Home Altars and La Caridad

La Caridad del Cobre, Cuba home altar

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.

La Caridad del Cobre, Cuba home altar detail

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.

La Caridad del Cobre, Cuba home altar

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.

muy bueno cookbook altarYvette 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.

Share Yours

Feel free to leave a link in the comments to your altars, or upload them to the Tiki Tiki Facebook community.


Share, por favor!

By Carrie on September 8, 2011 · Posted in the habla habla

14 Comments | Post Comment

vianney/sweet life says:

I have had a altar in every home I have lived, here in our current apt I have a small nicho with my collection of treasured Virgen Mary statues,ceramic that I have ben gifted over the years. We also do a altar for dia de los muertos. I love the meaning behind yours, great post.
vianney/sweet life´s last [fabulousness] ..Alfajores ~ The Cookiepedia by Stacy Adimando

Posted on September 8th, 2011

Tere says:

Love this, Carrie! I used to have an altar until just a few years ago (when a lack of space didn’t allow me to set it up as it should have been), but this has inspired me to get creative and create a new one.

I used mine to honor Sta. Teresita de Jesus (my santo), with various mementos that honored those I loved most. I wish now I’d photographed it.

Excellent post!

Posted on September 8th, 2011

Tia Mirtha says:

Tu tia has an altar. Y have La Virgen de las Mercedes, tierra de Cuba, Agua Bendita de Lourdes. Mi Indio con su head gear, little american indian pots. Santiago de Compostela (por mi abuelo Santiado) a few Angels. A cross with tierra bendita de Israel, que mas?? And my boveda de agua para todo los espiritus y guias protectores. Tambien para los Angeles de la Guarda de todos mis seres queridos. Para que Dios les de luz y nos cuiden y nos protejan de todo mal.

Posted on September 8th, 2011

Tracy says:

I made one for Carlos’s father on Día de los Muertos but I had to take it down because it made Carlos sad.


Posted on September 8th, 2011

Abuela says:

Tia Mirtha tiene tremendo arroz con mango por si acaso falla uno.
Buen articulo.

Posted on September 8th, 2011

Caridad Pineiro says:

A belated Feliz Santo from another Caridad. I love the altar in your home. It is beautiful. Sadly, I do not have one in my home, although Nuestra Senora de la Caridad is always in my heart.

Posted on September 9th, 2011

Carrie says:

V, I so would love to see your nicho…write about it!
Thank you for your comments!

Posted on September 9th, 2011

Carrie says:

Tere, when you put yours back up, show me!
Thank you for coming by! I need to go to your rinconcito again soon.

Posted on September 9th, 2011

Carrie says:

And, Tia…I think you need to mention the Star of David you wear too…
You have all the bases covered, for sure!

Posted on September 9th, 2011

Carrie says:

Tracy, I remember that post. I am sorry that it makes Carlos so sad…One day, perhaps…

Posted on September 9th, 2011

Carrie says:

Total arroz con mango!
But, she’s doing pretty well so something is working!

Posted on September 9th, 2011

Carrie says:

Caridad, I love that you own the domain Caridad.com!
I also am looking forward to reading more about your work.
Mucho gusto and I hope you had un dia bueno.
Cosas buenas!

Posted on September 9th, 2011

Yvette ~ Muy Bueno Cookbook says:

Thanks for sharing our photo and link Carrie! We are still so proud of that beautiful photo shoot. I also have an altar at home for my grandma that I never bothered to take down after Dia de los Muertos last year. I honestly feel that my grandma is very present since it’s been up. She is our guardian angel ;)

Posted on September 9th, 2011

Unknown Mami says:

I think I just fell in love with your husband a little bit.

Posted on September 9th, 2011