14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 8 September 2021 — Like every September 8, the streets of Cuba are dressed in yellow fabrics and sunflowers to celebrate the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre. This year, however, the Patroness of the Island is not accompanied by her people. Facing the covid-19 pandemic, which offers the country no truce, and despite the fact that they have no qualms about seeing people crowded into lines waiting to enter stores, and even calling for other “revolutionary” demonstrations, the authorities decided to restrict the processions on foot.
The Archdiocese of Santiago de Cuba organized tours of the Virgin through various neighborhoods of the city, in a vehicle, starting on September 6 and culminate on Wednesday the 8th between 4:00 and 6:00 in the afternoon.
“So that we all feel the closeness and protection of the Mother of the Son of God.” This is how the Catholic Church announced that the image of the Virgin of Charity, which is venerated in the temple of Saint Thomas the Apostle, would travel through the neighborhoods of Santiago without the traditional procession of parishioners.
On Wednesday morning, the Eucharist of the Feast of Our Lady of El Cobre was also held in the Basilica of the National Shrine of Cobre, and was broadcast on the social networks of the Archdiocese of Santiago de Cuba.
“The Virgin Mary of Charity of el Cobre occupies a very special place in the heart of the Cuban people, which is why today we can say that it is the feast of the Mother; but it is also the feast of Cubans, her children,” Juan Elizalde, parish priest of Santa Teresita del Niño Jesús in the city, said in an address.
“Loved ones, let us definitively remove from our lives everything that is a consequence of selfishness, hatred, pride, lack of love and solidarity, so that love, joy and peace may spring up in us, like a swollen river. I am sure that this is the desire of our Mother and the way of meeting with God!” declared the parish priest.
The Virgin could not be accompanied by her believers, but she was accompanied by State Security. In Havana, the church dedicated to Cachita — as she is fondly called — the Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Caridad, faced the dawn this Wednesday, watched by dozens of agents.
“They are almost all young, dressed in civilian clothes, and they are standing in the corners. You can see above their clothes that they are segurosos (state security),” says Carmen, a resident of Old Havana who went to the church to bring Cachita flowers.
Near the church there were, as is customary, people selling flowers. “People are complaining because the smallest bouquets cost 300 pesos and they have about five sunflowers, three large and two small,” laments Carmen. “In some cases they are bundled with other little flowers.” The bouquets with larger pieces and more variety cost 500 pesos, details this Havanan.
Unlike Santiago de Cuba, in the capital they decided not to bring out the Virgin. “People are being allowed to go to the church and see it little by little, ten by ten,” says Ramón, another parishioner living in Centro Habana. “Unfortunately, they don’t even let you leave the flowers you bought outside and justify that it is because of the covid. When you try to do it, they tell you no, that you should take the flowers home.”
In exile, Florida Cubans also worship Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre. In the hermitage located in Miami, a mass will be held this Wednesday as the culmination of an extensive program of celebration where they also celebrate the arrival of her image six decades ago. This church is the first obligatory stop for Cuban rafters who manage to reach the United States, to thank the Patron for having achieved their feat alive.
Also on this date, some worship Oshún, the deity that the Afro-Cuban religion syncretizes with the Catholic Virgin.
For many years, due to the Marxist-Leninist atheism imposed by the Cuban regime, processions such as those currently allowed to celebrate the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre were prohibited.
It was a conquest long demanded by the Catholic authorities and the faithful that the Virgin be able to leave the temples, walk the streets of Cuba and people be allowed accompany her. The change came in the 1990s, especially after it was determined in 1991 that religious people could join the Communist Party.
The first time that the main image of the Virgin left her sanctuary was in December 1936, when the National Eucharistic Congress was held, where, in addition to her coronation it was reaffirmed that she is the Patron Saint of Cubans.
In 1998, when Pope John Paul II personally crowned her, her original image was also seen outside the Sanctuary of El Cobre. A few years later, between 2011 and 2012, she toured the entire country, in celebration of the 400th anniversary of his “appearance.”
Traditionally, the Patroness of Cuba have been entrusted to the relatives of the prisoners and especially those who have suffered political imprisonment. In her Sanctuary of El Cobre, the offerings of the guerrillas of the Sierra Maestra and their relatives alternate with the requests made by the Ladies in White after the repression of the Black Spring in 2003.
This September, the celebration arrives with new political prisoners imprisoned from the day of popular protests on July 11. The State Security has tried to avoid with, its operations around the churches, the day becoming another day of demands for amnesty for those arrested.
The regime opponent Guillermo Fariñas, recipient of the Sakharov Prize of the European Parliament, was arrested this Wednesday at his home, in the city of Santa Clara, without any cause, his mother, Alicia Hernández, told the Efe agency. This September 8, the activist María Elena Mir was also arrested, as confirmed ontheir social networks by Manuel Cuesta Morúa, and the independent reporter Héctor Valdés Cocho.
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