Cachita's Streets: The Virgin of Charity, Race, and Revolution in Cuba
Mambisa Virgin: Patrona of the Patria
The cult of the Virgin spread among demographically diverse, geographically dispersed nineteenth-century constituencies of the Spanish colony. In Cuba’s western region prior to abolition in 1886, black members of ethnically Lucumí cabildos (devotional societies) forged a symbolic relationship between the Virgin of Charity and Ochún, an oricha (goddess) of fecundity. Cuba’s homegrown Marian advocation also appealed to white supporters of national independence who rejected Spanish (and disdained African) cultural elements and embraced all things “creole.” Encampments of mambises (independence soldiers) traversed the island’s eastern countryside, bringing with them their devotion to the Virgin, whom they petitioned for their republican cause. After 1902 independence, tensions surrounding race and citizenship, sometimes expressed through proxy debates about religion, and “whitening” efforts produced political acrimony and even violence. In 1916, the Vatican granted the petition of a multiracial group of veterans of the War for Independence and recognized the Virgin as Cuba's patron saint.