Sunday, a number of Cuban-American Catholics in Florida’s Biscayne Bay came together in a pre-celebration parade, to honor the arrival of the statue of Our Lady of Charity.
The parade was held ahead of the 50th anniversary of the statue’s arrival in Miami. According to Catholic legend, nearly 400 years ago, the statue was found floating in Eastern Cuba’s Nipe Bay.
Legend has it that in the early 1600s, two brothers, Rodrigo and Juan de Hoyos, and their slave, Juan Moreno, set out to the Bay of Nipe (Cuba) used for the preservation their meat. While out on the boat, a sudden storm arose, and began dangerously throwing their boat from side to side. The slave wearing a Virgin Mary medal, and the three men prayed for her protection. The storm suddenly dissipated, and off in the distance, the men saw something floating. They rowed towards it, and found that it was a statue of the Virgin Mary, holding baby Jesus and a gold cross in her arms. The men brought the statue on board and saw it had an inscription that read “Yo Soy la Virgen de la Caridad” (“I am the Virgin of Charity”).
It was brought back to shore and upon seeing the statue, Don Francisco Sánchez de Moya, a government official, ordered that a chapel be built around her. Four times the statue disappeared then reappeared inside the locked chapel, without any sign of how. The people came to the conclusion that she desired another location so they moved the statue to El Cobre, but even there so continued to come and go.
Finally the idol was moved to the a small hill near the Sierra Maestra mountains, where she was once find by a young girl named Apolonia. A church was erected at the spot, and every year, a water procession is held to honor where the statue was initially found.
In 1961, a replica of the statue was smuggled out of Cuba into Miami, in time for Cuban exiles to celebrate Our Lady of Charity at the Feast of the Virgin.
September 8th, a large Mass for Miami’s exile’s will be held in honor of the 50th anniversary.