By: Rebecca Cofino/ Blogger
The annual pilgrimage of the Ermita de la Caridad shrine from her home in Coconut Grove to the American Airline’s Arena downtown. The shrine is a holy Catholic relic which was smuggled out of Cuba and dramatically arrived in Miami by boat September 8, 1962 to the throngs of 30,000 spectators. For Cuban American Catholics she symbolized hope and faith, both a connection to Cuba and freedom from Cuba.
Every September the pilgrimage is recreated with thousands of spectators in attendance. This year was particularly special because it celebrated the shrine’s 400th anniversary. Like any popular event, downtown was packed. We wanted to take our young children, but didn’t dare go to the spectacle downtown. Coconut Grove was a much better option.
Throughout the afternoon, sunny blue skies blanketed the Grove. We were arrived early to join the excitement. A couple hundred people waited to see the Shrine’s departure from the Grove. There was also a steady stream of cars which stopped by to pay their respects before heading downtown. Vendors sold sunflowers, yellow carnations and peach roses. Soon yellow flowers and Cuban flags decorated the crowd.
Just before the Shrine’s departure at four o’clock, the sky turned black. A heavy raincloud settled over the celebration, bringing rough seas, but not actually dampening the crowd. The weather change reminded us of the real journey the shrine took through the ocean to arrive here undamaged.
Many faces of older Cubans were stained with tears as the Shrine was paraded through the crowd. She was adorned with roses and everybody got a chance to see her before she was taken aboard the boat bound for mass in the arena. Despite being a crowded event, people were on their best behavior. None of the typical Miami jostling for position took place. It was simply a calm, dignified celebration.
Although Coconut Grove is a part of the City of Miami, I don’t usually associate it with a strong connection to the Cuban community. Saturday’s celebration reminded me that Coconut Grove is the home of one of the most significant pieces of Cuban American culture. The Grove is more than just the former hippie enclave turned bustling city. If you look closely, there is much more to uncover as you explore the Grove.