Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)


Religious Studies

First Advisor's Name

Terry Rey

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Lesley Northup

Third Advisor's Name

Alex Stepick

Date of Defense



This Master's thesis explores the hypothesis that Elian Gonzalez functions as a religious and ideological symbol for Cuban-Americans similarly to La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre. Both La Caridad and Eliin are contested symbols among most Cuban and Cuban-American individuals, meaning both groups appropriate them toward their religious and ideological ends. The Virgin aids in the formulation of a collective identity for members of the Cuban exile community. Her shrine in Miami bridges the spatial and temporal gap between the exile community and the homeland of Cuba and represents the exile's hope for a return to a free Cuba. Elian functions as a metaphor of the Cuban exile experience, and thus a multi-leveled, transnational, religious and ideological symbol. In order to assess this, theoretical and journalistic materials are used, along with personal interviews and participant observation. This methodology is used to determine the function Elian serves for this community.



Included in

Religion Commons



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