The Virgin of Roads: Devotion or popularity?
By Alina Veranes
Erect on its pedestal, with Aramean attire and the nautical star or compass rose in hand, the sculpture of the Virgen del Camino, in the Cuban capital, is one of the most beautiful and emblematic symbols of the community of San Miguel del Padrón, where it is located at the convergence of Calzada de Luyanó, Carretera de Güines and Carretera Central.
Unveiled in 1945, it was built in the middle of a wooded square or park protected by a kind of roofed pergola with 16 columns and is the work of the famous Cuban sculptress Rita Longa, who gave it the graceful and delicate air characteristic of her work and in special walking skills.
It is two meters high and was cast in bronze donated by believers mainly in the form of coins. The site of the enclave, where previously the Virgen del Camino de León, Spain, and the Virgen de la Caridad had already been spontaneously honored, since the day of the inauguration of the sculpture, aroused great devotion and praiseworthy charitable activity , in favor of the needy children of the neighbourhood.
In the early years, coins and jewels were thrown into the nearby fountain and used for that purpose. Requests for miracles or protection are now made with words. Faith and flowers that have always accompanied her, placed with love in her arms and not necessarily by travelers. Brides have also offered her wedding bouquets, many 155-year olds, recent graduates and nostalgic prodigal sons.
That spirituality that still accompanies her after so many years, was recognized by the Vatican Court of Rites, while a cardinal of the Catholic Church blessed her as "Protective Mother of the pilgrim traveler".
But saying Virgen del Camino in the Cuban capital is more than just talking about a singular sanctuary of the Lady, to whom hundreds of thousands of travelers have entrusted themselves or thanked.
Today it maintains its status as a sculpture with a soul, but it continues to be the true crossroads of always, with an active, populous and social life. It is a reference for people who move looking for an address or are simply interested in acquiring a product for sale in one of the shops around them.
Much earthly life is in that famous citizen environment called Virgen del Camino, in Havana.