Back in Little Havana a crowd of mostly older women gathers each day at about three o'clock under the shadow of the giant ceiba to petition and pray. Countless rosaries hang from the figure. Daisies and red carnations encircle Mary's feet.
Of ten devotees who agreed to comment on a recent day, nary a one had seen a shimmer. Still they waited, hoping the clouds would disperse. Several said they assume sunshine is this miracle's main ingredient.
Three o'clock came and went without an apparition, but more than a dozen people remained at the foot of the statue. Roxana Arango talked about a communist conspiracy to eject her from the park because she prays too loudly. "These people want to shut me up and it's not going to work. This is a democracy," she said.
Maria Vasallo, who came with her daughter from Hialeah Gardens, says that apart from a new liver, she also wants to ask the Virgin to get rid of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Jesus Cantu is still clinging to Mary, his shaggy black bangs covering his eyes.
None of those questioned had experienced celestial intervention, including neighbor Francisco Pardo: "The only miracle I see is that these people who never even made the sign of the cross when passing by the statue now stand before it and pray."
Forty-year-old Lili Duarte, a manicurist at Rossy's Beauty Salon across from the park, is even more skeptical. She says the only light coming from the stump is a reflection of the media spotlight. "That's why so many people come. There's no miraculous light. It's just a sun ray that happens to hit the statue as the sun begins its slow descent at three."