When I was very small, maybe about 5 years old, my parents took me to Santiago de Cuba to visit "El Cobre."
Santiago de Cuba is about five hundred plus miles from the city of Havana. I remember it being a long and dusty car trip. But we got to stay in a hotel and eat at restaurants. This is pretty much all I can recall about the travel itself, but that's not important right now.
In the hills above the city sits a beautiful basilica dedicated to Our Lady of Charity, so named because she was found bone dry on a wild, stormy sea by some fishermen. On her was a sign that read, "Yo soy La Virgen de La Caridad." (Translated: "I am the Virgin of Charity.")
Read the entire legendary thing right here.
Of course, Cubans always seem to familiarize the things they love. We call her "Cachita." This particular version of Our Lady of Charity is the Patron Saint of Cuba and she has a presence in pretty much every Catholic Cuban home.
From our trip to El Cobre, we brought pieces of copper from the mines as souvenirs. And my mom got a little statue of Cachita to put up in our home. Since that point in time, Cachita has always lived in our family home in some iteration.
On September 8, 1961, having been in this country for just a few short months, our family went to pray at a mass alongside 30,oo0 other Cuban exiles for the peace of our homeland. The image of all those displaced families remains with me to this day. In Miami there's a beautiful chapel dedicated to her and I know she still lives in lots of Cuban homes.
Here is my mom's altar to Cachita.
I'm no longer a practicing Catholic (I'm an Evangelical Christian), so I don't usually subscribe to Catholic images of saints. But there's something about our Cuban Cachita.
I know it's a childhood thing.
I know it's a Cuban nostalgia thing.
I know it's a cultural thing.
I know it's definitely a Cuban thing.
Which makes her presence that much sweeter.