Santa Rosa – the patron Saint of Peru and the New World (The Americas and the Philippines), and also of the Indigenous natives of Latin America – was born in April 1586 in Lima. Celebrations in her memory take place around the world on August 23rd, while in Peru and other Latin American countries there is a National Holiday on August 30th in her honour. Parades take place with many people in Lima dropping a letter of goodwill into the well that was made famous by Santa Rosa.
While her given name was ‘Isabel’, she was nicknamed ‘Rosa’ from a young age. Legend has it that her face changed into a rose, such was her beauty. Most people would agree that Santa Rosa showed an unparalleled devotion to God from a young age. Between 1597 and 1598 she was confirmed by Lima’s Archbishop Toribio de Mongrovejo, where she formally took the name, Rosa.
Rosa was so beautiful that her parents thought she would marry well and support her family. In actual fact, Rosa did the opposite and refused to marry, deciding to devote her life to religion following Santa Catalina de Siena’s example. Rosa cut her hair short, undertook hard labour and other activities in an attempt to take the focus away from her beauty and not distract from God. Throughout her life Rosa regularly fasted, refusing to eat for days at a time with a strict vegetarian diet when she did eat.
As a teenager Rosa tried to join the Santa Clara monastery, but was disallowed because she could not pay the dowry required. This did not deter her from devoting her life to God instead, she continued on her own, filling her days with prayer, hard work and charity work, caring for the homeless, children, the sick and the poor in her community. Rosa’s religious ambitions had grown fervently and it was just a few years after trying to join the monastery that the Dominican Order noted her devotion and hard work and allowed her entry to the prestigious Third Order without payment. She continued with her extreme religious practices, surviving on bread and water occasionally adding fresh herbs from her garden and natural juices. Before her untimely death at just 31 years of age took place on the 24th August 1617.
Approximately 50 years after her death, Santa Rosa was beatified by Pope Clement IX and four years later she was canonised as the first Saint in the New World by Pope Clement X. It is due to her selflessness and devotion to God that she is still celebrated today in Peru and other Latin American countries.
Throughout the Summer (Winter in Peru) there are many other celebrations that take place in Peru, such as Pachamama, Inti Raymi and Fiestas Patrias, to find out more about festivals in Peru please visit our blog.