This September 8 marks 401 years since the mystical appearance of the image of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, patroness of Cuba. Her arrival in this land forever transformed the idiosyncrasies of those born into it, and today, four centuries later; those who revere her maintain a faith that transcends the logic of reason.
The chronicles state that “it happened in the early seventeenth century […] In a small canoe, three workers looking for salt […] plied the waters of the eastern and northern Bay of Nipe. […] When they saw floating between the soft foam of the waves, a small whitish lump that they seemed to be a bird, the day began to dawn and they paddled out to meet it. ”
“Her clothes were dry despite surfing on a weak tablet, in which some big letters saying I AM THE VIRGIN OF CHARITY”.
Since then she is revered by Catholics and those adored by uprooted from Africa and their descendants, who see her as Oshun, goddess of love and money, owner of freshwaters.
Cachita, as it is popularly known, has been glorified to embody the sacred values of a nation that was forged in the contrast between the salt of sweat and the sugar of cane, the blood of its martyrs and hope for a bright future for their children.
After discovery, the Virgin was taken to Hato Barajagua, and three years later, out of concern for the continuing disappearance of the image, it would be carried to the town Real de Minas, now known as El Cobre in the Santiago del Prado mines, just 19 kilometers from the town of Santiago de Cuba.
Alive by one of the largest open copper veins of America, the new headquarters is the definitive, according to tradition, by the choosing of the Virgin herself.
At the edge of the mine, the miners built the first sanctuary, in the same place where today is the church that contains the image of who since then is the repository of the prayers of millions of Cubans.
There have been several changes the building has undergone till becoming the current Shrine and Basilica of Our Lady of Charity, some due to natural phenomena such as the earthquake in 1852, and others for constructive improvements.
The image of Our Lady of Charity is linked to national history, she protected the miners in their repeated rebellions and became Mambisa when protected her kids on the battlefield during the effort of building a free and sovereign homeland from the yoke of Spanish colonialism.
It is no coincidence that in 1915 the Veterans of the War of Independence wrote to His Holiness Pope Benedict XV asking him to proclaim her Patroness of Cuba.
The request was answered in years of the pontificate of Pius XI with the canonical coronation of the Virgin in 1936 by Monsignor Valentin Zubizarreta, then bishop of Santiago de Cuba.
Pray to the Virgin is the goal of the thousands of people who attend each year El Cobre, the act of faith that everyone pray for his family and for all and deliver their offerings in the Chapel of Miracles, is held as unquestionable argument of its importance for the Cubans.
In search of spiritual solace and solution to various problems, from every corner of Cuba arrive people to invoke Her grace by prayers for health, personal success or the pursuit of a better future.
By way of thanks remain there jewelry, epaulets, Olympic medals, baby clothes and other common objects involving devotion and belief in the miraculous nature of the venerated image.
The belief in the divinity of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre has stood the test of time, for four centuries is the repository of the hopes and dreams of those who see in her the possibility of a prosperous future.
That faith makes her in monument to resistance of an idiosyncrasy that can overcome colonial powers, neocolonial imperial, Protestant religions, dialectical-materialist ideologies, external and internal locks and stand as the owner of a piece of the best and purest of each of us.