Cachita's Streets: The Virgin of Charity, Race, and Revolution in Cuba
Martial Streets, 1951–1958
In 1951–52, leaders of Cuba’s Catholic Church staged a fifteen-month-long, east-to-west nationwide pilgrimage of the Virgin’s Mambisa effigy that had been venerated by independence soldiers. The Virgin’s trek recalled key moments in Cuban history, particularly the successful 1895–98 east-to-west armed campaign. Military titles prevailed as the “Virgin General” was said to be “conquering” the nation’s “heresies,” since, in addition to celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Republic of Cuba, the Virgin’s journey was also intended to “purify” popular devotions of “superstition” and to combat Protestantism and Communism. As the Virgin’s effigy visited commotion-filled streets, elite attempts to orchestrate respectable notions of national identity were sometimes met by less-formal versions of popular culture, indifference, and the religious heterodoxy of spiritism. After Fulgencio Batista’s second, 1952 overthrow, the Virgin’s effigy suffered damage in the streets, which some interpreted as a sign of divine sadness, or worse, punishment.