The Virgin of Charity of Cobre
La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre
Tradition tells that one morning in late 1612 three slaves who worked in the copper mine at Barajagua, ten year old African, Juan Morteno, and two blood brothers of native origin, Rodrigo and Juan de Hoyos, left to look for salt in the vicinity of the Bay of Nipe. Once at the site, they realized that it was impossible to collect salt because of the rough seas, so they sought refuge. After three nights and three days they managed to undertake their trip by canoe to collect salt from the coast.
Soon after getting underway they saw a white object floating in the sea. Seen from a distance it looked like the corpse of a sea bird; however, they soon realized that it was an image of the Virgin affixed to a wooden board. They took the image out of the water and put it in the canoe. It was at that moment that they read the inscription on the wood: “I am the Virgin of Charity.”
They kept the Virgin in the canoe, and without having collected salt, they returned to Barajagua where news of their discovery had preceded them. The image was carried to the altar of the parish church and a man of great faith, Marías de Olivera, offered to dedicate himself to her service.
The Virgin of Charity is a small statue which rests on a circular base. The Virgin’s left arm supports the Child Jesus, who holds a globe. The image was taken to the mining center “El Cobre” and it was here, in 1628, that a chapel was built.
Veteran soldiers from the War of Independence asked His Holiness Pope Benedict XV to crown the Virgin of Charity Patroness of Cuba. As such, she was proclaimed Patroness of Cuba in 1936.
On January 24, 1998, during a pastoral visit to Cuba, being very devoted to the Virgin, Pope St. John Paul II repeated this gesture. Pope Francis repeated it, as well, during a visit to the sanctuary on 21 September 2015, during his apostolic journey to Cuba.
The Shrine of Our Lady of Charity is located in the town of El Cobre, about 10 miles (16 km) from Santiago.
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