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Día de la Altagracia or “Day of Our Lady of Altagracia” is a feast day and annual public holiday celebrated on January 21. This holiday is based around a portrait that is kept in the “The Basilica of Our Lady of Altagracia” in the city of Salvaleón of Higuey or just Higuey which is located near Punta Cana in the DR.
Thousands of devotees make the trek to Higuey to visit the idol making offerings and to ask favors using the portrait for their worship. This celebration is now a blend of African religions and Catholicism. Dominicans recite prayers, play African influenced music, sing hymns and dance. Tens of thousands people make the pilgrimage to visit the “The Basilica of Our Lady of Altagracia” where the painting is displayed.
While this is considered a holy day for many in the Dominican Republic this can also be a more dangerous place for tourists to visit during this time. Higuey is known to have a high proportion of beggars and petty thieves and this number increases during this major holiday, many using this time to prey on visitors and especially foreigners who are often carrying money and other items to use as offerings.
Most foreigners visiting Higuey, especially during this celebration choose one of the excursion companies that start from Punta Cana. Made in groups this trip can be relatively safe. If you are not among the ones making this trip as a pilgrimage and you want to visit Higuey, you might want to consider going there at a different time of year.