stained glass window black virgin el cobre cuba

The Black Virgin – Cuba’s Most-Sacred Site

Nuestra Señora del Cobre

The Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Caridad in El Cobre is Cuba’s most-sacred site.

Miracles here, are attributed to the “Black Virgin“.

Approaching Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Cobre
Approaching Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Cobre.

The Black Virgin of El Cobre


According to legend, the’ Black Virgin of El Cobre’ – also known as “Cachita” – was found in the Bay of Nipe in 1608.

Happened upon by 3 fishermen lost in a storm, they saw the statue bobbing in the sea.

Family with baby pose at the altar of Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Cobre
Family with baby pose at the altar of Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Cobre.

On this 30cm-high, wooden statue was the inscription: “I am the Virgin of Charity.

In her left hand, she carried the child Jesus and, in her right, a golden cross.

Interior of Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Cobre
LEFT: Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre – Queen and Patroness of Cuban peoples. Interior of Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Cobre.

Saved from the fury of the ocean, the grateful anglers took the statue to El Cobre, where over the years, the Virgin’s said to have performed many miracles.

stained glass window black virgin el cobre cuba
Stained glass window depicting the legend of the ‘Black Virgin’ sailors at sea.

The Basilica of Nuestra Señora del Cobre dates from 1927


In her honor, Cubans built a hermitage in 1916, and Pope Benedict declared the Virgin of El Cobre the Patron Saint of Cuba.

Black Virgin mural inside the Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Cobre
Black Virgin mural inside the Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Cobre.

In 1988, Pope John Paul II crowned and blessed her.

However, a sanctuary has existed on the El Cobre site since 1648.

In the room of miracles, Cubans have left memos, letters, medals, CDs, baseballs, etc, attributing their luck, health or success to the Virgin. (BOTTOM RIGHT: I left my website card amongst stuff on the table – small and colorful in the center: THE CANDY TRAIL … was here.)

Hemingway at El Cobre


Among the masses of pilgrims to visit El Cobre was – Ernest Hemingway (who enjoyed years living in Cuba).

He left his Nobel Prize for “The Old Man And The Sea” here as an offering.

It was within a glass case (until some idiot stole it; but they recovered it) and now, it’s hidden from the public.


Getting to the Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Cobre


Best done by hiring a taxi, but it’s also possible to get to El Cobre by public bus from the city of Santiago de Cuba.

It’s about 20 km away.

The day I visited El Cobre was remarkably quiet; sometimes there can be vast crowds.

Waiting for a bus in the nearby settlement, it was a wonderful opportunity to grab a snack of roast pork. Delicious – with a cold beer – on a scorching afternoon.

Travels in Cuba – 2009

Join the Journey

Get my Crazy Travels ebook + occasional updates.

close

Join the Journey

Get my Crazy Travels ebook + occasional updates.