Ermita de la Caridad

Miami, Florida | C.1961

Photo Credit: Marco Fratus

Miami’s Ermita de la Caridad is a dedication to the vivacious spirit and culture of Cuban Americans, with a history as rich as the shrine’s grounds are beautiful… and one that includes a little smuggling.

The saga begins with a trio of Cuban farmers lost in a storm in the 1600s. Floating in the storm waters, the farmers saw the answer to their prayers for safety: a statue with the inscription “The Virgin of Charity”. Since then, seeking support and paying respect to the Virgin of Charity has been a time-honored tradition of Cuban worship.

Centuries later, many Cubans fleeing Communist rule found sanctuary in Miami. In 1961, a replica of the statue of Mary located at the Cuban national shrine in El Cobre, was smuggled through the Panamanian embassy, arriving in time for the Feast of Our Lady of Charity, celebrated at Miami Stadium by 30,000 Cuban expats. This celebration made it very clear that there was a large and active community that needed a “forever home” for their patron statue…

Built entirely by Cuban immigrants and located on the Biscayne Bay, across the water from Cuba, this magnificent shrine’s architecture represents the culture and faith of the Cuban people now in America. The church was constructed in a conical shape, reflective of the mantle on the statue of Mary. Behind the statue (contained within the church) is a mural of Mary, surrounded by illustrations that depict Cuban history. Six columns support the mantle, representing Cuba’s six traditional provinces. A stone beneath the altar, signifying the Hermitage’s sacred consecration, contains earth and soil from all six provinces and was cast with water brought on a raft from Cuba–a journey which cost 15 refugees their lives. The Ermita de la Caridad was completed in 1973 and in 2000, the site was designated a National Shrine for its significance as a sanctuary for Cubans in America.

Written By: Sam Jacobson

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