Bernardo & the Virgin by Silvio Sirias

When I was contacted to review Silvio Sirias’s book Bernardo & the Virgin, I practically jumped for joy.  I loved Meet Me Under the Ceiba, his most recently published book and it is one of my most successful blog posts to this day.  We had some really great conversations going in those comments and today I hope we repeat that and again on Friday, when we do something exciting!

Bernard & the Virgin is a sweeping tale about the a real event that happened in the 80s, during the revolution in Nicaragua.  A devout man in the small town of Cuapa is visited by the Virgin Mary.  She asks him to lead his people by telling them to pray the rosary and continue to stay true to what they know from the church.  Reactions to the visions come from all over the country and the story of an unknown campesino becomes intertwined with the history of Nicaragua.

The novel is divided into short chapters that feature a different character and their experiences with la Virgen de Cuapa.  Each character is connected to Bernardo somehow and the intricacies of this small town were beautifull crafted.  Stories are told and retold through different perspectives and the story covers more than fifty years in the history of Nicaragua and Cuapa.  The history of the Virgin Mary and the Americas is very important.  It is well known that most Central and South American countries are very devout Catholics, but beyond that is la Virgen.  The Virgin Mary has a special place in latino culture; she is the connector between God and human, she is the link that speaks to God on behalf of humankind.  This is something that I understand.  I grew up Catholic and Methodist, though I’m now neither of these things and have no specific beliefs, and for the Catholic side of my family, it was very much about speaking to the Virgin Mary.  She was the one you prayed to when you needed something because she understood.  We said Hail Marys much more often than we ever said Our Fathers.

At the beginning of the book is the inscription, ” This work of fiction is based on actual events – in the eyes of many.”  For so many the apparitions of the virgin are real events and this book does a wonderful job of exploring all sorts of people, from those who believe unconditionally in the visions to those who question them.  I also loved the inscription in the painting on the front of the book, ” Dios encontrara una boca que te diga lo que necesitas oir.”  God will find a mouth to tell you what you need to hear.  That sums up so well what this novel is doing and how I feel about visions like this.  I don’t know if it is god in any sense as we understand the word, but the most important thing was that these people were touched and affected by what Bernardo saw.  Their lives were made better for it and that is what’s important.

I’m sure some people will be wondering if this is a Christian novel and I think that it could be read that way, but it is much more than that and shouldn’t be defined by that.  It is a story of the history of Nicaragua and how religion was intertwined in that history.  It is a story of a humble man and the people he becomes connected with.  I really cannot recommend this novel enough, it’s beautiful, well-written and a delight to read.

So go read this!:  now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR

Some exciting news!  I have an nontraditional giveaway for you today.  We have changepurses to giveaway.  They were made by Kuna artists in Panama, called Molas.  You learn more about them here.  All you have to do is ask Silvio a question in the comments and you will be entered in the giveaway.

Other exciting news!  Would you like to chat with Silvio Sirias about his book?  There will be a LIVE CHAT on Friday, June 11th from 7-8pm.  If you ask a question in the comments then I will forward them to Condor Book Tours so they can be asked during the live chat.  There will also be the opportunity to participate live.  I’m really excited about this so I hope you will consider stopping by!

Would you like to buy a copy of Bernardo & the Virgin?  Support indie book stores and buy here:

To Buy Visit Dulce Bread & Book Shop

Thanks to Condor Book Tours for sending me a copy of this book!  Here are the other stops on the tour: Latino Book Examiner, When I Was in ‘Nam, Sandra’s Book Club, Sententia Vera, The Tranquilo Traveler, Brown Girl Speaks, The Book Nook, Pisti-Totol Black Bird, La Bloga.


15 thoughts on “Bernardo & the Virgin by Silvio Sirias

  1. Great post, Lu! I also loved both of Silvio’s books-I think he did such a great job with pacing on both. I actually really want to see and experience Cuapa now!

    1. Hi, Nilki. It is a beautiful post, isn’t it? Thank you, Lu! I am thrilled that you liked BERNARDO AND THE VIRGIN as well as MEET ME UNDER THE CEIBA. I am also thrilled to be here today. I’m eager to discuss books and writing with your readers, it doesn’t matter if you haven’t read my work yet, folks. Love of good novels comes first.

  2. Let me start off by saying that I added this site to my favorites blog sites after the Meet Me Under the Ceiba blog tour made its stop here a few months back.

    Once again, I very much enjoy reading how the richness in the content and symbolism of Bernardo & the Virgin are made more and more evident with each site stop and how different lessons are drawn from it.

    The religious symbolism in the novel is somewhat tricky. As a Catholic, there’s nothing I would love more than to believe that the novel is only about how defining our faith and the apparitions of the Virgin Mary were back in the 1980s. But it’s much more than that. Our religious spirituality is such a paramount part of who we are but, as accurately stated in your post, it does not define us.

    I believe that Sirias was not intending to convince people one way or the other, as he was very careful in showing both sides of the story: the believers and non-believers. Paradoxically, Bernardo & the Virgin is by and large, the piece of literary work in Nicaraguan literature that fulfills the Virgin’s plea to Bernardo: it passes on her message of peace and prayer.

    1. Thank you, Sandra Mariela. I am moved to see how carefully you’ve read this novel. As you state, I was very careful not to try to impose any beliefs on the readers with regard to whether the Virgin appeared or not. That was something for each individual to decide, was the approach I took.

      And yet . . . in a very real sense, what you say is so true: in telling Bernardo’s story I have help to fulfill the plea she made to him–and I did this most unintentionally.

      Thanks for your visit.

    2. Sandra, Glad you keep visiting! I took a class on the Virgin of Guadalupe and it made so much more aware of how important the Virgin Mary in all her forms really is in Latino culture.

  3. Thank you for a wonderful post Lu.

    Silvio, I wonder how or what is your process of getting into the intellect and feeling-life of a character of the opposite gender? I was pleasantly surprised by the emotional detail and thought that is Teresita, written by a male author.

    1. Hi, Teresa,

      When I first started writing from a woman’s point of view, I did so with great trepidation. But then I told myself to be honest and to have great empathy for each character, regardless of gender. This approach has been successful, I believe. And it’s just a matter of always telling the truth according to the character.

      But what has also been of great help is that all three of my peer editors are women. They are the first persons to read the manuscript, and on the rare occasions when a woman character has not come across as authentic, I’ve found out about it almost immediately.

      Thus, honesty works.

      Thanks for such a thought-provoking question,


  4. Very interesting post! Lu’s remark about the importance of “la Virgen” in the latino culture made me realized that indeed we, latinos, tend to worship the Virgen more than any other religious figure. And we do it with an amazing devotion! I wonder Don Silvio, if there’s a link between this special love/admiration for the Virgen and the belief that latinos grow up in a matriarchal society (hence we are taught to respect, love and admire our mothers over all things)?


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