According to the legend, in 1613, two brothers of native origin and a black boy of nine or ten years old, went for salt to the Nipe Bay “in the northeast coast of Cuba”, and they saw under the sea the image of the Virgin Caridad del Cobre. It is also said the image was taken to the town Real of Minas, very near Santiago de Cuba, where are the largest layers of copper outdoors in America.
The neighbors received the discovery as a good signal from heaven, and built a hermitage to act as the temple of the religious idol immediately. On the side of the mine, the miners built the sanctuary, in the same place where the church that preserves the idol found under the water is placed today. That was the beginning of Cubans devotion for this image.
The Virgin Caridad del Cobre is also worshiped in Afro-Cuban syncretic cults as Ochún, the goddess of love and money, the patroness of the fresh waters. Her feast is on September 8th; even from the previous day offers of all kinds are made to her. The festivity is also related to Yemayá, the goddess of the sea. Her celebration takes place on September 7th.
During the wars of independence, since 1868, the Cuban troops expressed great devotion to the Virgin Caridad del Cobre and committed themselves to her protection. The veterans of the War of Independence requested the Pope Benedicto XV to proclaim the Virgin Caridad del Cobre as Patroness of Cuba. Some years later the Pope Pio XI authorized the canonical coronation of the sacred image. The morning of December 20, 1936 was celebrated the coronation by the bishop of Santiago de Cuba, Monsignor Valentin Zubizarreta.
The Sanctuary of Cobre offers a mass every morning. It was built in 1927, it has an silver altar and other ornamental objects of eat values. Under the Closet of the Virgin is the Chapel of the Miracles, a small room where the believers place diverse offers: golden jewels and gemstones, aid walks and other valuable objects. Around 500 people visit the place everyday.
The peregrines take with them tiny stone from the mine where the pieces of copper shine. They preserve them at home in a glass of water, in the pockets or purses, as a protection against the evil or as a way to see the light of the personal or familiar future.
The Pope Paul VI sent in December 30,th , 1977 as his delegate the Cardinal Bernardín Gantín, holder of the papal bull to proclaim Minor Basilica the former National Sanctuary. During his visit to Cuba in 1998 the Pope Juan Pablo II crowned and blessed the Virgin Caridad del Cobre.