This year, Cuba is celebrating the centennial of Pope Benedict XV’s naming of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre as Cuba’s patron saint, as requested by the veterans of the nation’s war of independence.
The story of the Cuban Virgin of Charity begins in 1612 when an African slave and two indigenous Cubans rowed a boat to collect salt in the Bay of Nipe. (Now they are immortalized as “the three Juans” who appear in their boat at the Virgin’s feet in posters, paintings and carvings.)
She is venerated in many countries, cities and regions as their patroness, usually under a specific title or apparition. This is the case of Cuba, which celebrates that day as the feast day of Our Lady of Charity. During the procession, the people sang hymns, prayed and shouted Viva! to Cuba’s Patroness and the Church.
They continued to secretly worship their ancestral spirits by merging them with Catholic saints. Cuba’s patron saint, the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre, is also Oshun , the goddess of love and fertility.
Although most people in Cuba celebrate Christmas Eve with a big dinner, Ruiz said that has more to do with family, rum and dancing than any celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. “It’s a party,” he said. Cubans settled into that situation for years. Many continued going to church, many more stayed away.
Olokun is believed to be the parent of Aje, the orisha of great wealth and of the bottom of the ocean. Olokun is revered as the ruler of all bodies of water and for the authority over other water deities. Olokun is highly praised for their ability to give great wealth, health, and prosperity to their followers.
Another common initiation is the intitiation into the Seven African Powers (Elegua, Obatala, Oggun, Chango, Yemaya, Oshun, and Orunmilla). Devotees from Cuba often replace Orunmilla with Babalu-Aye. The Seven African Powers are consecrated into one eleke.