Poster of Romerías de Mayo in Cuba 2020

By Mayté Solano Gómez

Because of the coronavirus we have been forced to stay at home. Even so the traditional Romerías de Mayo (May Pilgrimages) took place this year 2020. Despite the fact that was all on internet this time. From home.

About Romerías de Mayo in Cuba

This event is held every year in the eastern province of Holguín. Currently, within the framework of this event, tradition and modernity are combined in what is already known as the Capital of Young Art.

Organized and directed today by the Saíz Brothers Association (AHS), the origin of the Romerías de Mayo was in the late eighteenth century. Specifically, on May 3rd, 1790, Friar Antonio Joseph Alegre went up and placed a cross in what is now known as the Loma de la Cruz. This was associated with the belief that placing a cross in the highest places near the populations avoided pandemics, hexes or natural catastrophes.

Loma de la Cruz, in Holguín. Before and after.

From that moment on, the inhabitants of the city began to climb the hill, in procession from the Iglesia San Isidoro. Once there, a religious ceremony was celebrated, followed by a party that lasted until the next day.

Over time it was decided to glamourize the Romerías de Mayo and improve access to the cross. Therefore, a 458-step staircase and an oratory consisting of a small balcony-shaped square, were built. The existing fort was rebuilt, and a roundabout was made. To carry out these works, they used to hold festivals to raise funds. The time used: 23 years; and the work was completed in 1950.

To discover the modernity of the event

Nowadays, the tradition has derived in popular celebration. It begins on May 2nd and ends on the 8th of the month. Starring the AHS, the Romerías de Mayo begins with a parade of cars from the central park of the city, at midnight. The following day the inaugural parade takes place, in which the “Ax of Holguín” is carried. It concludes with a concert at the top of Loma de la Cruz.

The whole city stays partying until May 8 at night. At that time they descend from the hill with the “Ax of Holguín” and plant a tree “so that this tradition keeps growing.”

Each time with more youth presence from different countries, either to participate actively as an artist or as spectators. Various artistic manifestations: music, theater, literature, dance. There are also conferences, debates, photographic exhibitions.

Some of the events that take place within the framework of the Romerías de Mayo are:

• Babel: it is dedicated to various manifestations and themes within the visual arts: landscape, abstraction, photography, engraving, land-art, performance, tattoo, artistic teaching.

• Electro Romerías: an event that hosts electronic music in Holguín, with the presence of DJs from all over the island.

• Fotofest: Self-taught Photography Festival.

• Our Memory Award: the original idea was to walk the allegorical L Periquera in Holguín, climb the emblematic Loma de la Cruz and walk gregariously between intellectual debates, arts and events.

• Feast of Embraces

• May bloggers

• Street theater

• Dances in urban spaces, among others.

Meanwhile, the documentary feature film “Romerías, la utopía” was created because of this festivity. Projected for the first time in May 2019 tells, in the most reliable way possible, the story of the Romerías de Mayo. This from the vision and memories of many of its founders (belonging to the AHS) in this modern era.

To learn a little bit about Holguín

It was through Cayo Bariay, in Holguín, that Christopher Columbus arrived in Cuba on October 28, 1492. However, it was not until 1545 that a herd was founded in these lands. In April 1720 the main church was inaugurated and the town was named “Hato de San Isidoro de Holguín”. In January 1752 it was declared a municipality. In 1976 it adopted the name of Holguín, as the capital of the province of the same name (previously it was part of the old province of Oriente).

Cayo Bariay, where Christopher Columbus landed in Cuba. This, on stepping on the ground, said that “it was the most beautiful land that human eyes had ever seen.”

Known as the City of Parks, as these structures dominate its urban aspect. Among the oldest, the Calixto García Park, located in the center of the city. Other parks that can be seen are: Children’s Park, San José Park, Julio Grave de Peralta Park (also known as Flower´s Park), Martí Park.

As an interesting detail, in all these parks a high project stands out in relation to the level of the surrounding streets. This means that the access to all of them is through various levels of steps.

To sum up…

Definitely the Loma de la Cruz, in Holguín is a place that deserves to be visited. Beautiful city with a rich culture and traditions. Other areas of the province also have extraordinary landscapes and beaches. However, their interest increases by 120% in the fifth month of the year, during the Romerías de Mayo.

In this era of coronavirus and measures, the event overcame the challenge imposed by social isolation. Tweets, conferences and virtual concerts, publication of ebooks and an audiobook were held. Also podcasts with native productions and audios. Social networks were flooded with art, initiatives, optimism … Do not miss the opportunity to access content through the different profiles of the AHS:

Facebook: Asociación Hermanos Saíz

Poster of Romerías de Mayo in Cuba 2020

Youtube: Asociación Hermanos Saíz

Instagram: ahscuba

Twitter: @ahsjovenescuba

Telegram: AHSCuba

WhatsApp: AHSCuba