Holguín´s Stairway to the Sky
By Lázaro David Najarro, Photos: Publicitur
This eastern Cuban city is renowned for its interesting sites, one of which is La Loma de la Cruz (The Hill of the Cross), an attraction visited by thousands of people from around the world during the festivities known as the “Romerías de Mayo” (The May Pilgrimages).
Located 261 meters above sea level, this site derives its name from a wooden cross that stands on the hill-top. According to one of those promoting the pilgrimages, Alexis Triana, it was a president of the Caballeros Católicos (Catholic Knights), who in the 1920´s suggested building the stairway in order to facilitate access to the cross and to enhance the appeal of the site.
The designer, Vicente Bosca, not only conceived the stairway but also included a chapel, a traffic roundabout, viewing points and the reconstruction of a nearby fort. Triana said that despite the importance of this project for local tourism, municipal authorities at the time failed to allocate the expected funding.
Therefore Albanés financed the project through the organization of festivals while a team of explorers helped with the construction: building materials were carried by hand or with the help of mules.
The works, to which the authorities took a slack attitude, took 23 years to complete: starting on January 28, 1927 and concluding on May 3, 1950.
At the time of its completion, the staircase, with 458 steps, was the largest in the world. Records also indicate that a Holguín Axe (used symbolically in religious ceremonies by indigenous agro-pottery communities) was found in 1860 by a Spanish Army officer near La Loma de la Cruz.
Every May 3 that Taíno axe and a large Cuban flag are carried during the pilgrimage to the cross. Visitors believe that the site offers symbolic protection, that it is an appropriate place to pray or they simply consider it a unique place of interest.