HAVANA.- The Hill of the Cross (Loma de la Cruz)is a unique natural balcony overlooking the city of Holguín which characterizes this northeastern city that lies 770 kilometers from Havana where the Pope Francis will be welcomed on September 21 on his first visit to Cuba.
Initially known as the Cerro Bayado, the short balcony of 261 meters above sea level was given its present named on May 3, 1790, when Antonio de Alegría, Friar of the Franciscan order, arrived at its Summit and placed there a blessed wooden cross, allegedly to prevent epidemics and catastrophes.
At the beginning of the heroic Cuban war of Independence, on October 10, 1868, the Hill of the Cross acquired great importance when it was considered a strategic stronghold thanks to the visibility that it offered, not only over the city of San Isidoro de Holguín, but a great distance beyond.
Consequently, a tower named Numancia was erected there that during the war of 1895 was replaced by the fortress known as Vigia, where a heliograph was installed, a device which transmitted signals and messages through the use of mirrors which allowed for communication with other defensive systems of the region.
It was not until 1927, when a square began to be built up there, an oratorium, two viewpoints and a stairway of 458 steps. The first stage of the building was ready at the beginning of the 1930s but could only be declared finalized in 1951.
The truth is that Friar Alegria´s action also served to initiate a festive religious tradition: the Romerias of the Cross, -similar to those held in Spain - that marked the day when, according to the Bible St. Helen found the Cross of the Calvary.
In this way, every May 3, the hill, illuminated and decorated for the occasion, received thousands of believers who, accompanied by a military band or an orchestra, climbed to where the cross stands carrying with them flowers, candles and stones to put them at the foot of the cross and ask for three wishes.
Over two centuries later, the tradition was rescued by young creatives of Holguin who make up the Saíz Brothers Association, who each year organize the Romerias of May and make the East of Cuba the capital of young art.
As part of the festivities, the participants crown the summit of the Loma de la Cruz together with visitors from other latitudes, but now carrying with them the Ax of Holguin, a replica of the Taino aboriginal ax and also as a symbol of the so-called city of parks.
According to the program, the Supreme Pontiff will climb the Loma de la Cruz on September 21 to bless the city and its people, after saying mass in the Plaza de la Revolución Mayor General Calixto García.Share on FB Share on TT