After a 20 km (12 mi) drive through the countryside northwest of Santiago you'll see the red-tile tower of La Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre—dedicated to Cuba's patron saint in 1916—before the turn-off to the copper mining town in which it is located. The story of the Virgin dates from the early 1600s, when three men in a boat first saw her floating on water; several other area sightings were followed by tales of the Virgin's miraculous powers.
(Her image has also been blended with that of Óchún, the orisha, or goddess, of love in the Santería religion.) Each September, pilgrims journey here—sometimes crawling uphill for miles on their knees—on the Virgin's feast day (September 12). Her shrine is filled with gifts from the faithful, including Ernest Hemingway's Nobel Prize, which he left here in 1952. A staircase at the back of the cathedral leads to the chapel containing the Virgin's wooden image. In front of the cathedral you'll find a plaque commemorating Pope John Paul's visit here during his 1998 trip to Cuba.
Carretera Central, Santiago de Cuba, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba