Virgen de Cotoca

Virgen de Cotoca, Marian holy cards collection,

ML. 031, circa 1675-2018. Marian Library, University of Dayton Libraries, Dayton, Ohio.




The patron saint for the Department of Santa Cruz, Bolivia is the Virgin de Cotoca. There is a shrine where her image located in the city of Cotoca, which is in Bolivia. This shrine is built in her honor and the Virgin of Cotoca is venerated in the Roman Catholic Church by thousands of Bolivians who ask the Virgin for her blessing. The origin of the image of the Virgin of Cotoca is still not clear, but there are multiple well-known legends. The first legend is about two men who are trying to cut down a tree. While these lumbermen were cutting the tree down an image of the Virgin appeared in the tree trunk. It is assumed that the City of Cotoca used to be a small agricultural community, so that is why the image of the Virgin is located there.

Another legend was written by Aquiles Gomez and involves runaway slaves. These slaves were wrongly accused, by their owners, of assassinating another sugar cane hacienda owner. So, they ran away to the jungle in order to escape their death. While the slaves were in the jungle, they were looking for firewood when they discovered an image of the Virgin Mary in the tree trunk. The runaway slaves were Christian and prayed to the Virgin that they would be able to prove their innocence to the crime they did not commit. They took the image from the trunk and brought it back to their owner in Cotoca to make them believe they did not assassinate the other owner. But, to the slaves’ surprise the actual murderer confessed the same day and the same hour that the slaves discovered the image in the tree stump.

These two legends, specifically the legend about the slaves, are believed to be the first miracle that came from the Virgin of Cotoca. So, in 1799 the Catholic Church in Bolivia began creating a shrine built in the Virgin of Cotoca’s honor. On December 15, 1800 the first mass was held and celebrated at the new shrine.

The statue of the Virgin of Cotoca is made from wood, which is polished, and carved perfectly in polychrome. The statue is wearing gold jewelry and a crown with gold jewels. The image has a white or blue mantle surrounded by gold. The statue holds a white scapular in her hands and there are a coat of arms of Bolivia and the Archdiocese of Santa Cruz.

The Sanctuary of the Virgin de Cotoca is also known as “Little Mother of Cotoca”. On December 8th, Catholics from all over travel by foot to Cotoca to visit the Shrine of the Virgin of Cotoca. This celebration ends on December 15th, so it lasts a total of eight days. The Virgin of Cotoca is capable of delivering miracles. This is why hundreds and thousands of people walk from Santa Cruz to Cotoca. They walk the seventeen miles because they are hoping the Virgin of Cotoca will be able to grant them their prayers for the efforts they brought to her. The people who pilgrimage to the church in Cotoca usually crawl on their hands and knees all through the day and night until they arrive at the church. When they reach the church they light candles and pray. If the travelers do not have the patience to crawl on their hands and knees they buy a new car then drive the car to the sanctuary of Cotoca on Sundays so they can be blessed by the priests.

“Mary in our life” by Nicholas J. Santoro. Atlas of the names and titles of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and their place in Marian devotion. From the University of Dayton Marian Library.


Researched by Abigail A. Schaefer

Popular Devotions

MI031 Marian Holy Card Collection

• There is a Shrine built in her honor in the City of Cotoca in Santa Cruz, Bolivia and is cared for by the Dominican priests. Bolivians who travel to the Shrine travel on foot from the City of Santa Cruz.

• There is a feast day dedicated to the Virgin of Cotoca, but is celebrated over 8 days. It begins December 8th, the feast of the Immaculate Conception and ends December 15th. Devoted Bolivians travel to the Shrine in Cotoca.

Citation: “Mary in our life” by Nicholas J. Santoro. Atlas of the names and titles of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and their place in Marian devotion. From the University of Dayton Marian Library.


Hail Mary

Dios te salve, María. Llena eres de gracia: El Señor es contigo.

Bendita tú eres entre todas las mujeres.

Y bendito es el fruto de tu vientre: Jesús.

Santa María, Madre de Dios, ruega por nosotros pecadores,

ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte.


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University of Dayton.