Thousands of devotees are expected to attend a Mass Tuesday night in honor of Cuba’s patron saint, the Virgin of Charity.
Cachita, as she is commonly referred to, is a sacred icon of devotion and spirituality. For many in the exile community, the saint also symbolizes a longing for a free Cuba, not only from communist rule but from a Castro regime that has reigned over the island for more half a century.
Various events are planned throughout the day to honor the adored saint:
At La Ermita de la Caridad, a shrine in Coconut Grove completed in 1973 thanks to donations of thousands of Cuban exiles, festivities began at noon with a Mass for the sick. At 5 p.m., the celebrations will move to BankUnited Center at the University of Miami, where thousands are expected to fill the stadium to pay tribute to Cachita.
"The Virgin of Charity is not only a symbol of faith but a national symbol,” Sister Ondina Cortes said in a recent interview. “When people live far from their homeland, it is important for them to keep their roots, have their rituals, keep their experiences alive to preserve that sense of identity and connection to their homeland."
The Virgin of Charity was venerated originally by the slaves of El Cobre, in Santiago de Cuba in the 17th century, and then by the mambises, revolutionaries against the Spanish in the war for independence in the late 1800s and early XX1 Century.
The arrival of a replica of the statue of Our Lady of Charity in Miami in 1961 spread the devotion of the holy image to more than 30,000 Cuban exiles in South Florida at the time.
A new photo exhibition that traces the connection between the Virgin and the exile community also is on display at the library at St. Thomas University, 16701 NW 37th Ave. The exhibit showcases old photos of devotion to the Virgin. Guided tours will be offered beginning at 1:15 p.m. Tuesday. For more information, call 305-625-6000.
Follow Sergio Cándido on Twitter @sncandido
EVENTS IN MIAMI
12:00 p.m. Mass for the sick (Ermita de la Caridad).
12:15 p.m. Mass by Archbishop Thomas Wenski (St. Thomas University)
1:15 p.m. Photo exhibit tour (St. Thomas University)
5:00 p.m. The Virgin of Charity statue travels from the shrine to BankUnited Center at UM
5:00 p.m. Doors open BankUnited Center.
6:30 p.m. Rosary (BankUnited Center).
7:00 p.m. A tribute with the statue of the Virgen of Charity.
8:00 p.m. Mass (Bank United Center).