Virgin of Charity unites all Cubans, — Catholics, Santería followers, exiled and back on the island

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Over nan past 4 centuries, nan Virgin of Charity’s value has grown. She became a awesome for injured soldiers successful Cuba’s conflict for independency from Spain, and veterans of that warfare petitioned nan Vatican to make her Cuba’s patron saint.

“She became this nationalist symbol,” said Michelle Maldonado, an master connected nan Virgin of Charity and provost astatine nan University of Scranton successful Pennsylvania.

The cult of nan Virgin of Charity became portion of Cuban nationalism successful precocious 19th century. Among nan Cuban diaspora successful Miami, it has taken connected a beardown governmental significance, besides successful rebuke to nan Cuban government’s history of belief repression, said Jorge Duany, head of nan Cuban Research Institute astatine Florida International University.

Many of nan early worshippers astatine Our Lady of Charity fled aliases were expelled by nan Castro authorities — and reached information successful Florida connected rickety rafts for illustration nan 1 featured down nan Virgin’s statue successful nan Miami shrine’s mural.

Looking astatine nan water separating him from his homeland, nan Miami shrine’s vicar, nan Rev. Angel Andrés González, sees really nan Virgin has been “the connecting thread” of his life.

“It’s for illustration nan bosom of Cuba, present successful nan United States,” he said.

Like galore of nan Cuban exiles who built, and still believe at, La Ermita, arsenic nan Miami shrine is known, González’s devotion to nan Virgin preceded his Catholic religion — and anchors his life successful nan United States.

Though his family was mostly non-practicing, his mother still made him singing Hail Marys during thunderstorms to a people of nan Virgin. It had hung down his furniture since he was baptized successful nan Cobre sanctuary.

Still a beacon for immigrants

La Ermita welcomes some semipermanent Miami residents for whom nan religion is a symbol of guidance to Cuba’s government and new arrivals who want to make a video telephone to their mother successful Cuba from a acquainted place.

At nan Ash Wednesday celebrations marking nan opening of Lent, some governmental refugees and “santeras,” aliases Santeria practitioners, brought their petitions to nan Miami Virgin — who, arsenic a mother, has a gift for each her children, arsenic visitors are told by Sister Inés Espinoza.

Sister Inés Espinoza during Ash Wednesday MassSister Inés Espinoza during Ash Wednesday Mass astatine nan Virgin of Charity shrine, known arsenic La Ermita, successful Miami connected Feb. 14.Marta Lavandier / AP file

The Havana autochthonal and personnel of nan Daughters of Charity order, which was expelled from Cuba successful 1972, ministers to nan worldly and belief needs of increasing numbers of migrants from crossed Latin America, including Cuba, who make nan Ermita their first stop. In conscionable nan past fewer years, U.S. separator authorities encountered more than half a cardinal Cubans.

During an Ash Wednesday Mass, arsenic nan prayers of nan religious were recited, attendee Rafael Madlum Payas loudly called retired a petition for state successful Cuba.

The 81-year-old governmental exile fled to nan United States astir 20 years ago, he said, and finds comfortableness successful La Ermita because “it intends that nan Virgin is pinch america wherever we are.”

n this, he was of 1 tone pinch Yenise Hoyos, a santera who came to nan Ermita during nan aforesaid Mass, carrying a fig of her Yoruba religion’s deity, who she considers a “sister” to nan virgin.

“What you are, your idiosyncrasy, your religion, never, ne'er gets mislaid wherever we go,” said Hoyos, who came from Cuba 4 years ago. “It’s an unthinkable bid that 1 breathes erstwhile 1 gets here.”

To clergy, nan Virgin allows nan Miami shrine to stay a beacon to migrants. The Biblical exhortation to invited nan alien is nan taxable nan rector, nan Rev. José Espino, chose for this Lent.

“This is ever nan spot of giving acknowledgment to nan Virgin for a safe arrival,” Espino said. “She has ever accompanied nan dreams of nan Cuban people.”

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The Associated Press

The Associated Press