Our Lady of the Exile: Diasporic Religion at a Cuban Catholic Shrine in Miami

Our Lady of the Exile: Diasporic Religion at a Cuban Catholic Shrine in Miami

Our Lady of the Exile: Diasporic Religion at a Cuban Catholic Shrine in Miami

Our Lady of the Exile: Diasporic Religion at a Cuban Catholic Shrine in Miami

Synopsis

Our Lady of the Exile is a study of Cuban-American popular Catholicism, focusing on the shrine of Our Lady Charity in Miami. Drawing on a wide range of sources and using both historical and ethnographic methods, the book examines the religious life of the Cuban exiles who visit the shrine. Those pilgrims are diverse, and so are the motives that bring them. At the same time, author Thomas A. Tweed argues, Cuban devotees of the national patroness share a great deal. Most come to pray for their homeland and to recreate bonds with other Cubans, on the island and in the diaspora. The shrine is a place where they come to make sense of themselves as an exiled people. The religious symbols there link the past and present and bridge the homeland and the new land. Through rituals and artifacts at the shrine, Tweed suggests, the Cuban diaspora "imaginatively constructs its collective identity and transports itself to the Cuba of memory and desire." While the book focuses on Cuban exiles in Miami, it moves beyond case study as it explores larger issues concerning religion, identity, and place. How do migrants relate to heir homeland? How do they understand themselves after they have been displaced? What role does religion play among these diasporic groups? Building on this study of one exiled group, Tweed proposes a theory of diasporic religion that promises to illuminate the experiences of other groups that have been displaced from their native land. As the first book-length analysis of Cuban-American Catholicism, Tweed's book will be an invaluable resource to scholars and students of not only Religious Studies, American Studies, and Ethnic Studies, but also those who study cultural anthropology, human geography, and Latin American history.

Excerpt

It was a perfect Monday afternoon in February, the sun gleaming off the shrine's copper roof -- one of those days that had lured so many tourists and migrants to this city earlier in the century. But the perfect weather did not draw Manuel and his daughter Yvonne that weekday in 1992. The Virgin did, although it took me some time to discover that since I first encountered the twenty-four-year-old daughter. Dressed in stylish shorts and an elegant blouse, Yvonne was leaning against a white convertible in the parking lot as I approached. We spoke for a little longer than twenty minutes, but still I was puzzled. She confessed to a complete lack of piety, but that made her presence at the shrine inexplicable. Why was she there? It turned out, I soon learned, that she was waiting -- not very patiently -- for her father, a dark-haired white man of Cuban descent. As he walked down the front steps and toward where I stood at the edge of the parking lot, I noticed his fashionable clothes and expensive shoes. This, I thought to myself, was why some scholars of immigration have celebrated Cubans as the "golden exiles." As he confirmed when we spoke, Manuel had done well since he arrived as a twenty-one- year-old. He had come from Oriente province with the first (and most elite) wave of Cuban migrants in 1961. But that was not all that was on his mind that day. As he fought back tears, he told me that he had flown from Los Angeles to fulfill a vow he made to Our Lady of Charity. His intense devotion to the Virgin had begun as a child, nurtured in a town just three municipalities north of the main shrine in Cobre, one that adjoined the Bay where the three laborers had found the original statue. It was natural, then, that he turned to Our Lady of Charity when family trouble started. "I had some kind of problem with her," Manuel explained as he pointed to his distracted daughter, who by that time had turned on the rental car's radio to pass the time. Before and after I met Manuel, many other visitors cried as we talked at the shrine, but he was as emotional as any. Finally, he began to weep and asked to stop the interview. I never discovered his daughter's "problem." Whatever the problem, the Virgin had resolved it. Manuel, in response, traveled thousands of miles at some cost to express his gratitude and keep his promise. He had visited the . . .

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