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May Pilgrimage

May feasts arrived to Cuba with the Spanish conquest and the colonization. In this month are celebrated catholic festivities of a Spanish tradition that were influenced afterwards by laic elements.

It is said that Saint Elena, mother of Constantine, the emperor who crowned Christianity as official religion in the Roman Empire, found the wood where Jesus was crucified.

Thats why the Christian calendar recognizes this day as the Day of the Cross Invention.

In Holguin, in the east part of Cuba, these feast were considered as part of the popular and traditional culture, and they are celebrated in urban and rural areas.

They are: The Altars of the May Cross, feast of the May Cross and the Pilgrimage of the Cross. The Feast of the May Cross was held at the beginning of the 20th century only in the saloons of the towns El Mocho, La Palma and the municipality Rafael Freire, placed near the coast, 35 kilometres north Holguin.

May CrossThe religious part of the feast consisted in a visit to the hermitage to light some candles to the virgin.The rest of the activities had a laic character. They usually began after 2:00p.m with some games and competitions.

The May Feast was held in the old neighbourhood named Auras(present Floro Pérez), 15 kilometres north the Holguin city, from May 1st to the 3rd. It covered the streets, the park and the clubs of the town from the beginning of the 20th century. People from neighbour towns attended the event transported in cars, wagons, riding horses or by train.

The first day was The Verbena, the second day the Dance of the Flowers, in which women were suppose to use them to adorn themselves. The third day The Holy Cross was decorated and a pilgrimage was made by the most important streets of the town. That day the believers paid promises in the parochial church Jesús del Monte, one of the oldest in the province. The pilgrimage of the  is held every May 3rd in the urban area of Holguin, and it was previously known as the Day of the Cross. Some chronicles writers refer to its origin at the end of the 18th century, from the placement of a cross in the top of the Bayado Hill in the northern part of the village, with the prior of the Franciscan hermitage in 1790.

That day the people goes to the top of the hill to pray, light candles and incidence, after the pilgrimage from Saint Isidoro Church, all through Libertad street. After a period of inactivity the May Pilgrimage was revived on the hands of the Association Hermanos Saíz (AHS) that gathers artists under the age of 36 years old.