Irene Wright, a pioneering North American historian of colonial Cuba, reached the village of El Cobre in the southeastern end of the island for the first time in 1900. Standing in the reddish soil near the site of a still active copper mine, she, like generations of pilgrims before her, scanned the tops of the surrounding hills to locate the legendary shrine of Nuestra Señora de la Caridad. By this time, the Cuban people had come to embrace El Cobre’s Marian sanctuary as a kind of sacred national monument. Yet, as Wright discerned, persons of African descent regarded our Lady with special affinity. Indeed, in picking up a Cuban newspaper several years later, she noted that the leaders of a black political party—probably the newly formed Partido Independiente de Color—had chosen the shrine as the appropriate place to make a public avowal of their willingness to lay down their lives...

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