Cachita's Streets: The Virgin of Charity, Race, and Revolution in Cuba
“The Streets Are for Revolutionaries!”: Prohibiting Processions
In the two years following the victory of the revolution, Cuba’s political leadership moved ever-leftward, and new policies commanding drastic societal changes were announced, by fiat, during mass rallies. Many members of Cuba’s upper and middle classes went into exile, and attendance surged at Catholic Churches, one of a dwindling number of spaces where critics openly voiced dissent. Counterrevolutionary guerrillas launched the Bay of Pigs attack, invoking the Virgin as the patron of their unsuccessful cause. The Virgin’s 1961 annual street procession in Havana was markedly anti-Communist and marred by lethal violence. In response, the revolutionary government deported 131 Catholic priests and nuns from Cuba, and banned religious street processions outright, a prohibition that lasted some forty years. The revolutionary government’s charges that Catholicism was a traitorous “bourgeois religion,” opposed to all that was regarded as emblematically “Cuban,” was epitomized by the absence of religious expression in the public sphere.