the Spaniards gave way before him. The inhabitants of Chile flocked to his standard, and with colors flying followed their liberator into the capital, Santiago. The famous victories of Chacabuco, 12 Feb., 1817, and of Maypú, 5 Apr., 1818, followed. From the scene of his victories, San Martin sent his commander's staff, the insignia of his position, as a votive offering of thanksgiving to Our Lady; and to the superior of the Franciscans there he addressed the following letter under date of 12 Aug., 1812 [sic, i.e., 1818]:
The remarkable protection granted to the Army of the Andes by its Patron and General, Our Lady of Cuyo, cannot fail to be observed. I am obliged as a Christian to acknowledge the favour and to present to Our Lady, who is venerated in your Reverence's church, my staff of command which I hereby send: for it belongs to her and may it be a testimony of her protection to our Army.
Three years later San Martin, accompanied by Bernardo O'Higgins, marched into Peru, entered Lima, drove the resisting Spaniards into the interior, and declared Peru independent. San Martin died in France, but his body was brought back to the Argentine Republic and placed in a mausoleum in the cathedral at Buenos Aires. His love for Our Lady of Cuyo has made the statue famous throughout the country. At the suggestion of Leonardo M. Maldonado, O.S.F., the Argentinos asked the pope's permission to crown the statue. Pius X readily gave his consent, and, in accordance with the pontifical decree of 21 Dec., 1910, the solemn coronation took place 8 Sept., 1911. The ceremony was attended by the most eminent men of the country. The crown of gold is said to be worth more than $75,000.
MITRE, Historia de San Martin y de la emancipacion sud-americana (Buenos Aires, 1890), abbr. tr. by PILHING (London, 1893), xii; ESTRADA, Lecciones de historia argentina, II (Buenos Aires, 1898), 183; ESPEJO, Vida de San Martin: El paso de los Andes (Buenos Aires, 1882); OTERO, Maria y la Republica Argentina: Academia de la Plata (Buenos Aires, 1904); Cath. Reading Circ. Rev. (June, 1893); YANI, OTERO, and GAMBON in La Semana (Buenos Aires, Sept. 1911); CURRIER, Lands of the Southern Cross (Washington, 1912), 141-2.