The Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Cobre, high on a hill 20km northwest of Santiago de Cuba on the old road to Bayamo, is Cuba's most sacred pilgrimage site. It's the shrine of the nation's patron saint: La Virgen de la Caridad (Our Lady of Charity), aka Cachita. In Santería, the Virgin is syncretized with the beautiful orisha Ochún, Yoruba goddess of love and dancing, and a religious icon to almost all Cuban women. Ochún is represented by the color yellow, mirrors, honey, peacock feathers and the number five. In the minds of many worshipers, devotion to the two religious figures is intertwined.
Even for nonbelievers, a visit to the Virgin is a fascinating look in to local culture. The road to the basilica is lined with sellers of elaborate flower wreaths, intended as offerings to La Virgen, and hawkers of miniature 'Cachitas'.