Since the sixteenth century, the Spaniards knew El Cobre (20 km west of Santiago de Cuba) already as site of copper ore
Today's visitors come for the copper or the highly revered Virgin of Mercy, since 1916 the national saint
The basilica " Santuario Nacional de Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre " was built in 1926
The story behind the " La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre "
starting around 1928
Two indigenous brothers, Rodrigo and Juan de Hoyos and a black slave,
Juan Moreno, were in the Bay of Nipe looking for salt to preserve meat
In the bay suddenly raised a storm which gave their boat a hard time on the violent waves
Juan, the slave, wore a medal with the image of the Virgin Mary
The three men began to pray for protection and suddenly the sky cleared and the storm was gone
In the distance they saw a strange object floating and rowed towards it
It was an image of the Virgin Mary holding the infant Jesus on her left arm and holding a gold cross in her right hand
The statue was attached to a sign " Yo Soy la Virgen de la Caridad "
or "I am the Virgin of Charity "
The statue was dressed with real cloth and the Virgin had real hair and skin of a woman
To their surprise the statue remained dry while floating in the water
The African slaves, who had to work in the mines worshiped the gold dressed holy image
For them she was the goddess of fertility Ochun and the image is
now in this Basilica
Pope John Paul II visited the basilica in 1998
In the church you see colored windows, blue, white and gold paintings and many offerings
If there is no church mass the entrance is at the back of the church and the holy image is turned to you
Hemingway has left his Nobel Prize in this basilica and known Cuban baseball players their medals or balls as thanks for a match won
We saw a number of beautifully dressed girls who were laying flowers at the church as gratitude that they were healed