By Jalane D. Schmidt
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Additional info for Cachita's Streets: The Virgin of Charity, Race, and Revolution in Cuba
It is “the magic of the Indian—Â�pagan, militant, anti-Â�Christ obstacle to the gold of the wilderness—Â� [which] sets the Virgin on her redemptive course” ( 1991, 197). In the Cuban case, the legendary 1612 finding of the image of the Virgin of Charity by two indigenous men and an enslaved black boy grants superÂ�natuÂ�ral Â�favor to those who Â�were forced to Â�labor in the royal copper mines of Cuba’s eastern frontier for the profit of the Spanish metropole. 4 Accounts of the Virgin’s sojourn with colonial subalterns lends a heavenly imprimatur to a Â�later epoch’s moral repugnance Â�toward the historical injustices they suffered Â�under colonialism, slavery, and attendant racism, and propels the moral arc of Â�later preferred narratives of national history.
After the 1630s, children classified as “mulatto” comprised the majority of young slaves in El Cobre. With the exception of clergymen and some other residents, Â�people of color comprised nearly all of the town’s residents (M. E. Díaz 2000a, 33). According to the Cuban historian Olga Portuondo Zúñiga (1994), these regional demographic factors, plus Oriente’s repeated absorption of waves of CaÂ�ribÂ�bean refugees and immigrants over the centuries, led to the eastern region’s penchant for invención (local adaptation) and early and more Â�free-Â�wheeling racial and cultural criollidad.
5, 27). So began Cubans’ centuries-Â�long physical as well as metaÂ�phorical wrestling to possess the Virgin of Charity as a material object, to control the visual repreÂ�senÂ�taÂ�tions of her image, and to normalize devotional practices in her honor. Perceptions of race have been imÂ�porÂ�tant in Cubans’ evaluations of Marian Â�devotions and devotees since the inception of this cult. The purported rivalry between the Taíno Juan de Hoyos and the Spaniard Francisco Sanchéz de Moya for control over the Virgin’s effigy so soon Â�after her initial 1612 finding in the Bay of Nipe illustrates an imÂ�porÂ�tant argument about the social history of the cult: there was never a golden age of consensus when the Virgin’s affections Â�were believed to rest equally upon everyone.
Cachita's Streets: The Virgin of Charity, Race, and Revolution in Cuba by Jalane D. Schmidt