The Basilica del Cobre is the most sacred place in Cuba. It is located on the outskirts of Santiago de Cuba the south-eastern city in an erstwhile mining town called El Cobre. In El Cobre on the outskirts of Santiago de Cuba, about 20 kilometres, there is neither gold nor copper but Cuba’s most sacred pilgrimage site. The site remains untouched by the revolutions and uprisings and to the changes of socio-political landscape and remains intact to the digital age of twenty-first century.
BASILICA DE LA VIRGEN DE LA CARIDAD DEL COBRE:
Cubans from away places make a pilgrimage to Basilica de la Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre and some tourists. One can find vendors at the sacred site selling candles, coins or pieces of copper stalks of sunflowers, images of virgin goddess as an offering at the holy shrine. The image in the Basilica de la Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre is the figure of Virgen de la Caridad who carries an infant Jesus in one hand and a cross in the other.
Virgen de la Caridad is the religious patron since 1916. The basilica was built in 1926 which exists to this day standing prominently on a raised platform and surrounding by hills. The canonical coronation for the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary or Virgen de la Caridad, was granted by Pope Pius XI on 20 December 1936.
“In the first decade of the seventeenth century, her wooden statue had been found floating on the waters of the Bahia de Nipe, south-east of Holguin. Since then, El Cobre has become very much a Cuban version of Lourdes. Crowds of the sick and infirm come to the basilica as pilgrims, hoping to be cured, offering the Virgin whatever they can afford. You can see the gifts they leave: balls, toys, bicycles, radios,” wrote Franc Nichele in a book coffee table book titled ‘Cuba’ with the photographs of Michel Renaudeau.
ERNEST HEMINGWAY’S NOBEL PRIZE MEDAL:
Ernest Hemindway, the Nobel Prize winner for literature, also offered his medal as offering at the Basilica de la Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre. “Ernest Hemingway himself, already sick offered the medal awarded by the Swedish Academy when he won the Novel Prize for Literature. The Virgen de la Caridad is worshipped by Christians and devotees of santería alike. In the pantheon of santería divinities, she goes under the name Ochún, as sensual as she is beneficient,” observed Franc Nichele.
LA VIRGEN DE LA CARIDAD: THE MARIAN NAMEs
La Virgen de la Caridad is variously known as Lady of Charity, or, Nuestra Senora de la Caridad del Cobre or the Blessed Virgin Mary. The patroness of Cuba, La Virgen de la Caridad, continues to attract pilgrims, visitors and tourists from within Cuba and outside Cuba. A visit to the basilica in El Cobre is worth a visit for its history or for the religious significance or for the mining history or for the semi-wilderness.