Apr 202015

El Cobre

This is El Cobre, a church with a colorful history and a stunning interior. Built in 1926, El Cobre lies about 12 miles outside of Santiago de Cuba.

A focus of intese popular devotion—not just for Catholics but also for followers of Santería and even those who aren’t otherwise religious—the beloved Virgin of Charity was declared the patron saint of Cuba by the pope in 1916.


On the road to the town of El Cobre, before visiting the shrine, you are given the opportunity to purchase flowers, candles and personal shrines.  We purchased both flowers and candles.

Virgin of Charity

el cobre

As you can see, the church is well adorned with flowers from visitors.

El Cobre

The side aisles serve as a place to offer candles and there are framed prayers above the tables if you need prompting.

El Cobre

The history of the shrine is linked to a legend that has changed with the passage of time.

One day in 1608, two Indians and a slave boy (often told as a white, a mulatto and a black) were gathering salt on the coast near El Cobre when they saw something floating in the water. It was a small statue of the Virgin Mary, carrying the Christ child and a gold cross. She floated on a board bearing the inscription, Yo soy la Virgen de la Caridad, “I am the Virgin of Charity.”

El Cobre Offerings

Offerings are kept in the Chapel of Miracles, including Ernest Hemingway’s medal for his 1954 literature Nobel Prize, which he donated to the Virgin. Common objects left in more recent times include replicas of rafts, representing safe journeys to America.

El Cobre

There are beautiful stained glass windows everywhere.

DSC_1629 *DSC_1631 *




This stunning wood mechanism is used to transport the Virgin through town on important holidays.


There is a dispenser for you to fill your container with Holy water to take home.

The Copper Mines of the area

The Copper Mines of the area

Jennifer and I at El Cobre

Jennifer and I at El Cobre

The town of El Cobre was founded in 1550 as a Spanish copper mine, worked by slaves and Indians. It was at its peak in the first half of the 19th century, when it produced 67,000 tons of copper. In 2001, scant production and low prices for copper on the world market led to the mine’s closure.



We stopped for coconut water and cucurucho on our return trip. Cucurucho is a delicacy of the city of Baracoa east of Santiago. Wrapped in a cone-shaped palm leaf (cucurucho is Spanish for cone), it is a mix of coconut, sugar and often other ingredients such as orange, guava and pineapple.



Cucurucho - it is DELICIOUS

Cucurucho – it is DELICIOUS


Apr 202015


Once you leave the Cathedral in El Cobre, and if you are willing to walk 400 steps, be certain to visit the Monumento al Cimmarón.


You very well may be met at the bottom of the stairs by a “guide”. He will take you off the beaten path to see this “holy” tree.  It is a site of Santeria gathering in July, the Fiesta del Caribe.

Further up the “off path” trail you will find many caves.  The guide will tell you the Cimmaróns built them, but I have a bigger suspicion they were dug while this area was being mined for copper.


Just before you get to the top, if you remain on the “off the track” direction you will come upon this mural. I know nothing about it, and neither did my “guide”.


Your reason for the climb is several fold, but most important it is to visit “El Monumento al Cimarron” (the Monument to Runaway Slaves), a towering sculpture created in bronze and iron, built to honor one of the earliest slave revolts that took place in the country.

DSC_4551This region, was the scene of many acts of insubordination and mass slave escapes in the years 1673, 1691, 1731, 1737 and 1781 and an uprising on  July 24, 1731.

DSC_4526You can read all about the sculpture and the sculptor here.

The other reason to make this trek is the view.


The town of El Cobre was founded in 1550 as a Spanish copper mine, worked by slaves and Indians, and mining continued until 2001.  Once the mine was closed the quarry turned into an enormous pit, that is the lake you see.  The water is very high in minerals, especially sulfurs.


The environmental damage is evident, but can be mistaken for the poverty that sits above it.

DSC_4533-001You are rewarded for your efforts with stunning views of the Sierra Maestra Mountains, the cathedral and the town of El Cobre.

If you do go, take water, and if you use the guide, tip him at least 1CUC, it is a long hot walk especially in the summer.