Local January 21, 2011 | 8:31 am

Revered Virgin, Founding Father give Dominicans the longest weekend ever

Higuey, Dominican Republic.- Thousands of Catholics have been gathering in Higüey’s Basilica since early Thursday for the religious activities in honor of the Virgin de La Altagracia.

Dominicans also revere their nation’s founding father, Juan Pablo Duarte, on Wednesday, January 26, but the transfer of the day off to Monday makes it a 4-day weekend, the longest ever.

The Public Health authorities imposed strict sanitary measures to avert cholera contagion, given the hundreds of Haitians who take part in the yearly pilgrimage.

President Leonel Fernandez will attend today’s mass at 10 a.m. officiated by Santiago archbishop Benito de la Rosa Carpio, accompanied by Higüey bishop Nicanor Peña .

Since Thursday thousands of Catholics form long lines to enter the Basilica in reverence to La Altagracia, declared the country’s Patron Saint in 1922.

Though the authorities seek to impose the sanitary controls, mostly to prevent the spread of cholera in the country, and include a ban on swimming in the nearby Sanate river, many of the pilgrims violate them.

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