On May 3, 1790, the Franciscan friar Antonio de Alegría placed a cross on the hill that marks the geographic north of the city of Holguín. The people of Holguín would make pilgrimages each year to the Wooden Cross and this led to May 3 being declared a holiday for the city since 1945. It was not until 1994, however, that through an initiative of the Hermanos Saíz Association a group of young Cuban artists decided to revive these “romerías” (al fresco religious festivities) that announce the arrival of springtime. These festivities are presided over by the Taino Axe and the Wooden Cross, symbols of the blending of elements (indigenous and Catholic) that gave birth to Cuban culture. This refers to the Spanish custom of placing a cross at the highest point of a town or village in order to prevent epidemics or natural disasters.
Originally, celebrations would take place at the foot of the Cross although today the extensive and eclectic program of activities featuring musicians, actors, researchers, visual artists, writers and dancers from all over Cuba (and internationally) takes place in many locations throughout the city. The festival usually devotes three days to tradition, one to the transition period and one to the prese nt day.
(PREVIEW) May 2-8, 2014: Memoria Nuestra
This year, two of the events that are part of the Romerías celebrate their twentieth anniversary: Memoria Nuestra (Our Memories) calls together researchers under the age of 35 to undertake salvaging artistic customs, traditions and manifestations and to present projects dealing with socio-cultural community experiences; and Babel dedicated to the visual arts which this year along with paying tribute to the hundred years of the poet, painter and anthropologist Samuel Feijóo and Cuban arts education will present a show related to visual artists from Holguín who have been present at the event for the past twenty years. Other important figures highlighted during the Romerías de Mayo will be poet Gastón Baquero and narrator Onelio Jorge Cardoso, commemorating one hundred years since his birth, and the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda on the 110th anniversary of his birth.
Things to look out for include the Street Dance and Theatre Meeting as well as the event Quiero una Canción (I Want a Song) along with a concert by the popular group Buena Fe and presentations by Cuban and foreign guests. There will also be a concert by local trovadors prior to the opening of the event at midnight of May 2 in the Bosque de los Héroes; on May 3, the traditional parade through the city, climbing up to the Loma de la Cruz carrying the Taíno Axe and a grand dance. For the closing event on May 8, a walk from the historical center of town to the modern part of the city to plant the Tree of Friendship, the closing ceremony and a concert by various groups to continue on into the wee hours of the night.
The event will once again host the “Encounter of World Poets in Cuba, the Island of Verse” including sessions in Havana, Cienfuegos and Ciego de Ávila where poetry readings, meetings with publishing houses, book launchings, lectures, visits to universities, and historical and cultural sites will be taking place. The opening is scheduled to take place on May 3 at 8:30 pm at the Casa de Iberoamérica where one poet from each country will read in each of their native languages. Also on May 5 at this same location and at the same time, a Poetry Evening will be held with book presentations and a concert by guest musicians.
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