In writing the history of the Shrine, we cannot overlook this magnificent work that is the mural. Many worked anonymously on the elaboration of it, but the best testimony can be given only by the artist himself to whom the work was commissioned.

For a better understanding of the mural, for our part, we will only add the biographies of the patriots and characters portrayed in the mural.

The Ermita's Mural

By Teok Carrasco

I started the 747 square feet mural, where 63 figures appear, on July 16th, the feast of the Mother of Heaven, under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. I started with the Baby Jesus and the Virgin holding him. Immediately after I painted the last depiction that represents the exile phase with a boat escaping from slavery in search of freedom.

I did some work on the saint of Cuba, our Archbishop Saint Antonio Maria Claret who fought so hard preaching the Gospel everywhere and especially in my province of Oriente. I had to go to the Pan American Hospital to have a cataract operation on the other eye since the first one had been successful. I went to the hospital blind in one eye, very confident that my Heavenly Mother would not forget me in her plea to the Lord, and I returned sooner than I thought with my two eyes ready to finish this work that I wanted with all my soul to offer to Our Lady.

I came every night with my assistant and good friend, Orlando Cabañas. After painting all day long, I did not feel tired. I did this work with so much love that it kept me always inspired.

I read the history of Cuba and listened to it from the mouths of the most influential people in our population. I want to thank all those who provided me with information and made it easier for me to acquire the knowledge that precedes the composition of a painting.

Sometimes I painted until one o'clock in the morning and I have painted for 364 hours.

The Virgin of Charity

In the center of the mural, I have placed the Virgin, who carries in her arms the Savior: Jesus Christ. He is the center of the entire work. I started with the Child and left him unpainted to finish the mural painting who was the first. I wanted to remember with this gesture that Christ is the first and the last, the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega of every man and every people.

Surrounding the Virgin I have placed the story, or rather the synthesis of our history because our history cannot fit in a mural. I have been selecting the individuals as one picks out the members of a family. Those who do not appear are represented in those who are displayed. Charity does not allow envy. My message can be summarized in these words: The cuban people find their salvation in the arms of the Virgin of Charity. Jesus Christ is the only Savior that the Eternal Father has given us and He has given it to us through the blessed woman among all women.

Christopher Columbus

The story begins with the entrance of Christopher Columbus, and with him arrives the faith. A friar follows the Admiral with his rosary in his hand as a symbol of this truth.

Father Las Casas

The picture of the tribe of Cueba follows with the first Cuban sanctuary dedicated to the Virgin, by our natives. Father Las Casas appears contemplating her inside the mystical straw-roofed hut.

Father Miguel Velázquez

It is followed by the first priest, musician, and teacher of Cuba, Father Miguel Velázquez, and in the same image, the apparition of the Virgin to the girl Apolonia and the first Sanctuary of El Cobre raised on the same hill, the place where today the National Sanctuary is located.

The Franciscan Fathers

Cuba from the very beginning shares its faith externally. The Franciscan Friars devoted to St. Helen who had their house of formation in Havana sent missionaries to these lands in Florida.

I bring about St. Augustine's Square and two of our martyrs: Father Luis Sanchez and Tiburcio Osorio, martyrs of Christ by the Indians in Florida. Then the Cuban Bishops of Florida: Dionisio Recino Morel de Santa Cruz and Peñalver. Then, the first teacher of Florida in the little school at St. Augustine, Francisco Traconis of Santiago de Cuba. I have displayed some of our wisest men: Arango and Parreño, Romay and Finlay. I did not forget the great Spaniard, Don Luis de las Casas.

Father Varela and Bishops Compostela, Valdés and Espada

Above I have exhibited Father Varela, of whom Luz y Caballero tells us that he taught us to think. I have represented him at his worktable because Varela is the teacher who awakened our people with his teaching. Of course, I have kept in mind all those, such as Bishops Compostela, Valdés, and Espada, who contributed so much to our culture, in addition to their exemplary lives.

Before Varela, I have placed Father Caballero, the precursor since he was the one who awakened Varela in his philosophy classes. Who can doubt that the book that most touched the heart of the priest was the Holy Scriptures? The ideas of freedom that he communicated to his disciples will always be the fruit of this book. Varela taught Saco and Luz, who taught Rafael María Mendive, who subsequently taught the Apostle Martí.

Who can doubt, when reading the verses of the white rose, that the teachings of the man who had lived 30 years in exile in the United States for the freedom of Cuba, the one who wrote El Habanero, the first document that calls for freedom, did not influence Martí?

Céspedes, Aguilera and Agramonte

I have been very careful to introduce them in a row because it was their thinking that provoked the struggle of 1968 and that is why Céspedes, Aguilera, and Agramonte appear in a very vivid picture.

Máximo Gómez, Antonio Maceo and Calixto García

I have also wanted to present close to Martí the Generalissimo Máximo Gómez with the faithful companion who always accompanied him everywhere and who is a model of wife and patriot and our great Antonio Maceo with Calixto García. I have presented Mariana Grajales in that gesture that no Cuban believer should forget when she called her children and showed them a crucifix asking them that just as the Lord gave his life for humanity, they would also give it for Cuba.

Holy Father, Pablo VI

From our republican era, I wanted to illustrate our first President, who represents our entire glorious Republic waiving his flag over the heights of the Morro. From the waters of the bay of Nipe the coat of arms of Cuba is dyed and rising from it comes the hand of Cuba asking for help from the free world. I have presented the Statue of Liberty as a symbol of this sister country that achieved its independence so gloriously two centuries ago.

I have exhibited the Holy Father, Paul VI, who lead the Church at that time with the respect and admiration of our veterans who addressed Benedict XV asking him to proclaim the Virgin of Charity Patroness of Cuba. I have painted the said Pontiff next to the National Sanctuary of El Cobre near Jesús Rabí, one of the 2000 veterans who in El Cobre asked for this proclamation.

Moralito and Don Pepe of Color

To the right of Varela, I have presented Moralito, that great Cuban Mambí from Pinar del Río that Máximo Gómez thought of as a possible President of the Republic if Martí died. That famous Mambi died soon after in the fields, but his speeches engraved his memory in our hearts.

On the left, I have introduced Don Pepe de color, that teacher who from his school Nuestra Señora de Los Desamparados prepared men as great as Juan Gualberto Gómez.

In the upper part, behind Varela, two Cuban landscapes appear: On the left, the towers of the cathedrals of the two Archdioceses in Cuba: Santiago de Cuba and Havana, beacons of faith. Next to them emerges the monument to the unknown soldier that was found in the park at Matanzas.

Angels Carrying to the sky our flag

Towards the right side of Varela rises the majestic Turquino Peak, the highest part of Cuba, from the summit of Turquino peak, two angels close the mural carrying our flag towards heaven. It is like the offering of the Cuban people from its five centuries of existence of all its joys and sorrows, of all its successes and failures, but with the hope in the One who has the power to do everything. Contemplating this beautiful scene I have painted Narciso Lopez and below him Perucho Figueredo with phrases of our National Anthem among the fire that devours Bayamo.

Monsignor Boza

I began and ended with marine landscapes, and I have placed the Virgin on the waters that I contemplated so much in my childhood in the Bay of Nipe. The sea, as Monsignor Boza says, is sometimes very dangerous during storms. The Spanish people arrived crossing the danger, and likewise, the Cuban people have gone into exile across the same seas that separate La Ermita from Cuba. I have painted Monsignor Boza Mas Vidal within the same seascape as one who has fully lived this painful part of our history. But I want to leave a message of hope in the content of the mural and it is that the Virgin teaches us how to triumph in difficulties. By appearing on the seas of the East, she invites us to reflect. She offers us to triumph in difficulty: embracing us with Jesus Christ who knew how to calm the storm and make the little boat of the apostles continue serenely until it reached dry land.