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The first two hundred steps are hurriedly over, then the feet begin to whine, the chest shakes a little, and you perceive that you are halfway there.

You sweat a lot. A cool breeze sneaks into your sweater, refreshes your body and face. You joke with friends who stayed behind, rest with them for a few minutes and keep moving.

You’re at the top. There are 458 concrete steps behind. You are not worried about the descent: “Down all the saints help,” say the Cubans and you know it’s true. Now you only think of how beautiful the city of Holguin is seen from above, with its parks and colonial buildings. You notice the cars, the tiny people like ants, and the red tiles that crown the roofs. You turn to look at the blessed cross of caguairán wood and the offerings left by some at the foot: lighted candles, food, coins and flowers.

Loma de la Cruz (Hill of the Cross) was declared Historical Colonial Archaeological Monument of the island of Cuba. Historians say that the first cross was erected in the year 1790. It was carried on the shoulders of the friar Francisco Antonio de Alegría, prior of the Franciscan community of Holguín. The religious founded the Romerías de Mayo (Pilgrims of May), a traditional Spanish celebration, inspired by St. Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine the Great, died at the calvary, tied to a cross.

At the beginning of XX century, a Holguin historian named Oscar Albanés, proposed to the neighbors of the town to undertake restoration works in the slopes of the Hill. Raffles and collections were made to pay the fees of the architect Vicente Biosca. The company concluded on May 3, 1950, the day when a new cross was placed, a substitute for that foundational cross of timber deteriorated by time.

Towards the 90’s, a dry and unforeseen ray struck this second cross, which had to be replaced by the one we see erected today.

From the top of the hill, Pope Francisco blessed the city and its people on September 21, 2015.

The people from Holguin are lucky to have this sublime site, refuge of poets and dreamers. Pilgrimage to that place is an act of legitimate faith.

by: Susana Rodriguez Ortega
pictures: From Internet