Calasparra is a small town in the northwest mountainous area of the province of Murcia and has a population of about 9,700. The Segura River flows near it and a limited amount of rice is grown there, since the 14th century. This rice is famous and is used for paella. What makes the town famous is that there is a sanctuary carved out of the rock that contains a small image in wood of the Virgin Mary, who is known as "La Pequeñica", because of her small size. The site is one of the most popular Marian centers of pilgrimage in Spain.
The legend is that around 1786, a shepherd tending his flock found a small cave in the rocks, when he sought refuge from the elements. He found the small statue of the Virgin and told the ecclesiastical authorities in the town about his find. These authorities wanted to move the statue to a more appropriate site, to one of the churches in the town. When they tried to lift the statue to take it away, they found that the statue weighed very much and no amount of force could take it out of the cave. The authorities then decided that the Virgin wanted to stay in the cave. So they built a bigger cave in the rock in the form of a chapel and that is where the Virgen de la Esperanza is now found. The facade follows the Baroque style and there are beautiful gardens around the site, leading down steps to the River Segura. The image of the Virgin is said to have caused many miracles since its discovery. It is a beautiful place to visit and the setting is very peaceful.