September 8 is the Feast of La Caridad del Cobre, Cuba’s Patron Saint.
I, like lots of girls born to Cubans, was named after la Caridad and on this day, my family calls. It’s almost like a birthday, el dia de mi Santo.
My mom’s email today:
“Que pases un dia lleno de felicidad y que la Caridad siempre te cuide. Ponle una velita.”
Translation: “May you have a day filled with happiness and may the Caridad always take care of you. Light a candle for her.”
I am not a Catholic, so the reverence has more to do with inbred tradition.
La Caridad and the saints are like a constant overall force and guide. Someone, or something, I believe is there. That can be hocus pocus to many, but when you are raised seeing an altar in most every home you visit — and even outside in the yard — you believe. (And yes, they have freaked out more than a few non-Latino friends who don’t really get why the statue needs food and such.)
And so, I honor and I remember and I keep my altar.
The home altars I grew up with featured la Caridad, la Mercedes, San Lazaro and many more. There were flowers and tall glasses of water and sweets and tobacco. Sometimes a little bit of rum, for the gods must be satisfied.
They were all symbols of faith and they just always were there.
This altar in my home was made by my husband the year we married. He calls it the Family Box and he has filled it with the symbols of our meeting in Cuba.
That church in the box, with the bride and groom on the steps, that’s the Cathedral of the Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Havana, constructed between 1748 and 1777. He and I used to meet in the plaza where it sits. There are sugar packs and money and sweets we collected in Cuba, too. He made most of the little clay food that sits on the offering table. (He’s awesome, I know).
And, as our years together increased, and our family grew, we have added more. Symbols from his family, our beloved cat’s collar, baby socks that represent the baby I miscarried. There also is dirt from my family plot in Cuba and his grandmother’s ashes.
Our daughter often asks him for a boost so she can look at the box. She loves to hear the story behind each object, and she loves the trinkets that represent her.
Today, on the day of La Caridad’s feast, I’ll change the water in the glass and and stop and remember to say gracias…and remember the connection to my culture and upbringing.
I will poner la velita.
Do You Have an Altar?
I asked Tiki Tiki readers via our Facebook community if they have a home altar. A few offered up links and photos.
Yvette from Muy Bueno Cookbook sent this link and image of the altar she and her sister created for their grandmother, Jesusita. The photos are stunning, so go take a look.
Maruchy posted a photo of her mother’s “garden Ermita” on our Facebook page, saying:
This is a large “garden” Ermita that my mom kept after she sold her home a few years back. She now lives in a small efficiency but she kept it and dominates her tiny home! My hubby calls her home “la capilla!” He is on notice that we are inheriting it. :)
Helena keeps a different sort of altar, one for Chayanne — who is not an official santo!
Steve has a beautiful Caridad in his garden.
Feel free to leave a link in the comments to your altars, or upload them to the Tiki Tiki Facebook community.