Of these visitors, an estimated 32,000 pilgrims are expected to travel from various parts of the country, with the purpose of arriving on October 21 to participate in the religious activities that thank the Black Christ for favors granted and miracles bestowed.
Some tourists will come by bus or private vehicle to attend the event. All of these visitors will crowd together while awaiting the appearance of the miraculous saint to begin the procession.
José Ortega, priest of the church of San Felipe de Portobelo, reiterated to the devotees of the Black Christ "that God is love and not suffering," upon watching how year after year many pilgrims insist upon their own suffering, like walking on their knees, crawling, dripping candle wax down their back and other actions, "because God does not want that."
Carlos Chavarría, mayor of Portobelo, reported that everything is being coordinated with the security forces to ensure that the place will be under surveillance.
He said that 60 permits have been issued for vendors selling food stalls, religious items and other articles.
He emphasized that the majority of those who come to this event are outsiders, but that the locals also set up sales in their own homes to obtain some income.
For this district's leader, the celebration generates more expenses than income. An investment of $17,000 dollars is needed for room and board for the security agents involved in the operation, as well as to clean up the town once the celebration ends. To help cover these cleaning costs, a fee of $2.00 will be charged to each private vehicle that enters the town; the rate for mass transportation vehicles has not yet been defined.
Starting on Thursday, security forces will be dispatched along the Pan American Highway from Colón to Portobelo, which will help to minimize traffic accidents, capture wanted criminals and provide security for the thousands of devotees who come to the religious celebration.
Deputy Commissioner Juan Cerezo, chief of the Colón Zone Police Department, reported that more than 300 units are in operation this year.
The National System of Civil Protection (Sinaproc) will send 50 members, both staff and volunteers, to 4 places in the district, along with the Red Cross, whose paramedics will be located at checkpoints, to watch over the safety of pilgrims and provide first aid services.