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AP PHOTOS: Nicaraguans celebrate saint at sea

Wednesday - 7/17/2013, 7:36pm  ET

People carry a statue of the Virgin of Carmen during a procession at the dock of San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, Tuesday, July 16, 2013. Nicaragua's fishing community celebrate the feast day of the Virgin Carmen who is worshipped by Catholics as the patron saint of fishermen and sailors. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

Associated Press

SAN JUAN DEL SUR, Nicaragua (AP) -- Nicaraguan fishermen and sailors who call on Our Lady of Carmen to protect them at sea pay homage to the saint on her feast day, trailing her statue around the bay of San Juan del Sur in their humble fishing boats and luxury yachts.

This year, more than 30 boats surrounded the shipping vessel "Kalamar I" Tuesday night as it carried the image of the Virgin Mary on a floating one-hour procession.

"Who is more pure than you? Only God," more than 400 pilgrims sang from their boats. Some tossed mementos symbolizing a promise or thanks for an answered prayer.

The community's dock was overrun with fishermen, sailors, townsfolk, a few tourists and the necessary musical groups known as "chicheras," whose musicians imbibed the corn liquor known as chicha while playing songs in the Virgin's honor.

Vice Mayor Randal Granja said the annual celebration is San Juan del Sur's top economic activity, followed by fishing.

Housewife Reycarol Juarez said the floating procession has been held for 48 years.

"Ten years ago," Juarez said, "the Virgin fell into the sea due to the excitement of the people, followed by some 30 people who went to rescue her. She floated, and only her crown sank, but that was rescued by some divers."

Here's a gallery of images from AP photographer Esteban Felix.

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