Hablando de lo que pica el gallo…formando un arroz con mango.
De milagro, there hasn’t been any hurricanes to hit Miami this year as of yet. It’s actually been quite a while since we’ve had any major storms that cause the havoc and chaos at the supermarkets and Home Depots as most of us go scrambling to get supplies just hours before the storm reaches land. Aside from the batteries, ply wood, and canned goods, many of us stock up on lots and lots of candles, the most efficient being the long, tall ones they sell at just about any market in Miami with images of Santos ornamented on the glass container. It seems that in the lack of storms, we may have an abundance of velitas that we take out and light up whenever FPL decides to have an unfortunate power outage and all the flashlights in the house le faltan las baterías. It has been a while however, that I notice someone light it for un Santo. The side of my family that’s more spiritually inclined to the Afro-Cuban religious practice has somewhat parted and the last time I went to a party celebrating one of the Santos, I was in my mid-teens, it was for Santa Barbara and I witnessed something that was a little out of the norm. But that’s another story.
September 8th was el día de La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre (Nuestra Señora Caridad de Cobre.) I don’t know a lot about los Santos besides what I was told when walking by the towering statues as a child, wondering why there was always an abundance of untouched fruit placed in front of them. “Son para el Santo,” was the response I always got, probably because I was too young to understand anything else. Being intimidated by the large holy statue, I never attempted eating the fruit, but always wondered if someone ever had the courage to take a bite, and if they had, what were the consequences. I can’t remember ever seeing La Virgen de la Caridad’s large statue in person like I had for El San Lázaro o la Santa Barbara, but her image has always been lucid in my mind: A holy, glowing woman in a robe carrying a child. I remember my mother telling me a story of her first encounter as a young girl herself, visiting a family friend’s house to celebrate the Saint’s day. She was frightened, but a sudden urge of spiritual bravery overcame her and she visited the resting statue.
The story of La Virgen de la Caridad de Cobre and how she came to be Nuestra Señora y la Patrona de Cuba is quite interesting. As the Virgin of Charity, the original statue rests in El Cobre Basilica in Oriente. However, many Cubans, whether they practice Santería or follow a loose catholic religion can find her image somewhere in their homes, I guarantee it. Some find her with a lit candle in her honor, others within a figurine. For me, she lies on a memorial card from my grandmother’s funeral, tucked away in my wallet, beside a prayer card of San Judas that my mom gave me for safe travels when I was going on my last vacation.
Perhaps I was never spoon fed a strict religion but I can say that a part of the Cuban in me feels attached to a spiritual essence. When things tend to be going sour in my house, we ask for a spiritual guidance from uno de los santos. My dad usually turns to his San Lazaro, my mom to her San Judas, and when important things go missing, “amárrale un trapo a la pila y pídele a San Dimas.” If you believe it, it works. And if a strong set of faithful hands and wise guidance is what you’re looking for, enciéndale una velita a la Virgencita.