The Virgin of la Caridad del Cobre, Spiritual Queen of All Catholic Cuban Believers.
According to Wikipedia, the Virgin of La Caridad del Cobre is the Patroness Saint of Cuba, as disposed by His Holyness, Pope Benedicto XV in 1916, upon a petition by a group of soldiers of the Cuban Wars of Inpendence against Spain (better known in Cuba as los mambises), who have sent a letter to the Pope with their petition.
Cuban Catholic legend indicates, that around the year 1612 two indigenous brothers — Juan and Rodrigo Hoyos — in the company of a boy, a black African slave named Juan Moreno, were in a small rowing boat in direction to the Nipe Bay, to look for salt for the Bajaragua slaughterhouse where all of them worked, and which supplied the meat needs for alimentation of the inhabitants of the town of Santiago del Prado, town later known as El Cobre.
At sea, the small boat with the three youngsters was caught by surprise by a terrible storm, which strongly rocked their small vessel. Snuggled at the bottom of the boat and fearing their imminent death, the three youngsters started to pray fervently to a small medal of Virgin Mary, which Juan, the little African slave, always carried with him, asking the Virgin to stop the storm and save their lives.
In a little time after, miraculously, the black clouds disappeared, and the storm subsided.
They were all celebrating the end of the storm, when their attention was called by a small bundle they saw floating nearby. Getting close to it, they realized that it was a carving of Virgen Mary, floating over a wood table, which had written in large letters: “I am the Virgin of Charity”.
Overjoyed by their discovery, the youngsters returned rapidly to Bajaragua, and upon their arrival, they showed the carving of the Virgin and related all the details of their finding, to don Francisco Sanchez Moya, Director of the slaughterhouse, who ordered the construction of a small chapel to accommodate the Virgin.
After a while, Rodrigo went to the newly constructed chapel to see the Virgin, but was very surprised she was not at the rustic altar they had built for her.
Alarmed by the Virgin’s disappearance, Rodrigo organized a search party by the surroundings, to no avail.
However, the following day, at dawn, the carving of the Virgin was — intact — at Her altar in the chapel.
The process repeated itself up to three times, even though the chapel remained lockdown at night.
People at Bajaragua then concluded that the Virgin was not happy at the chapel and decided to move it to the church of the neighboring town of El Cobre.
People at El Cobre were overjoyed by the news of the transfer, and ever since, that Virgin would be known as Virgin of La Caridad del Cobre.
Upon the arrival of the Virgin, the bells of the church of El Cobre rang, and the locals turned to the streets to render homage to the Virgin.
But to the dismay of the local patrons, the disappearances of the Virgin continued, day after day.
Until one girl named Jaaba was playing and cutting flowers in Sierra Maestra, when on top of a small hill, she came across the lost carving of the Virgin.
Though some people did not believe in the version given by the girl, a church was built exactly on that place (the location selected by the Virgin Herself).
That first sanctuary collapsed in 1906, as it was too close to the constant explosions and to the galleries of the mine.
A new site — farther from the original — was selected, and a second sanctuary was rapidly built (precursor to the present basilica).
The National Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Caridad del Cobre, is one of the religious sites more visited by the Cuban Catholic believers.
Every year, thousands of Cubans visit the Virgen looking for solutions to their daily problems, praying and depositing their petitions at the carving’s feet.
The National Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Caridad del Cobre was designated as a ‘minor basilica’ by a papal bull issued by pope Paulo VI, in 1977.
Peregrines and visiting believers of the Virgin at Her Sanctuary, use to gather up a small rock from the mine with traces of cooper on it, as a memento of their trip, and also to carry it in their pockets or bags, or to keep it in a glass of water at home, for protection or as a guide of light for the future.
Minor Basilica of Our Lady of the Caridad del Cobre
In Cuba. Photo: Wikipedia
Typical image of the Virgin (La Caridad del Cobre)
present in most Catholic homes in Cuba.