My grandmother hid your image in the lining of her bra while my mother was still burdened with the mask of atheism. We girls of the house learned to venerate you without knowing your name, entranced with the golden splendor of your cape. Before knowing what to call you in one religion or another, we simply called you: Cachita.
You are the only point on which Cubans agree. You manage to gather around you those who prayed to you in private so as not to go to church in the years of antireligious furor, and those like me who don’t know, if we cross ourselves, whether to start with the left shoulder or the right.
Today, as in other years, we should be buying sunflowers and parading your image through the most central streets of the city, but Hurricane Ike has overshadowed your day. Around Nipe Bay, where they found your image 396 years ago, they are overwhelmed by the wind and rain. An intense prayer rises from the homes of the whole Island: “Free us from all evil and with your protective mantle cover our devastated land.”
Translator’s note: Cachita is a nickname for the Virgin of Charity (La Virgen de la Caridad), Cuba’s patron saint. Today is her Saint’s Day.