The Virgen del Cobre belongs to everyone
FRANCISCO ALMAGRO DOMÍNGUEZ | Miami | 8 de Septiembre de 2016 - 22:32 CEST.
It is very likely that most young Cubans on the island do not know who
the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre (Our Lady of Charity, or Our Lady of
Cobre) is. And the few who do know about her do not know the whole
story, or they know things second-hand, or have been misinformed. This
is the legacy of more than half a century of persistently distorted
values, negated personalities, and a concealed past. In this very
newspaper we owe a debt to Dimas Castellanos, Pedro Campos, Roberto
Álvarez Quiñones and others for their "seditious" and
"counter-revolutionary" undertaking: reminding us of our history.
La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre is a national symbol, on a level with
our flag and the Republic's crest. And this is not owing to its
religious value – which would suffice for Christians and the believers
of Afro-Cuban religions. It is so important because the history of Cuba
as an independent country cannot be written without mention of her;
something is missing when the Virgin is hidden or distorted, because she
is like a glue that binds together the foundations of the Cuban identity.
For example, the official historiography dates the freedom of slaves
from the uprising at the La Demajagua sugar refinery in October of 1868.
In reality, the first slaves were freed from the copper mines, in 1800,
where the image of the Virgin had been venerated for many years, after
having appeared in the Bay of Nipe in the early 17th century. El Cobre
was a place of prayers and freedom before the landowner Carlos Manuel de
Céspedes - who was not the leader of the rebels - moved the uprising up
to the 10th, fearful that word would get out.
The urgent need for a flag with which to lead the troops to take Bayamo
spurred the women to ask Carlos Manuel for fabric with which to craft
the symbol. The "Father of the Nation" ordered them to take a canopy
featuring the Virgen del Cobre, then revered at the home of one of the
Island's most learned men. Thus, the flag of Bayamo, the first banner of
our freedom, is closely linked to the Virgen de la Caridad.
The mambises (independence fighters) were inspired by the Virgen del
Cobre. Most of them were Catholics, some were Masons, with the Cuban
faithful subordinated through royal patronage to the Peninsular Church.
The Virgen de la Caridad marked a pivotal spiritual and psychological
rupture with Spain, as the first manifestation of Cuban religious
devotion encompassing Afro-Cubans, transculturated in the African deity
Oshun. And a little-known fact is that Antonio de la Caridad Maceo and
his brothers had to swear allegiance to the cause in front of the Virgen
de la Caridad del Cobre, as Mariana Grajales was very devoted to her.
After the war and during the early years of the Republic of generals and
doctors, a group of veterans saw fit to ask the Vatican to name the
Virgin the patroness of Cuba. General Rabí and other senior officers
thought that through her intercession stability and national
reconciliation could be achieved. The letter was sent to Pope Benedict
XV. The Virgin de la Caridad was proclaimed the Principal Patroness of
the Republic of Cuba on May 10, 1916. Anyone who has visited the
Basilica del Cobre, the impressive national shrine standing over a
valley surrounded by mountains just miles from Santiago de Cuba, will
have observed the offerings of all kinds left by believers and
nonbelievers for more than a century.
If the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre is an inseparable part of our
history, and there is not a single manifestation of our culture in which
the people have not honored and venerated her, why, and in whose name,
has she been hidden for so long? Why and for what purpose is she
confined to the private sphere of religious worship, which she
transcends, worthy of being shared at schools and museums and other
institutions? Why is she denied a lofty position in Cuba's patriotic
pantheon, when our founding fathers waged battle in our swamps and
jungles vowing to win or die in her name?
The only plausible explanation is a rampant and bumbling attempt to
rewrite history, to dilute the only cement capable of fusing a
fragmented nation. The explanation offered by some Catholics is more
than plausible: the last national procession of the Virgen del Cobre
caused a commotion, in the early 60s mobilizing hundreds of thousands of
people across the whole Island. A memorable reflection by Cardinal
Ortega suggests another explanation: certain regimes need all of man's
heart, not just a piece of it. A follower of Christ will hardly prove
totally reliable for a totalitarian system, for one cannot worship two
gods at the same time.
This past weekend an image of the Virgin sailed towards the Ermita de la
Caridad (Chapel of Charity), a sanctuary paid for entirely by Cuban
exiles. More than a few will have wondered whether the miracle of
reconciliation will one day be possible, unconditional return to the
home country, and peace and prosperity among Cubans once again. The
answer lies precisely with the Virgin, sailing between two shores. For
charity, the love of a mother, knows no boundaries or limits. She is for
everyone. She suffers everything. And she awaits everything too.
Source: The Virgen del Cobre belongs to everyone | Diario de Cuba -