Four hundred years ago three men representatives of the Creole stratum of the Island picked up from the sea, after the storm, a small and brown image of Mary, Jesus of Nazareth’s mother.
That was the symbol of our domestic encounter between three cultures: two Indians, a black slave and an icon of the Christian religion which is the religious matrix of our identity. The storm was the proof that no transculturation takes place over the serene waters of the sea in calm. The Cuban “ajiaco” (1) Fernando Ortiz spoke about, “is boiling” in the national pot since the start, sometimes with less pressure and other times with safety valves.
Four centuries after the start which has been always mixed and always in gestation, “Cachita”, the small and brown girl, has become one of the native symbols along with the maturity of our culture.
That is why we have a party whenever all Cubans, women and men in the Island and in the Diaspora, celebrate this great anniversary, and this is not only the celebration of a religious image which would be slimming and impoverishing fact. We have a feast because 400 years ago today’s nation started to show the first signs of gestation. On the boat of the three Johns the semen of faith coming from the Middle East through European ways fertilized the native culture and the African one in the Caribbean matrix of a Latin American Christianity.
The celebration of the 400 years of the find and presence of the mixed-race image of the Virgin of La Caridad that lies in El Cobre and in the historic memory of all Cuba is not only a religious fiesta but also the intention to lavish attention upon the origin, a folk party of reunion and crossbreeding, a fair of universal vocation of openness, a festival of identity, a procession of values and virtues, a feast of the national soul.
Since then, Cuba and Cachita dance a “son montuno” (2) at the mountains in El Cobre. Thus, Cuba and Caridad (3), with our two most affectionate “C”, enjoy the Cuban “danzón” (4) and they fan themselves with the tuft of the royal palm and they both wear a butterfly on their motherly chests so that no Cuban feels himself excluded from their tricolour bosom like the tricolour “tocororo”(5).
Wherever Cubans want the storm to be over, their hearts’ intimacy have sensed a lot and talked and very much prayed the sea that unites us becomes serene, they sense, talk and pray the double wall of the two stretches of El Malecón, the bright one in La Ermita and the original at the coast in Havana open to the free flow of Cachita’s sons and daughters. The ones who look from that Malecón fight the nostalgia looking at the Island and the ones who are sitting bored on the green alligator hope to reunite the other part of the only Cuban nation under the tender and warm cloak of La Caridad. This way we celebrate, we pray, we long for, we work, we wait and love, we fight and love, we believe and include everybody, we change and we respect everybody, we live weaving coexistence. That’s the best way to celebrate the Mother, Queen and Patron Saint of Cuba on her 400 birthday in the land of the West Indies Pearl.
La Caridad used to be “The Queen” of the first freed slaves in Cuba yesterday. She is the Mother of liberation for all Cubans today. She is the Queen of freedom.
La Caridad used to be “The Measurement” in the chests of the mambisas (6) yesterday. She is the Image of the pacific fight of all Cuban women today. She is our Measurement of Peace.
La Caridad used to be the “Patron Saint” of the veterans, who requested her proclamation to the Pope. Today, she is the Protector of the ones who work for the change in Cuba toward a better Fatherland. She is the Patron Saint of our Justice.
The Children celebrate and honour their mother also by dreaming their future, by building what is coming from this moment on so that the one who gave origin to our life and planted values can enjoy the projects of coexistence, the works for human improvement, the building of the future. There is one thing that makes a mother’s heart happy and it is the future of her children. One thing makes her soul proud and it is to see her children to be in charge of their lives and to be protagonists of their own history. The Cubans who recognize the Mambisa Virgin of La Caridad as the tender Jesus’ mother and the mother of all Cubans should do that.
That’s why we put in her hands our projects for the present and the future of Cuba. There should be a space here for all the desires and hopes, sadness and anguish of every compatriot , all of us, the ones who call her Ochún or Cachita, Mary or Caridad, Patriot Saint or Queen, Mambisa or Star of Peace, Flower of the Mountain, Sea Bird, National Shield or Virgin of El Cobre, Liberator or Country Emblem. Mother of Christ or Our Mother… “Convivencia” opens its space to dream and work, pray and glimpse the future of Cuba.
Virgin of La Caridad, these are our supplications and hopes. We want to work for:
- The ethical and spiritual reconstruction of every Cuban to achieve to be free and responsible persons, through civic empowerment: to achieve to be authentic and pacific protagonists of our lives and our national history by exercising the citizen sovereignty.
- - The reunification and rebuilding of our families so that they can be true homes, communities of life and love, cradles of moral, civic and religious values.
- - The renovation of education in Cuba so that our schools can be nurseries where freedom and responsibility can be cultivated and values should be planted and virtues should be cultivated, where coexistence among all human beings should be the deep motivation for inclusion and democracy so that ideological manipulation and civic exasperation give their place to the love for truth, justice, magnanimity and reconciliation.
- -The rights of Cuban workers, women and men, so that work dignifies men and creates shared wealth so that men who work may have a fair salary, enough and equal to the coin they need to buy in the shops.
- -.Our neighbourhoods; that a sound coexistence be present and not denunciation, envy, violence and discredit.
- - Our economy to be open, efficient, subsidiary and supportive. That the rights to private property be respected and also the cooperative and public property, freedom of enterprise, investment and solidarity. In short, market with social justice.
- - Our culture to be without censure and without vulgarity and should be a culture that may promote freedom of creation and should promote an openness to the world so that our sovereignty and our identity should be strengthened.
- - Our mass media to be sovereign and responsible spaces to spread the truth empower the ones who get information, promote values and favour pacific coexistence and public debate.
- - Religions and Churches to be true communities of faith, love, spiritual nourishment, personal and social liberation, where values can be planted and virtues can be fertilized and also projects for justice and peace.
- - Our growing civil society to be more and more plural, autonomous, responsible, supportive, respectful of the opponents, builder of unity in diversity, school of democracy, a source of social and political commitment, a workshop for participation and dialogue.
- - The Cuban government to be open to dialogue, change, renovation and democracy with absolute respect for all Human Rights of all Cubans. May the power be to serve and may the service be for coexistence in its highest degree.
- - Cuba to open itself up to the world and be inserted in the international community with normality once the relations between the government and the citizens are normalized so that the world opens itself up to a new Cuba that does not block freedom or the enterprising spirit of its sons and daughters. Let the change we long for come. The changes we all need. The progress and happiness we all deserve.
Cuba and La Caridad, the first free slaves and the mambises (7), the descendants of Africans and Spaniards , natives and Chinese, free Creoles and unimpeachable Cubans have united themselves throughout four centuries to turn this Island into the Pearl of the West Indies and the faithful of The Americas, so now that we come to the 400 years of this pilgrimage toward freedom and happiness, we join the ones who have united themselves as Cubans, women and men, throughout these centuries as Cubans, to sing or recite this Official Hymn of La Caridad del Cobre. These verses summarize all of our feelings, pains and hopes:
Hail, Hail, Delights from Heaven.
Pure Virgin, Supreme Beauty.
Hail, lofty Patron Saint of Cuba.
Lovely Mother: La Caridad.
In the beautiful regions of Cuba,
Lady, you chose to have altars
To make them mansions of wonders
And fill men with joy.
When tears were your children’s bread
And terrible anxiety was your children’s life
You, Sweet Mother were the Star
That announced the dawning of peace.
Don’t forsake your Children, Oh Mother:
Save Cuba from weeping and eagerness!
And your name will be our shield
And your grace will be our shelter.
Pinar del Río, September 8th 2012-09-21
On the 400th anniversary of the Virgin of La Caridad.
(1) Ajiaco (figurative): the name of a soup made up of many different ingredients
(2) A national dance
(3) Caridad: Charity.
(4) Another national dance
(5) The national bird.
(6) Women who fought for freedom in Cuba during the 19th century.
(7) Fighters for freedom in the 19th century.