The Virgin of Charity of El Cobre: ​​History, devotion and worship of the patron saint of Cuba

Virgin of Charity of Copper

Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, also known as the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, or Charity of El Cobre, is one of the invocations of the Virgin Mary. Her greatest popularity is based in Cuba, a country where she was declared her patron saint. Appointment that was granted by Pope Benedict XV in 1916.

History of the apparition of the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre

The recorded history in this regard tells that it is estimated that the image of the Virgin would appear in April of the year 1612, in the Bay of Nipe, the largest in Cuba, located on the north coast of the eastern region of the island.

History of the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre

The chronicles that tell what happened say that it was sighted by three slaves: a 10-year-old black boy known as Juan Moreno, and two brothers of pure Indian blood, known as Juan and Rodrigo de Hoyos, who worked as slaves in the mines of copper from the region.

This trio would be baptized in Cuban history as "the three Juanes." In a narration obtained from them, which is preserved in the Archive of the Indies in Seville, under ecclesiastical oath 65 years after the event, the slave Juan Moreno, recounted how the events occurred, recounting them as follows:

«He had gone out with the other young people in search of salt, in the sea they saw the image of the Virgin with the baby Jesus in her arms, which today is the object of veneration by the Cubans, which was approaching floating on a table, where the legend could be read. phrase "I am the Virgin of Charity".

Consequently, an initial sanctuary was built in his honor that was built improvised, using guano leaves and boards. After multiple unusual events that occurred with respect to her image, it was taken to what would be her final sanctuary, a short distance from there, on the top of a hill near the copper mines.

Later, and due to the faith that he inspired in a large number of locals, the king commissioned the building of a small church in the name of the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, so that soldiers and miners could attend that place, entrust themselves and make your prayers to the venerated image of the Virgin of Charity. From there, her cult would grow throughout the country in such a way, until it was declared the patron saint of the entire Cuban territory.

How do you make a request to the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre?

Copper Charity

At first, it is necessary to consider that the most important thing when making a request to the Virgin is that the faith with which the prayer is made must be greater than the request itself. Second, the request must be made with great respect. Considering these basic premises, it is possible to make a plea to the Caridad del Cobre, with a high probability of being heard, and our prayers answered through the help needed.

What is asked of the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre?

The devotees of this Marian dedication usually ask for her blessing and help with practically any need they are presenting, because it is well known that the Virgin is usually quite merciful and miraculous. However, mostly, her followers request her intervention to solve situations such as:

  • The protection of pregnant women or help for those who wish to become pregnant, as well as the protection of the child they carry in their womb during their pregnancy and at the time of delivery.
  • When going through financial difficulties, to help us get blessings of employment, money and prosperity.
  • To protect our loving and family unions.
  • When you want to recover your health, or improve a condition.
  • To strengthen faith and get forgiveness of our faults from the Lord.

What is offered to the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre?

The followers of this virgin usually honor her with all kinds of entertainment, among them flowers abound, especially sunflowers, yellow or gold candles or candles, and all kinds of attentions that are related to the promises offered in her name or with the favors granted.

In general, these attentions are usually taken on many occasions to the Basilica itself where the Virgin is located and where her devotees frequently come to pay tribute and adoration. The number of offerings that are given to the Virgin are so varied that we can find gifts of various kinds, among them is the medal of the Nobel Prize in Literature Ernest Hemingway.

Worship of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre

Our Lady of Charity of Copper

The devotion to the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, also affectionately called "Cachita" by her Cuban devotees, enjoys great popularity and acceptance by the Catholic parishioner, as well as by practitioners of other Afro-descendant religious cultures, such as the rule of Osha or Santeria, the Palo Monte Mayombe, among others.

Devotion to the Virgin of Charity is a truly special phenomenon within the Caribbean island, because more than a belief it has become a national feeling that unites the Cuban people. This belief has been forged in the population thanks to the fusion of beliefs resulting from miscegenation, since, in the history of the Virgin, the cultures belonging to the indigenous, the Afro-descendant and the European colonizer intervene in one way or another.

This mixture being the basis of his worship, beyond the influence of the Catholic Church as such. Let us remember that, during a period of approximately fifty years, when Cuba maintained a close relationship with Eastern European nations and the Soviet Union, certain policies were activated that limited the Catholic Church, whose development in the region was severely controlled.

In fact, between 1960 and 1980, approximately, the public practice of the Catholic religion was heavily censored. People who openly expressed their faith were marginalized and in some cases could even cause them to be expelled from work or student centers. Consequently, religious processions were prohibited and the churches were empty.

The political position was so extreme in this regard that the Cuban Constitution of 1976 defined the state as "atheist", however, in 1992 this was modified and declared a secular state. From that moment on, the practitioners of the Catholic religion were admitted into the Communist Party and the churches began to fill with parishioners.

Now, all this political environment did not prevent "popular religiosity" from prospering, regardless of whether they were evangelized or not, the fervor towards the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre is, if you will, "natural" within the beliefs of Cubans . Consequently, we can see how, unlike other countries, in Cuba the Virgin is worshiped massively, and her devotion unites all its citizens.

Position of the Catholic Church

The recognition of the Marian invocation of the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre is total and evident. This is demonstrated by the simple fact of being recognized as the patron saint of Cuba, whose appointment was promulgated by Pope Benedict XV more than a century ago, in the year 1916.

Later, on December 30, 1936, the image of the Virgin was canonically crowned by Pope Pius XI. This honor being ratified by Pope John Paul II in 1998, when he crowned the Virgin and patron saint of Cuba with great dignity.

The renowned image of Mary rests in the Basilica of the National Sanctuary of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre in Santiago de Cuba.

Copper Charity Day

Its day of celebration, entertainment, celebration and veneration is commemorated on September 8 of each year. This same date coincides both in Cuba and in Venezuela or other countries where this Black Madonna is also venerated. They pay her cults and tributes in which parties, dances are held, and many flowers such as sunflowers, roses and sweets are offered to her. In some places, her devotees dress in yellow or honey in honor of the colors used by the image of this Marian dedication.

Image of the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre

The image of Mary that was found by the three Juanes floating in the sea had an inscription that said: "I am the Virgin of Charity." That delicate figure held the baby Jesus on her right arm and carried a golden cross in her left hand.

Image of the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre

Going deeper into his features, his face was made of baked clay, and covered with a fine polished layer of white powder, which was probably made with rice paste, to finally paint his skin brown. It is estimated that originally, her complexion would have a more Indian reddish color, but during her last restoration it was decided to keep the brown mestizo tonality to which her devotees are accustomed.

Her features are quite handsome, her nose well shaped, her proportions perfectly balanced and harmonious. Her eyes are large, expressive and compassionate. His entire expression conveys a sweetness that describes his nobility and inspires faith and prayer.

Your image measures 16 inches, approximately. It rests on a brilliant crescent, which has tips sloping downwards, framing a silver cloud in which two cherubs with golden wings can be seen.

The Child Jesus, for his part, is shown raising one of his hands as a sign of blessing. In his other hand he holds a terrestrial sphere made of gold and topped with stones. His body is covered by a heavy cloak, with a triangular shape.

The genuine clothing of the Virgin was white, however, currently she has beautiful costumes made with fine gold or silver fabrics, which have been given by many of her devotees in gratitude for favors received. Some of these outfits even carry the colors of the Cuban flag: white, blue and red. The suit that she is currently wearing is a replica of an old dress, whose clothing is made from a thick lamé embroidered with gold threads, and on her skirt she carries the national coat of arms of the Cuban Republic.

This image rests in the Basilica of the National Sanctuary of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre in Santiago de Cuba. There parishioners and visitors can observe it from all angles of the temple. Her altar is made of marble and solid silver, and carefully decorated with various objects of great value.

What is the color of the Virgin of Charity?

The Virgin Caridad del Cobre is related to the color gold and yellow. Therefore, her devotees use veladoras (candles), flowers, fabrics and all kinds of attentions of that color. From the beginning, the yellow color is related to the rays of the Sun, consequently, its meaning is linked to light, heat, and the vital energy transmitted by the star. For its part, Christianity also uses this color to represent Jesus Christ, because it is considered the "Light of the World". Therefore, it is not strange that it can be related to the Virgin Mary, for being her mother.

Syncretism: Who is the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre in Santeria?

Who is the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre in Santeria?

Obviously, in Catholicism this Marian dedication will always be known as the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre. However, within the rule of Osha or Santeria, a Cuban practice derived from the Yoruba or Lucumí religion, believers or practitioners identify it as one of their deities from the Yoruba pantheon known as Oshún, goddess of love, sweet waters and precious metals such as gold and copper.

the deity Oshun It has outstanding virtues inclined towards charity and mercy, in addition to coinciding with the Virgen de Caridad del Cobre with the special protection they offer to pregnant women. These, among other reasons, were the ones that inspired the syncretism of both figures.

To this end, it is common to find people who, when referring to this African goddess, use the name of Caridad del Cobre, as if it were the same spirituality. All this is the product of the fusion of beliefs caused by the colonization of the New World and the slave trade brought from Nigeria at that time. It is necessary to clarify that not all believers in the Yoruba culture or Catholicism share this idea, which many do. In fact, Catholics reject this mixture or syncretism.  

The pilgrimage of the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre in Cuba

The pilgrimage of the Image of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre on the island of Cuba is usually an event of great importance for Cubans in general, starting in 1959, the year in which its first mobilization occurred. However, the commemoration of the year 2012 was a celebration with greater allegory because it would celebrate the 400th anniversary of the discovery of her image in its territorial waters.

This religious festivity had a great impact on the date for several reasons; In addition, from the commemoration of the four centuries since its appearance, the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba (COCC) declared the year 2012 as the Marian Jubilee Year, which gave rise to a year of celebration for the entire Catholic Church in Cuba.

The festivity would begin then, with a pilgrimage as a preamble counting on a tour of the entire country of the image of the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre. The image that was used for this mobilization was the one known as "La Mambisa" whose custody corresponds to the Parish of Santo Tomás in the Archdiocese of Santiago de Cuba.

The transfer of the image was carried out in a vehicle equipped for this purpose, traveling 29,978 kilometers throughout the entire national archipelago for months, taking the opportunity to visit towns, hamlets, cities, schools, hospitals, military units, prisons, homes maternity hospitals, chapels, convents, among others; to finally reach the Archdiocese of Havana, from where he continued his journey, crossing the Bay of Havana. Until on December 30, 2011, with a solemn and massive celebration on Avenida del Puerto, his pilgrimage ended with a celebratory liturgy led by Cardinal Ortega and Monsignor Dionisio García.

Miraculous prayer to the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre

Miraculous prayer to the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre

«Beloved Virgin of Charity of El Cobre, you who take care of us at all times, because you are the Mother of all the children of God on this Earth. Before you I present myself with my requests full of humility and deep concern.

Oh Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre! In your name I raise my prayers, invoking you with immense devotion, with the hope that your mercy will manifest itself at this moment in which I am going through this great difficulty, counting on your valuable intercession before Our Lord to resolve my greatest concern (make a request).

I implore you, my mother, that you have the kindness to act on my request. Meanwhile, I will remain alert to your response, behaving in accordance with the commands of Almighty God, doing good to others, because, with the resolution of my cause, I do not wish to harm anyone.

Oh Mary full of grace! I beg you not to stop interceding with the Creator Father on my behalf, since, attached to your protection and comfort, I patiently wait for you to pour out on me the virtues of your wisdom, stimulating my discernment to act according to good. Virgin of Charity, you are my guide and my love.

Oh glorious Mother of God! You who were chosen to carry the Son of God in your womb. You who suffered the pains of childbirth. You who suffered the pains of Christ's passion. Before your love, sacrifice and devotion I bow with all sincerity, but also full of despair imploring your assistance in this difficult moment for me. Mother, I ask you to grant me your valuable intercession so that (make a request).

Mother of Charity, you who contemplated the great power of the miraculous hand of the Lord when in your womb you gave place to his grace and the miracle of life, you know then, how powerful his will is, and that for him no there are impossible Therefore, I beg you to take this humble request to his heavenly throne, so that it may be granted to me quickly.

You already know my request Holy Virgin, I beg you to revoke all ties that prevent the granting of my desire. May all setbacks be overcome thanks to your infinite mercy. Wrap me in your cloak and help me, I beg you please.

Confident in your pious intervention and in your motherly love, I thank you today and always for your help and company. Blessed are you among all women today and always Mother Mary. Amen".

Songs for the Charity of El Cobre

There have been countless number of singers who have dedicated songs to the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, all this inspired by the deep devotion and gratitude towards her miraculous and merciful acts towards humanity. Among the best-known singer-songwriters we could mention: Celia Cruz, Héctor Lavoe, as well as many Cuban, foreign, and Hispanic singers from all latitudes of America.  

Among so many songs that we can cite, we will bring as a reference a song by the musical group "Los Melódicos", which has a beautiful prose in honor of Cachita, whose lyrics read as follows:

"When you go to the East

my legendary region

hot quaking earth

Cradle of the tasty are

Get to Puerto Boniato

Look at the hill of San Juan

Go to the caney for a while and try the fruits that are sweet there.

When I think of my brunette

what is called charity

I pray like a good soul

For all eternity

Madonna you are good

make me a miracle of love

Look, I'm dying of grief if you don't mitigate my cruel pain.

and if you go to copper

I want you to bring me

a virgin of charity

Aaay that if you go to her

where is little piece

Bring me a card of charity for my mom

Chorus: And if you go to the copper, I want you to bring me, a virgin of charity.

Aay I don't want flowers

I don't want stamp

What I want is Virgin of Charity for my mom.

Chorus: And if you go to the copper, I want you to bring me a Virgin of Charity, and if you go to my black girl, bring me a little card of Charity.

Chorus: and if you go to copper, I want you to bring me, a virgin of charity. Oh, if you go to where this little piece is, bring me a little card of Charity for my mother”.

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