Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Cachita's Streets: The Virgin of Charity, Race and Revolution in Cuba

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Cachita's Streets: The Virgin of Charity, Race and Revolution in Cuba

Article excerpt

LATIN AMERICAN Cachita's Streets: The Virgin of Charity, Race and Revolution in Cuba. By Jalane D. Schmidt. [The Religious Cultures of African and African Diaspora People.] (Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 2015. Pp. xii, 357. $26.95 paperback. ISBN 978-0-8223-5937-1.)

The Virgin of Charity, nicknamed endearingly as Cachita, has been part of Cuban national identity for many centuries. She appeared in 1612 floating toward the east coast, according to the official document in 1687 reported by a one of the three men who saw her and rescued the image; Cachita then insisted on remaining with the slave population at El Cobre, a copper mine in the mountains, near Santiago but far from Havana. She is usually considered iconically mulata (i.e., a woman of Spanish-white-and African-black-race), but also associated, though separately, with the Santería oricha hybrid Ochún, a goddess with rivers and lakes and oceans, with lush fertility. This work is focused on religious processions and performances, ranging from 1612 to 2012, while she makes clear that Cachita has evolved historically in political, racial, and regional ways as well. Even the political ways of Fidel Castro during his long Revolution failed to destroy the devotion to the Virgin of Charity, though she has evolved principally among older people in Cuba along with Cubans and Cuban-Americans in the United States. Yet the various religious groups and their visions of Cachita shifted, changed, and altered as the island moved through the more than eighty years that the author studies most closely.

Although all sections are careful and captivating, Part IV (1959-1998) is particularly strong. As Fidel's Revolution brought the masses to political rallies, the Catholic and other religious processions in the streets and plazas, often simultaneously, were eliminated. While initially Catholics tried to continue with their celebrations, two years later Castro and his administration declared the country "atheist" (207). While the Revolution continued to use José Martí as a center of Cuban identity, pushed aside were Catholicism, United States interests, and Cachita. As the National Catholic Congress went forward in the early months of 1959, concerns about the Revolution responded to its anti-Communist concerns, as one headline of the Diario de la Marina objected "Social Justice, yes, but Communism, no" (p. 206). …

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