The Marvelous Story of Our Lady of Charity of Cobre, Patroness of Cuba

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The Marvelous Story of Our Lady of Charity of Cobre, Patroness of Cuba
The Marvelous Story of Our Lady of Charity of Cobre, Patroness of Cuba

Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary, has many titles. Some titles describe her relationship with God, such as Mother of God. Many titles refer to her surpassing virtues, such as Seat of Wisdom. The most reassuring titles speak of her relationship to humanity, such as Refuge of Sinners or Mother of Good Counsel.

However, many titles are connected to places by which she endears herself to nations. This article deals with one such title by telling the marvelous story of Our Lady of Charity of Cobre, Patroness of Cuba.

Like many such titles, this devotion is connected to a miraculous event. It begins with several ordinary people engaged in their daily work, which in this case was the gathering of salt.

One day in 1612, two young Indian men—Rodrigo and Juan de Hoyos—and one child—ten-year-old Juan Moreno—went into the Bay of Nipe in a small boat to collect salt. The exact process by which they gathered it is uncertain, but the salt was used to preserve meat.

Miraculous Deliverance

They were returning to the port town of Santiago del Prado (today called El Cobre) when a storm arose. Their lives were in danger. Juan Moreno was wearing a medal with an image of the Blessed Mother, to whom all three prayed. Just as suddenly as the storm arose, the waters calmed.

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The three were relieved that Our Lady had saved their lives. As they returned, they saw and then retrieved a white bundle floating on a piece of wood. The bundle turned out it be a sixteen-inch baked clay statue of the Blessed Mother holding Our Infant Redeemer in her left arm and carrying a gold cross in her right. Mary’s feet rested on a thin crescent moon, which in turn is carried on clouds borne by angels. Our Lord’s right hand is raised in blessing, and He holds a globe in His left. The piece of wood bore the words, “Yo soy la Virgen de la Caridad,” which translates to “I am the Virgin of Charity.”

The three young men were astonished to discover that the statue and her white cloth robes were dry. Given the violence of the storm only a few minutes earlier, this seemed impossible. The delivery from the storm and the discovery of the dry statue made the three sense the miraculous nature of the Virgin of Charity. They took the statue ashore and told their story throughout the village. Eventually, the figure was housed in the parish church in El Cobre.

However, one day, the statue disappeared. The villagers frantically searched for it but to no avail. One night, the searchers saw a light shining from a nearby mountain. Like the three wise men following the Star of Bethlehem, they went to the light and found the statue. On that site, the local men constructed a hermitage church to serve as the statue’s place of veneration under the Spanish invocation of Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre.

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The story spread, and the chapel became a place of pilgrimage for the poor and enslaved workers in nearby mines. Over the next seventy years, devotion to Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre grew as devotees reported answered favors and miraculous cures. In 1688, the Archdiocese of Santiago, which includes El Cobre, initiated an inquiry to determine the statue’s miraculous reputation.

Signs of Increasing Devotion

The reputation of Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre increased in May of 1801 when Spanish King Carlos IV issued a declaration freeing all slaves who labored in the copper mines of El Cobre. From this action, the practice of bringing copper objects to Her shrine and having them blessed near the image arose.

On May 10, 1916, Pope Benedict XV declared Our Lady of Charity to be the Patroness of Cuba. Twenty years later, a ceremony that culminated with the solemn coronation of the statue took place at a Eucharistic Congress in Santiago.

When large numbers of Cuban exiles came to Miami in the wake of the Castro Revolution, many wanted to bring a historical copy of the statue with them. However, the government refused to let “historical relics” leave Cuba. Eventually, one was smuggled out of Havana by the Italian Embassy. The Embassy passed it on to the Panamanian diplomatic office. The Panamanians turned it over to the Cubans in Miami. On September 8, 1960—the feast day of Our Lady of Charity—thousands of Cuban exiles converged at Miami Stadium to welcome her.

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Today, she remains a symbol of hope in the face of the communist menace. Cubans flock to her shrine, imploring her intercession. Many shrines to her were established over the years.


In 1973, a shrine to Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre opened near the Bay of Biscayne in Miami. In 1977, Bishop Eduardo Tomás Boza Masvidal, Auxiliary of San Cristobal de la Habana, blessed and dedicated an Oratory in her honor in the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

The following prayer is inscribed in that Oratory:

O Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Charity

Filled with joy, prostrate at your feet, I entrust myself entirely to you. Virgin of Miracles, heal the sick, console the afflicted, give hope to the destitute, preserve families from evil, protect the young and innocent. From your Chapel at Cobre, watch over the just, convert sinners, fortify thy priests, and save all Christians.

O Loving Mother Mary, Blessed Virgin of Charity, patroness of Cuba, pray for us now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Let us add our prayers that She will deliver Cuba from the curse of communism.

Photo Credit:  Andreas Praefcke CC BY 3.0

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