The Charity of Copper: Patroness of Cuba
By Rose Ross
La Caridad del Cobre is one of the invocations of the Virgin Mary, recognized as the Patroness of Cuba after the appointment made by Pope Benedict XV in 1916, and later reaffirmed by Pope John Paul II on his visit to the island in 1998.
Likewise, the Virgin is identified with Oshun in the Rule of Osha, due to the process of religious syncretism in Cuba. Its history dates back to the beginning of the seventeenth century, whose figure appeared before three young people who were sailing in the Nipe Bay, located in the eastern province of Holguín. The three Juanes, as those who saw her for the first time were called, have become part, together with the Virgin, of her image in popular practices.
About 20 kilometers west of the city of Santiago de Cuba, is the National Shrine of the Virgen of Copper, dedicated to her veneration. The church houses a sculptural representation made in gold, before which Cubans, and foreigners, offer the deep devotion felt for her.
Every September 8, faithful from all over Cuba and the world travel to that place to pay their respects, entertain her, accompany her and ask for her blessings.
Among the offerings of love left there by the believers of the Patron Saint, visitors can see a medal of the Nobel Prize for Literature, the North American writer Ernest Hemingway, who left it there in gratitude, as well as medals won by Cuban athletes.
It is common to see her devotees light a candle for her and deliver the most dissimilar offerings as compensation for their works in La Capilla de los Milagros, located below the Virgin.
Most of those who visit the sanctuary, buy souvenirs of their passage through the place, whether they are small sculptures in wood and glass, a yellow candle, a sunflower or tiny copper stones - from the neighboring mine -, blessed by the priest of the church.