La Virgen De La Caridad Del Cobre, or Our Lady of Charity, as she is often referred to in maternal terms, is the mother of all Cubans, particularly those in exile or those oppressed by the communist regime. She is a national patroness as well as a protector.
She is looked to for the healing of the sick, which is not surprising, since her shrine in Miami is located next to a hospital. Most of all, she is looked to by the displaced because she embodies the identity and struggle of this collective.
Nothing brings people together better than a tragedy. Those who have shared a common struggle find comfort in each other’s story and in the idea of “If others can suffer through it, so can I.”
The history of an individual becomes one’s personal myth. It is easier to confront obstacles if someone else has confronted them -- and triumphed. The myth is an assurance that what the individual is about to embark on has already been done. Those who are afraid are reassured because others have undergone the same journey as well.
The journey of one Cuban exile becomes the mythic journey all must undergo. The journey of the Virgin symbolically becomes the journey of the collective community subscribing to the same story.
The Cuban exile community is able to identify with the Virgin because they have known the same story. They internalize her journey and identify with it, since it is the story of their people and themselves. They are a community that is ever-changing, and must be able to adapt easily.
Cuban exiles have the impetus to start anew in a new environment, just as the Yoruba deity had done in Cuba and the Catholic saint had done in Miami. They are accustomed to forming new societies and making new homes for themselves, and the Lady of Charity embodies these habits.
It is impossible to understand the Cuban exile community unless their mythology is known. Their motivations and ideas are shaped by their story. The history of this community is also their myth.
The shrine in Miami is located by the sea, a major symbol for both Oshun and Our Lady of Charity, since both of these figures are associated with the water. Upon arrival at the shrine, it is impossible to miss the yellow flowers, typical of Oshun, although certain members of the Catholic community would not encourage the connection between Oshun and the Virgin. The location and position of the shrine is also important in that it has six sides, which some say is symbolic of the six provinces of Cuba, and the shrine faces the ocean, as if the Virgin were always looking towards her homeland.
The Yoruba goddess and the Catholic Virgin are both symbols of a dispersed people and the ideals that bind them together. Regardless of whether one is a devotee of Oshun or the Virgin of Cobre these figures represent national unity for the people and a return to an ideal they had been removed from. For the Cuban diaspora, the Virgin of Cobre is an embodiment of the elements which make these individuals identify themselves as a people.
Do you have any goddesses or symbols that tie you to your culture or homeland?
* Image credit: http://www.corazones.org/maria/america/z_cuba_caridad.jpg
Ikam is a freelance writer from South Florida. She received her Masters in Religious Studies in 2001, specializing in myth and ritual. She has worked with victims of crime and trauma and also has a Masters in Criminal Justice, which she got in 2008. Ikam is interested in spirituality, healing, health, and the paranormal. She loves writing about a wide variety of topics, including travel, entertainment, culture, and health. Ikam wants to be a part of the Cycle Harmony community in hopes she will help and inspire others to achieve their goals, as well as share ideas on women, spirituality, and healthy living.