To discover El Cobre, head to a place about 20 kilometers west of Santiago de Cuba.
El Cobre owes its name to the copper mine that was exploited there since pre-Columbian times (“cobre” means “copper” in Spanish).
The mine closed in 2000, but El Cobre continues to attract many visitors, both Cubans and foreigners.
And for good reason! The Basilica of Nuestra Señora del Cobre is indeed the most famous religious building in Cuba.
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How to get to El Cobre
The village of El Cobre is easily accessible from Santiago de Cuba.
Bus number 2 serves the village several times a day from the inter-municipal bus station (at the corner of Avenida de los Liberadores and Calle 4).
Alternatively, you can take a cab to Santiago.
The round trip costs 25 CUC.
The Basilica of Nuestra Señora del Cobre
The immaculate Basilica of Nuestra Señora del Cobre stands on the heights of the village, with the lush sierra as a backdrop.
The building was built in 1927 on a site that had been consecrated since the 17th century.
A crowd of Cuban pilgrims goes there every year.
The basilica celebrates the Virgin of Charity, the “Cachita” for those who know her well.
The latter is the Patron Saint of Cuba.
A tiny statue of the Virgin, dressed in gold, sits behind the altar.
If the basilica is worth a visit, it is also for the multitude of ex-votos that are exposed there.
Crutches, diplomas, medals, stethoscopes and other offerings have been deposited there in abundance to thank the Patron Saint of Cuba for her benefits.
Ernest Hemingway himself even left his Nobel Prize there, which remained in the Basilica of El Cobre until 1986! Every year, on September 8, hundreds of faithful gather in El Cobre to celebrate the feast of the Virgin of Charity.