cuba vacation packages

Catholic Educational Tour in Cuba: The Route of ‘Cachita’

Linda Jacky cuba vacation packages, Legal Travel To Cuba

cuba vacation packages

ATI offers 10 days in Cuba with our “Route to the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre” educational tour package. Legal travel to Cuba requirements are met by this fascinating educational trip through the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre’s history. During your Cuban tour, you’ll see the Bay of Nipe – where she was found more than 400 years ago – and you’ll visit the memorial of John Paul II. Included in the vacation package is a visit to the the second-largest church in Cuba, the Iglesia de Jesus de Miramar. We’ll also visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Castillo del Morro, and we’ll tour the National Shrine at the Basilica of El Cobre to see the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre.

Cuba’s Patron Saint, la Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre

Cuba has historically been a country with a high percentage of Roman Catholics due to the efforts of Spanish missionaries; however, Communism brought restrictions to most religious activities in 1959. Since the end of the Cold War, the restrictions have been lifted and Catholicism has again taken a central role in Cuba with more than 60 percent of the population identifying as Catholic. Three Popes have visited Cuba: Pope John Paul II in 1998, Pope Benedict XVI in 2012 and Pope Francis in 2015. The Roman Catholic Church takes a politically active role in Cuba with a great deal of support from the public.

La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre

The 1960 embargo still stands, so tourists will not be allowed to fly to Cuba. Travel plans for individuals and groups must be approved through the United States government, and they will be granted under specific cultural or academic criteria, including educational and people to people travel, professional research, family visits, journalism and humanitarian work. Cuba reopened its Washington, D.C. embassy in 2015 and the United States has also reopened its embassy in Cuba. Visa requirements mean travelers will need to plan their trips to Cuba well in advance of the anticipated date with applications to the government.

The National Shrine of the Patroness of Cuba

She was moved to a new shrine, yet she continued to appear and disappear. She was then moved to a new location in the Sierra Maestra mountains after a young girl had a vision of La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre while picking flowers in the area. She remains in this eastern Cuban location today, and the shrine has been expanded to allow more people to see her. Pope Benedict XV recognized her as the Patroness of Cuba in 1916 with an annual national feast day of September 8. Her shrine was designated as a Basilica in 1977 by Pope John Paul II. Cubans are very fond of her, and they call her “Cachita” – a term of endearment.

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An Official Spanish History

Although the story of her legend and history varies, official records state that she was carved in Toledo, Spain, for a ship captain’s crew to pray for protection from pirates. Legends speculate that the ship wrecked in the Caribbean, leaving the statue floating in the water. Some people claim that the church officials made attempts to return the statue to Spain, but fate and unusual circumstances brought her back to Cuba each time.

Celebrating “Cachita”

At more than 400 years old, La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre is just over one foot in height, and she is one of the world’s most revered Catholic icons. In fact, Cubans of many different faiths pray to Cachita, including the Afro-Cuban Santeria believers who call her “Ochun.” She is safely enclosed in a glass case and is clad in a golden dress with a silver crescent moon under her feet. Her day of celebration on September 8 is celebrated by dressing in yellow and putting sunflowers, honey and pumpkins on her altar. Lighted candles, a drumming ceremony or a classical string orchestra will be a part of the annual celebrations as well.

Basilica of El Cobre

The Basilica of El Cobre is a sacred source of pride for the Cuban people. This ivory church with red domes is just outside Santiago, and one corner of the church houses offerings for La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, including votive candles and handwritten notes. Ernest Hemingway placed his 1954 Nobel Prize medal at her feet to show his appreciation for the Cuban people who inspired his novels.

Ermita de La Virgen de la Caridad

A sister shrine in South Florida allows Cuban-Americans who won’t visit Cuba to worship the Virgin of Charity in the United States. The church is known as Ermita de La Virgen de la Caridad, and it has been visited by President Barack Obama during his efforts to restore relations with Cuba while also reaching out to exiles.