Cruz de la Parra, historical heritage

Cruz de la Parra, historical heritage

Heritage & Traditions


The Santa Cruz de la Parra (Holy Cross of the Parra) that is preserved and venerated in Cuba is the only one that has survived the passage of time of the 29 crosses that Admiral Christopher Columbus planted in America in his adventure to what was considered the New World. 

The historic piece is preserved as a relic of incalculable value in the parish of Our Lady of the Assumption of Baracoa, in the municipality of the same name in the eastern province of Guantánamo. This cross was placed on a rainy Saturday, December 1, 1492, on a hill in the Bay of Baracoa, which the Grand Admiral baptized as Porto Santo, a name that carried memories of the navigator, since he had lived on an island of Madeira named after his wife Felipa Moñíz, a Portuguese aristocrat, and the place where his first-born Diego was also born, who later inherited many of the privileges accumulated by his father in the Americas. 

There was a perception that the cross was made with the wood of the vine (Vitis vinifera), a plant also designated as a vine, hence the name that the insignia received; but investigations carried out from the year 1984 by a group of experts yielded more reliable data.

The abundant historical information accumulated and studied, and the analysis through the radiocarbon dating method practiced on the piece at the Catholic University of Leuven, in Belgium, categorically determined that the Parra Cross was not made with the wood of the vine, a branch where the grape bears fruit, but with the grapevine (Coccoloba diversifolia), an abundant botanical species of the Baracoa coast, at the mouth of its rivers and, in general, in many places on the Cuban coast of the eastern region.

The scientific verification corroborated the making of this cross with elements of the nature of the new lands found by the European sailors.

On Tuesday, November 16, the Admiral had already announced and recorded in his Navigation Diary, collated by the Dominican friar Bartolomé de las Casas, that: ... in all parts, islands and lands where he entered he always left a cross: he got into the boat and went to the mouth of those ports, and at one point of the ground, he found two very large logs, one longer than the other, put the one on the other and made a cross, which he said that a carpenter could not make them more proportionate; and worshipped that cross, he had a very large and high cross made of the same wood. The Cross of Parra found years later by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, the first governor of Cuba, and a group of sailors who had taken part with Columbus in the initial experience, became the best omen for those times of the year 1511, when The Villa de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción de Baracoa was founded, the first one established in Cuba by colonizers.

The relic was blessed by Pope John Paul II on the occasion of his pastoral visit to Cuba in 1998 and distinguished for its spiritual, historical and cultural values ​​as a National Monument of the Republic of Cuba in 2011.