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  • William B. Taylor (a1)


In 1960 the May 3 feast of the Invention of the Holy Cross was removed from the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church in order to reduce the number of major feasts and to focus devotion to the Holy Cross on September 14, the day commemorating its Exaltation. For many Mexicans, this change was more distressing than papal authorities had anticipated. People from various walks of life and places were not inclined to give up this favorite feast day, which they felt was a lifeline to well-being here and now and the promise of salvation hereafter. For them it was an essential practice, not a vestigial one Workers in the building trades were conspicuous dissenters. Virtually every construction site in Mexico must have its protective cross, to be decorated and honored on May 3. And communities all over Mexico, especially in rural towns and villages, celebrated the day by decorating their special crosses in public and private places, attending mass, praying for rain and an abundant harvest, and celebrating with food, drink, fireworks, music, and dancing. For many, it was the only Day of the Holy Cross they had known. To steer clear of a prolonged dispute over popular traditions of faith, Mexican bishops successfully appealed to Rome for May 3 to remain a major feast there.



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A shorter version of this essay was delivered at the Franciscan School of Theology, Berkeley, California on November 5,2011 as the fifth annual Antonine Tibesar, OFM Lecture. I am indebted to Jeffrey Burns, Director of the Academy of American Franciscan History, for his kind support, especially on the occasion of the Tibesar Lecture, to members of the audience who suggested leads and asked probing questions, and to Eric Zolov and members of the editorial board of The Americas for their encouragement.

1. Archivo General de la Nación, México (hereafter AGN), Inquisición 366 exp. 16. This inquiry did not lead to a decisive result since the offenders were not discovered. A Moors-and-Christians pageant of this kind may have been a familiar feature of colonial May 3 celebrations, especially in Michoacán. See also the late eighteenth-century report for Tanganciquaro in which captains of Moros and Soldados led the way, along with their “Alférez, Embaxador, Gran Turco y danzantes,” AGN Historia 578A, November 17, 1789.

2. “comedias, toros y máscaras,” AGN Edictos, Inquisición 1 exp. 15, March 30, 1691. AGN General de Parte 17 exps. 34–35 records the archbishop’s opposition in 1694 to traditional festivities on the Day of the Holy Cross at Querétaro, which included a Moors-and-Christians pageant “and various other profane diversions” including bullfights and farces. Processions of crosses in Querétaro again worried the church hierarchy in 1799, AGN Obispos 2 fols. 308–315. An earlier Inquisition decree meant to stop improper display of crosses in public places was issued on October 20, 1626, “para obviar el abuso de poner y pintar cruzes en rincones públicos y otros lugares indecentes.” Harley L. McDevitt Inquisition Collection, Rare Books and Special Collections Department, Hesburgh Libraries, University of Notre Dame, Inquisition document #223.

3. For example, AGN Clero Regular y Secular 192 exps. 11–12. There are also incidental references in criminal trials. Judging by pastoral visit records of the Archdiocese of Mexico, confraternities dedicated to the Holy Cross were common in rural central Mexico by the late seventeenth century. Colonial bishops encour-aged the use of hilltop crosses for Via Crucis processions. For example, in the early 1640s, when Puebla’s Bishop Juan de Palafox y Mendoza began to promote a shrine at the site of the apparition of San Miguel to Diego Lázaro near Nativitas, Tlaxcala, he noted that “para maior devoción se han puesto a trechos cruces grandes conforme a los pasos de la Via Crucis del Santo Calvario, desde la yglesia parroquial del pueblo” up to the hilltop chapel. AGN Historia 1 exp. 7, fol. 160r.

4. The use of ethnographies and references to precolonial sources in this essay raises the interpretive issue of “upstreaming” (from the present) and “downstreaming” (from the precolonial past) by anthropologists, historians, and art historians. It needs a brief comment here. Among Mexican scholars, it has long been accepted practice either to infer or gloss over colonial Indian patterns of thought and practice by connecting ethnographies of “indigenous” communities with precolonial patterns extrapolated from archaeological evidence, precolonial pictographs, and early colonial narrative and pictorial sources, tacitly or explicitly positing fundamental continuity since precolonial times. Among recent examples are the essays in Religiosidad popular y cosmovisiones indígenas en la historia de México, coord. Broda, Johanna (Mexico: INAH, 2009), which apply Broda’s work on precolonial cosmovision and Félix Báez Jorge’s views on syncretism to ethnographic descriptions. Foster’s, George Culture and Conquest: America’s Spanish Heritage (New York: Wenner-Gren Foundation, 1960) rejected both upstreaming and downstreaming approaches, suggesting instead that much of what passes as indigenous peasant culture was drawn more directly from Europe than from precolonial practices and concepts. In effect, Foster substituted a transformation thesis for an indigenista continuity thesis. John Ingham, among others, charts a middle course. Mainly inferring rather than demonstrating a historical process in his ethnographic study of Tlayacapan, Morelos, he concludes that “I show that significant elements of the deep structure of the pre-Hispanic world view persist in present-day beliefs and practices, but I also show that they are embedded in, and subordinated to, Catholic beliefs and symbols,” Mary, Michael, and Lucifer: Folk Catholicism in Central Mexico (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1986), p. 180.

Most foreign historians of Mexico have shied away from the use of ethnographic and archaeological scholarship to interpret colonial history. And historians, art historians, historians of religion, and historically minded anthropologists have usually treated each other’s work on these matters as tangential to their own, thereby missing some relevant sources, common interests, shared understandings, and areas of disagreement. Hanks’s, William F. recent book, Converting Words: Maya in the Age of the Cross (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010), is exemplary in combining ethnographic and historical materials to reckon with cultural change during the colonial period; Jaime Lara combines colonial pictorial and liturgical materials with scholarship on precolonial culture and medieval Christian theology and practice for a suggestive rendering of visual imagination and worship in sixteenth-century central and southern Mexico in both City, Temple, Stage: Escha-tological Architecture and Liturgical Theatrics in New Spain (South Bend, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 2004) and Christian Texts for Aztecs: Art and Liturgy in Colonial Mexico (South Bend: University of Notre Dame Press, 2008). Among more historical studies, see Farriss, Nancy M. Maya Society Under Colonial Rule: The Collective Enterprise of Survival (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984); Chance, John K. Conquest of the Sierra: Spaniards and Indians in Colonial Oaxaca (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1989); and Wake, Eleanor Framing the Sacred: The Indian Churches of Early Colonial Mexico (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2010).

5. “La fiesta de la Santa Cruz en San Francisco Ozomatlán,” México Desconocido 23:267 (May 1999), pp. 52–60. Ozomatlán, in the municipality of Huitzuco, Guerrero (south of Iguala 28 miles, then about 22 miles east of Highway 95) is featured in several Youtube videos of May 3 festivities showing religious ceremonies that include prayers before crosses covered with paper flowers. In one video a Catholic priest speaks of the rain having not yet arrived and invites those assembled to pray for favors (“pedir beneficios”) from God, and remember that through the Cross Jesus saved his followers. In another video, some Huitzuco men visit a hilltop spring on May 3 (“el dia de la Cruz del albañil”) to appeal for rain and shoot off rockets.

6. Haskett, Robert citing a 1743 report of the alcalde mayor for Cuernavaca, “Conquering the Spiritual Conquest in Cuernavaca,” in The Conquest All Over Again: Nahuas and Zapotees Thinking, Writing, and Painting Spanish Colonialism, ed. Schroeder, Susan (Brighton, U.K.: Sussex Academic Press, 2010), p. 242. In a deeply researched forthcoming book on the Mixteca Baja of Oaxaca (tentative title: “‘En el nombre de Dios’: Religion, Society, and Provincial Conservatism in the Mixteca Baja, 1750–1962”), Benjamin Smith calls his chapter on the colonial period “The People of the Cross.” He has good reason to do so since miraculous crosses were common there, and he describes the region’s religious culture as ”Christocentric.” One cross in particular, the Sacred Cross of Santo Domingo Tonalá, gained a regional following and spawned “countless community Christ cults.”

7. Giménez, Gilberto Cultura popular y religion en elAnAhuac (Mexico: Centro de Estudios Ecuménicos, 1978), p. 77. One of the paths to Chalma is famous for its “hill of crosses,” where pilgrims have left thousands of wooden crosses, often bearing the name of a sick or deceased relative. See Espinosa, HéctorImágenes peregrinas que se negaron a llegar … ,” an article posted on the website ArKeopatías: Arqueología y Patrimonio on February 20, 2012, and accessed on March 6, 2012.

In the Chiapas highlands, each of the barrios of San Juan Chamula has a nearby hill with one or more tall wooden crosses at the base and summit—the threshold and the center—that serves as its cemetery and the sacred place to which processions are made throughout the year, including Holy Week and May 3. Most are painted green. Freidel, David, Schele, Linda and Parker, Joy Maya Cosmos: Three Thousand Tears on the Shaman’s Path (New York: Morrow, 1993), pp. 53, 118, and 124. Marroquin, Enrique described in some detail “the insistent and ubiquitous presence of the cross” in the landscape and ceremonial life of rural communities of Oaxaca, La cruz mesiánica: una aproximación al sincretismo católico indígena (Oaxaca: Universidad Autónoma Benito Juárez, 1989), especially pp. 4142. Crosses also dot the landscape along pilgrimage routes to Talpa, Jalisco. According to Ricardo Ávila and Martín Tena, these have mainly commemorated deceased devotees who were unable to reach the shrine before they died. Morir peregrinando a Talpa,” in Santuarios, peregrinaciones, y religiosidad popular, coords. Rodriguez-Shadow, María and Ávila, Ricardo (Guadalajara: Universidad de Guadalajara, 2010), p. 234.

8. For examples from the Sierra de Puebla and the district of Huixquilucan, near the Valley of Mexico, see “Espacios, territorios y santuarios en las comunidades indígenas de Puebla,” section coordinator Kan, Elio Masferrer in Diáolgos con el territorio, ed. Barabas, Alicia (Mexico: INAH, 2004), 2, pp. 7375; and Harvey, H.R.Pilgrimage and Shrine: Religious Practices Among the Otomi of Huixquilucan, Mexico,” in Pilgrimage in Latin America, eds. Morinis, E. Alan and Crumrine, N. Ross (New York: Greenwood Press, 1991), pp. 95102. Durán, Fr. Diego, O.P., Historia de las Indias de Nueva España e islas de Tierra Firme (Mexico: CONACULTA, 1995), 2, pp. 9091 (tratado 2, cap. 8), described the main hill of Tlaloc surrounded by smaller hills—“little brothers”—all of them with names. Hernández, Diego Prieto et al., “Mahets’I jar hai (el cielo en la tierra). Los territorios de lo sagrado entre los Ñañbo de Querétaro ,” in Barabas, , Diálogos, 2, pp. 235249, note that the crosses on hills in San Pablo in the municipio of Tolimán, Querétaro have padrinos on other hills to which the faithful of the first hill go with offerings.

9. Colección de las ordenanzas que para el gobierno de el obispado de Michoacán hicieron y promulgaron con real aprobación … (Mexico: Zúñiga y Ontiveros, 1776), p. 225, dunned priests who did not go out with a cross to receive the dead for burial. Pastors were ordered to go out with capa y cruz irrespective of the social standing of the deceased. Examples of the mystique of the signed cross are virtually endless. Here is one: according to Francisco de Florencia, when Diego Lázaro (the Indian from Nativitas, Tlaxcala, who saw St. Michael and the miraculous spring in 1631) would make the sign of the cross it left a permanent mark and those favored by this wonder became devotees of the Holy Cross. Narración de la marabillosa aparición, que hizo el archangel San Miguel a Diego Lázaro de San Francisco … (Seville: Impr. de las Siete Revueltas, 1692), p. 141.

10. Las imágenes de la discordia: Política y poètica de la imagen sagrada en la España del 400 (Madrid: Marcial Pons, 2007), p. 300. For the Franciscans, this symbolism was rooted in the special association between their founder, St. Francis, and Christ, and was expressed in their early writings. For example, see The Little Flowers of St. Francis, ed. Brown, Raphael (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1958), p. 52: “Because St. Francis and his companions had been called by God and chosen to bear the Cross of Christ in their hearts and in their actions and to preach it by their words, they appeared to be and they were crucified men. … And because they were living branches of the True Vine, that is Christ, they produced great and good fruit in the souls that they won for God.”

11. de Santa Gertrudis, Francisco Xavier Cruz de piedra: imán de la devoción, venerada en el Colegio de Misioneros Apostólicos de la Ciudad de Santiago de Querétaro (Querétaro: Ediciones Cimatario, 1946), pp. 1415.

12. Sheehan, KevinIberian Asia: The Strategies of Spanish and Portuguese Empire Buiding, 1540–1700,” Ph.D. diss., University of California-Berkeley (2008), chapt. 2. Arturo E. de la Torre y López describes the cross in early colonial Peru as “the clearest emblem of Conquest” for Francisco Pizarra and others. La cruz en el Perú,” in Las cofradías de la Santa Veruz Cruz, ed. Herrero, José Sánchez (Seville: Universidad de Sevilla, 1992), pp. 537553.

13. Aragón, Reyno de Christo y dote de Marta Ssma … [1739], facsimile edition (Zaragoza: Diputación General de Aragón, 1979), pp. 43, 134, 151–152.

14. Torquemada’s words from the second decade of the seventeenth century appear often in this essay. He had little to say about mitaculous images or Marian devotion, but frequently mentioned crosses. The only miraculous image he discussed was the Cruz de Huatulco. A native Spaniard from the province of Palencia in Old Castile, probably born in the late 1550s, Torquemada went to New Spain as a child and studied Náhuatl and theology in the Franciscan convent in Mexico City. He was ordained in 1579, moved to the convent of Santiago Tlatelolco several years later, and became guardián (warden) there in 1600. Later he served as guardián at Zacatlán (Puebla) and Tlaxcala, and became chronicler of his Franciscan province in 1610. Torquemada also served as provincial of his order in New Spain from 1614 to 1617, and died in 1624. His monumental Los veinte y un libros rituales y Monarchia indiana (commonly called the Monarquía indiana) was first published in 1615. In this essay I cite the Mexico City Porrúa edition of the Monarquía indiana, a facsimile of the 1723 edition, published in 1969 in three volumes.

15. Monarquía indiana III, pp. 298–299 (libro 18, cap. 7). An early wooden cross in Jalapa, Veracruz, also apparently lasted throughout the colonial period as a providential sign of Spanish evangelization. During his travels in Mexico in 1763 Francisco de Ajofrín, a Spanish Capuchin alms collector, reported visiting this cross in front of the Franciscan church in Jalapa. He was told that it was made from the mast of Cortés’s flagship and had not deteriorated in its nearly 350 years out in the open. Diario del viaje que hizo a la America en el siglo XVIII el P. Fray Francisco de Ajofrín (Mexico: Instituto Cultural Hispano Mexicano, 1964), I, p. 38.

16. “Murió en alto, pide alteza de lugar para su celebración.” de Avendaño, Pedro Sermones para las festividades de Christo Nuestro Señor (Madrid: Viuda de I. Gonçalez, 1634).

17. For examples of the Christian tree of life, see Sigaut, NellyEl árbol de la vida en el convento de Meztitlán,” Relaciones. Estudios de Historia y Sociedad 47 (Summer 1991), pp. 729; de Espinosa, Isidro Félix El chérubin custodio de el árbol de la vida, la Santa Cruz de Querétaro (Mexico: Joseph Bernardo de Hogal, 1731), based on De la Rea’s, Crónica of 1639; and Faci, Aragón, reyno de Christo, p. 43 (Christ as eternal life).

18. Concilio provincial mexicano IV celebrado en la Ciudad de México el año de 1771 (Querétaro: Imprenta de la Escuela de Artes, 1898), p. 167 (3–21–9).

19. Política indiana (Madrid: Atlas, 1972), I, p. 72, libro 1, cap. 7, num. 5: “Las quales quatro partes consideran también algunos Santos Doctores … que se quisieron significar en los quarto términos, o estremidades de la Cruz, en que se obró el Mysterio de nuestra Redempción. Porque el Oriente resplandece en lo alto de ella, el Septentrión en su brazo derecho, el Austro en el izquierdo, y el Occidente en el tronco o remate, que se profundió en la tierra debaxo de las plantas de Christo.”

20. History of the Triumphs of Our Holy Faith Amongst the Most Barbarous and Fierce Peoples of the New World, ed. Refif, Daniel T. (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1999), pp. 124126.

21. For Nahuas of central Mexico, see Austin, Alfredo López Tamoanchan, Tlalocan: Places of Mist, trans. de Montellano, Bernardo R. Ortiz and de Montellano, Thelma Ortiz (Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 1997), pp. 108,223; and Carrasco, David Religions of Mesoamerica (New York: Harper & Row, 1990), pp. 5152. For a similar conception among Otomies, see Vásquez, Sergio SánchezLa Santa Cruz: culto en los cerros de la region Otomí Actopan-Ixmiquilpan,” in La montaña en el paisaje ritual, eds. Broda, Johanna and Iwaniszewski, Stanislaw (Mexico: CONACULTA-INAH, 2001), pp. 444447. Sánchez Vásquez also notes the relationship of hills, crosses, and ancestors, their bones transformed into numinous stones. In the San Pedro Tolimán area souls of the ancestors are still represented by wooden crosses, and are connected to devotional practices for souls in Purgatory, as noted by Estrada, Alejandro Vázquez in “Territorio e identidad étnica, la peregrinación a El Divino Salvador,” in Santuarios, peregrinaciones y religiosidad popular, p. 170. For similar practices by Mayas in southern Mexico, see Freidel, , Scheie, and Parker, Maya Cosmos, pp. 5355, 124, 251, 254, and 457; and especially Astor-Aguilera, Miguel Angel The Maya World of Communicating Objects: Quadripartite Crosses, Trees, and Stones (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2010), p. 95.

22. Oakes, Maud The Two Crosses of Todos Santos: Survivals of Mayan Religious Ritual (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1951), pp. 54, 138, 234.

23. Austin, López Tamoanchan, p. 154; in The Maya World of Communicating Objects, Astor-Aguilera connects wood crosses in Yucatán with the Maya quadripartite cosmology and describes them as vital “communicating objects” with ancestors, for example, on pp. 37, 43, and 169.

24. Harvey, Pilgrimage and Shrine,” p. 99. The connection between colonial crosses and rain is made by Hermenegildo F. López Castro in his recent account of customs in his hometown of Pinotepa Nacional, Oaxaca: “Este cerro se llama Kruu Tati, Cruz del Viento [Hurricane Cross], Mi mamá dice que es sagrado. … Con la llegada de los españoles adoptaron la cruz y la utilizaron como símbolo religioso, y cuando la pusieron en los cerros, la nombraron Kruu Tati … que ayuda a traer las nubes para la lluvia,” in López Castro, Hermenegildo F. and Medrano, Ethelia Ruiz Tutu Ñuu Oko. Libro del Pueblo Veinte. Relaciones de la tradición oral mixteca de Pinotepa Nacional, Oaxaca (Mexico: CIESAS/INLI, 2010), pp. 131, 133.

25. As James Lockhart explains, a Nahua community with its territory was known as an altepetl—water and mountain. The Nahuas After the Conquest: A Social and Cultural History of Indians of Central Mexico, Sixteenth Through Eighteenth Centuries, (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992), p. 14.

26. In various publications, Johanna Broda has explored the importance of hills and mountains in Mesoamerican cosmovisions; for example, “The Sacred Landscape of Aztec Calendar Festivals: Myth, Nature, and Society,” in To Change Place: Aztec Ceremonial Landscapes, ed. Carrasco, David (Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 1991), pp. 74120.

27. Se fraguan algunas tenpestades de truenos, relámpagos y rayos y granizos,” Durán, Historia de las Indias, 2, 90 (tratado 2, cap. 8).

28. Torquemada, Monarquía indiana, 2, pp. 617619 (libro 14, cap. 41).

29. 29. Haskett, Conquering the Spiritual Conquest,” p. 243, citing Sahagun’s Psalmodia Christiana; Sigaut, “El árbol de la vida.”

30. On the locating of cosmogonie centers on elevated sites in precolonial and modern Mesoamerican communities, see Olivera6, Mercedes GuadarramaEl espacio y el tiempo sagrados en tres comunidades totonacas de la Sierra de Papantla,” Procesos rurales e historia regional (sierra y costa totonacas de Veracruz), coord. Victoria Chenault (Mexico: CIESAS, 1996), p. 185.

31. I have found little evidence that colonial Indians and castas embraced the cross as a symbol of their own suffering, as interpretations in a liberation theology vein anticipate; for example, Nebel, RichardThe Cult of Santa Maria Tonantzin, Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico,” Sacred Space: Shrine, City, Land, ed. Kedar, Benjamin (New York: New York University Press, 1998), p. 255. The analogy certainly was available; crosses (and crucifixes especially) visualized Christ’s suffering, and colonial sermons frequently referred to the Passion of Christ and the sufferings of mankind in the same breath, for example, Oviedo, Juan Antonio Los milagros de la Cruzy maravillas del padecer … (Mexico: Joseph Bernardo de Hogal, 1728). Documentation of such embrace is bound to be elusive in colonial records, but this silence is nonetheless surprising.

32. Dávila, Gil González Teatro eclesiástico de la primitiva Iglesia de las Indias Occidentales [1649, 1655], facsimile ed. (Mexico: Condumex, 1982), p 217; Franco, Alonso, O.P., Segunda parte de la historia de la Provincia de Santiago de México [1645] (Mexico: Impr. del Museo Nacional, 1983), pp. 246253.

33. Torquemada, Monarquía indiana, 3, p. 143 (libro 16, cap. 2) quotes Isaiah, chapt. 11: “sobre el Monte oscuro y caliginoso, levantad el Signo, levantad la voz, y no temáis.”

34. Ibid. The Franciscans’ sense of mission was bound to the cross thanks to St. Francis’s stigmata. As St. Bonaventure put it, “He was clothed in the armor of the Cross.” St. Francis of Assisi: Writings and Early Biographies; English Omnibus of the Sources for the Life of St. Francis, ed. Habig, Marion A. (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1991), p. 747.

35. de Burgoa, Francisco Geográfica descripción de la parte septentrional … [1674], facsimile ed. (Mexico: Porrúa, 1989), fols. 343r–352r. Burgoa, and de la Asunción, Isidro (Itinerario a Indias [1673–1678] (Mexico: Condumex, 1992), p. 108, speculated that it was St. Thomas; Torquemada, Monarquía indiana, 3, p. 205 (libro 16, cap. 28) mentioned St. Andrew (although he thought it more likely that Martin de Valencia, leader of “the Twelve” Franciscans who arrived together in 1523, planted this cross); and Dávila, González Teatro eclesiástico, p. 79, opted for St. Matthew.

36. Cuadriello, Jaime Las glorias de la República de Tlaxcala, o la conciencia como imagen sublime (Mexico: Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes/Instituto de Investigaciones Estéücas-UNAM, 2004), pp. 333337.

37. Torquemada, Monarquía, indiana, 3, p. 132 (libro 15, cap. 49).

38. Ibid., II, p. 62 (libro 15, cap. 23). In his treatise to combat idolatry before 1656, Dr. Jacinto de la Serna (who had been the pastor of Tenancingo in the state of Mexico in 1626) took a dimmer view of what could be achieved by planting crosses in the mountains. Before describing in chapter 15 how Indians of the Valley of Toluca believed that trees were imbued with souls and had been humans in an earlier incarnation, he acknowledged in chapter 2 that “there are some crosses there today,” but that they served as cover for “bad behavior in other ways” (“obrar mal en las demás cosas”). Manual de ministros de indios para el conocimiento de sus idolatrías y extirpación de ellas, in Colección de documentos inéditos para la historia de España (Madrid: Impr. de la Viuda de Calero, 1842–1895), vol. 104, p. 41. On Serna and his text, see José Luis, González M.Sincretismo e identidades emergentes: el Manual de Jacinto de la Serna (1630),” Dimensión Antropológica 13:38 (September-December 2006), pp. 87113.

39. Monarquía indiana, III, pp. 203–205 (libro 16, cap. 28). The Vexilla Regis hymn, composed by Venantius Fortunatus, bishop of Poitiers, was first sung in 569 in the procession from Tours to Poitiers with a relic of the True Cross. It became a part of the Divine Office during Holy Week, Catholic Encyclopedia (online,, entry for “Vexilla Regis.”

40. de Mendieta, Gerónimo Historia eclesiástica indiana [ca. 1597] (Mexico: CONACULTA, 1997), vol. 1, chapt. 49 (pp. 473476): “De la gran devoción y reverencia que los indios cobraron y tienen a la santa cruz del Señor, y cosas maravillosas que cerca de ella acaecieron.” Torquemada, Monarquía indiana 3, p. 200 (libro 16, cap. 26), speaks of “la mucha devoción que los Indios desde el principio de su conversión tomaron a la Imagen o Figura de la Santa Cruz” and the fact that on their own they began to place crosses in the landscape: “Tomaron ésto los Indios tan de gana que levantaron muchas Cruces en las Cumbres de las Sierras y Mogotes de los cerros y en otras muchas partes.” On rocks and trees as numinous, Durán noted the dressing and ornamentation of stone images: Historia de las Indias, III, p. 90. Crosses were “dressed” during the colonial period and beyond, especially in Yucatin.

In this essay I concentrate on the materiality of crosses and their spiritual geography. Hanks takes another approach in his study of colonial texts and the cultural significance of linguistic changes in Yucatec Maya during the colonial period. In Converting Words, pp. 133 and 251, he notes extensive use of the Spanish term cruz in colonial Maya texts. The cross was routinely invoked in prayers, and to this day is signed at the beginning of all prayers and rituals, including curing ceremonies.

41. “nuestra mujunera para siempre jamás,” Muntáñez, Nicolás Relación histórica de la Conquista de Querétaro [pre-1722], ed. Echavarri, Rafael Ayala (Mexico: Sociedad Mexicana de Geografía y Estadística, 1948), p. 151. For extensive use of crosses as boundary markers in the Valley of Mexico, see the record of inspection of Mexico City’s ejidos in 1608, University of California, Berkeley, Bancroft Library M-M 272.

42. For a brief consideration of chapels and sacred space at Tlayacapan in the sixteenth century, see Bargellini, ClaraRepresentations of Conversion: Sixteenth-Century Architecture in New Spain,” in The Word Made Image: Religion, Art, and Architecture in Spain and Spanish America, 1500–1600, ed. Brown, Jonathan (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 1998), p. 98. She suggests that four of the barrio chapels dating from the sixteenth century connect at the great Augustinian convent church to form a cross.

43. Torquemada, Monarquía indiana, 3, p. 200 (libro 16, cap. 26); Olivera, GuadarramaEl espacio y el tiempo sagrados,” p. 187, describes three Totonac communities in Veracruz: “Hay una cruz en cada ‘esquina’ del pueblo, es decir, en cada punto cardinal, de tal manera que forma una cruz invisible sobre éste que ‘ataja las enfermedades y los malos espíritus.’” Other domestic uses described in contemporary Oaxaca villages echo the blessings and appeal for protection and fertility. Marroquín, La cruz mesiánica, p. 41, mentions Zapotees placing ceramic “police” crosses on the roofs of newly completed houses, forming the cross with plates or bits of tortilla and salt at the end of a meal, making offerings to crosses made of corn stalks at the end of the harvest season, and burning Palm Sunday straw crosses if the spring rains have not yet come. He also notes other locations for protective crosses.

44. Barabas, AliciaEtnoterritorialidad sagrada en Oaxaca,” in Barabas, Diálogos, 1, 113, describes processions as rites tracing the boundaries and enclosing the pueblo or municipio in order to keep dangerous forces from entering, especially on May 3. On protective roof crosses in Chiapas, see Guess, Virginia Ann Spirit of Chiapas: The Expressive Art of the Roof Cross Tradition (Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press), 2004.

45. Torquemada, Monarquía indiana, 3, pp. 230232 (libro 17, cap. 9), borrowed from de Benavente, Toribio (Motolinía), Historia de los indios de la Nueva España, tratado 1, cap. 15 (Madrid: Historia 16, 1985), pp. 128129.

46. “Madero que da el sustento de nuestra vida … la cosa que alimenta nuestro cuerpo,” ibid., Ill, p. 200 (libro 16. cap. 27).

47. Baracs, Rodrigo Martínez La secuencia tlaxcalteca: orígenes del culto a Nuestra Señora de Ocotlán (Mexico: INAH, 2000), p. 93, citing Tadeo de Niza, Alva Ixtlilxóchitl, and Diego Muñoz Camargo. A related story of a miraculous cross is told in the Mapa de Cuauhtlantzinco (Tlaxcala) and related sources, studied by Stephanie Wood. This “mapa” depicts a cross as a living plant with a sword as the cross member: Transcending Conquest: Nahua Views of Spanish Colonial Mexico (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2003). pp. 88, 89, 97, 104. Minatory Indian miracles that the early seventeenth-century Nahua chronicler Chimalpahin associated with colonial crosses are mentioned by Lockhart, Nahuas After the Conquest, p. 245.

48. de Vetancurt, Fr. Agustín Teatro mexicano. Descripción breve de los sucesos ejemplares históricos y religiosos del Nuevo Mundo de las Indias; Crónica de la Provincia del Santo Evangelio de México [1698], facsimile ed. (Mexico: Porrúa, 1982), part 4, tratado 2 (“de los sucesos religiosos”), p. 41; Torquemada, Monarquía indiana 1, p. 303 (libro 3, cap. 26).

49. “Lo tenían los mexicanos por cosa deífica, y así lo limpiaban y escamondaban muy de ordinario y con sumo cuidado en tiempo de su gentilidad y luego que entraron los religiosos y tuvieron casa, cortaron dicho ciprés y levantáronlo en cruz, en medio del patio,” Torquemada, Monarquía indiana, 1, p. 303 (libro 3, cap. 26).

50. Alberro, Solange El águila y la cruz: orígenes religiosos de la conciencia criolla. México, siglos XVI–XVII (Mexico, Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1999), p. 61, drawing on Durán.

51. Ibid., pp. 62–63, citing Torquemada and Vetancurt.

52. Motolinía, Historia de los indios, p. 116 (libro 1, cap. 12). Dupeyron, Guy Rozat América, imperio del demonio: cuentos y recuentos (Mexico: Universidad Iberoamericana, 1995), p. 90, suggests that the friars took the lightning strikes as a sign the Devil was defending his place at all costs. See also Calderón, Javier Ayala El Diablo en la Nueva España: visiones y representaciones del Diablo en documentos novohispanos de los siglos XVI y XVII (Guanajuato, Gto.: Universidad de Guanajuato, 2010). Torquemada, recounted another struggle between the cross and the Devil at the chapel of San José de los Naturales in Mexico City, Monarquía indiana, 1, p. 303 (libro 3, cap. 26).

53. Oakes, Two Crosses of Todos Santos, pp. 2325. According to Ronald Wright and his North American informant, this wooden cross was removed again and then reinstalled in the 1980s during the height of Guatemala’s bloody civil war, “and people told me that from then on things began to improve.” Time Among the Maya: Travels in Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico (New York: Grove Press, 2000), pp. 225–226.

54. Crosses, trees, and ancestors are linked by Freidel, , Scheie, and Parker, in Maya Cosmos, pp. 124 and 457; and by Astor-Aguilera, The Maya World of Communicating Objects, especially pp. 73, 95, 96, and 110.

55. For the Cruz de Maye as originally a tree, see Vásquez, Sergio SánchezLa Santa Cruz: culto en los cerros de la región Otomí Actopan-Ixmiquilpan,” in La montaña en el paisaje ritual, pp. 442, 447. Sánchez Vásquez recounts the story that giant ancestors carrying the Cruz de Maye stopped there and got drunk. While they were in a stupor the cross grew and could not be moved again. For the Cuernavaca cross, see Haskett, Conquering the Spiritual Conquest,” pp. 242 and 253–254; for Jacona, in 1662, see the addition to Basalenque, Diego Historia de la Provincia de San Nicolas Toletino de Michoacàn, del Orden de N.P.S. Agustín, ed. Ugarte, José Bravo (Mexico: Editorial Jus, 1963), p. 174; for Teccistlan, see in the cathedral archive of the Arzobispado de Guadalajara, unclassified 1721 file, “Autos pertenecientes a la cofradía del Santo Cristo de la Expiración del pueblo de Jocotepec”; for Tamazula and Yahualica, see Santa Ana, Higinio Vásquez Cristos célebres de México (México: n.p., 1950), pp. 6972; and for the cross of Ahuacatlan, see Taraval, Sigismundo El milagro más visible o el milagro de los milagros más patentes. La santísima cruz de Tepique (Guadalajara: El Colegio de Jalisco, 1992), p. 24. The cross at Tepeyac is depicted in José de Arellano’s 1709 painting of the new shrine to Guadalupe on the occasion of its dedication, (“esta cruz se alió en un monte de la forma que se ve”). In addition to the crosses of Jacona, Tamazula, and Jocotepec, de Escobar, Fr. Matías, O.S.A., América thebaida: vitas partum de los religiosos hermitaños de N.P. San Augustin de la Provincia de San Nicolás Tolentino de Michoacàn [1729], 2nd ed. (Morelia, Mich.: Balsal Editores, 1970), pp. 464466, names six other miraculous natural crosses and crucifixes at San Pedro Piedra Gorda, Santiago Ocotlán, San Miguel de Atotonilco, Villa de León, Tupátaro, Ziragüén, and in the Santuario de Guadalupe of Valladolid.

56. For example, in a piece of mulberry split for firewood in the home of Yestes, D. Felipe, Santiago, Barrio, Querétaro, reported in the Gazeta de México issue of October 20, 1784; and inside a rock that was split open at Ecatepec, San Cristóbal reported in the Gazeta de México issue of March 20, 1792, “formó la Naturaleza.” Vásquez, SánchezLa Santa Cruz,” p. 447, notes that the crosses most revered in Otomí communities of Hidalgo are understood to be “cruces vivas” and “naturales.”

57. See the discussion of particular crosses later in this essay, also the wooden cross of Rosario, Sinaloa, which reportedly shook for several days in 1683 and became the object of ardent devotion, mentioned in a note to Sedano, Francisco Noticias de México (Mexico: Impr. de J. K Barbedillo, 1880), tomo 1, pp. 166168; and the trembling stone cross of Zapotla in the jurisdiction of Tacuba in 1741, AGN Bienes Nacionales 749, exp.16.

58. Taylor, William B. Shrines and Miraculous Images in Mexico Before the Reforma (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2010 [2011]), p. 75. Delia Costernino describes a European/Franciscan tradition of green crosses that combined the ancestral Tree of Life with the Crucifixion. “St. Bonaventure described a special tree in a thirteenth-century treatise entitled Lignum Vitae. There he wrote about a vision that he had of Christ crucified on the Tree of Life, which produced fruits representing the Lord’s virtues”: Las joyas de Zinacantepec: arte colonial en el monasterio de San Miguel, Zinacantepec (Mexico: El Colegio Mexiquense, 2003), p. 73.

For green crosses in Mexico, see Harvey, Pilgrimage and Shrine,” pp. 9596; and Lara, Christian Texts for Aztecs, pp. 251, 252. On green crosses in Yucatán and Chiapas, see Freidel, , Scheie, and Parker, Maya Cosmos, pp. 55, 174, 254, and 401. A green cross associated with an apparition of Christ was prominent in the revitalization movement in Tlacoxcalco, Oaxaca, in 1911: Wright-Rios, EdwardEnvisioning Mexico’s Catholic Resurgence: The Virgin of Solitude and the Talking Christ of Tlacoxcalco, 1908–1924,” Past … Present 195 (May 2007), pp. 197239, especially 222, 225, and 239. See also the discussion of the green cross of Tepic and the green cross of Tequisquiapan later in this essay.

Crosses were sometimes depicted entwined in vines as another way to indicate that they were alive. For example, see the print depicting the cross of Mexico City’s Cofradía de la Santísima Cruz located in the Colegio de San Pedro Pasqual de Bethlen, reproduced in Los costos Ac la salvación: las cofradías y la Ciudad de México (siglos XVI al XIX), eds. Martínez, Alicia Bazarte and Ayluardo, Clara García (Mexico: CIDE/IPN/AGN, 2001), p. 343.

59. Augustinians were, however, bishops of the diocese of Yucatán from 1608–1636, 1696–1698, and 1753–1760.

60. For numinous crosses not mentioned elsewhere in this essay, see Weckmann, Luis The Medieval Heritage of Mexico, trans. Lopez-Morillas, Frances M. (New York: Fordham University Press, 1992), p. 291 (a cross near Paso del Norte, Chihuahua, alleviated physical pain; a Moqui, New Mexico, cross, given by the Lady in Blue, restored a girl’s sight). Gazeta de México for July 1732 (in León, Bibliografìa mexicana, pp. 334335) reported a prodigious black cross at Mizquic in the Valley of Mexico; the miraculous cross of Rosales, Chihuahua, reportedly survived a fire and and othet vicissitudes, as found in Almanza, Jesús José Lerma Santa Cruz: símbolo, misión y pueblo de Rosales, Chihuahua (Chihuahua, Chih.: Doble Hélice, 2006); Taraval, El milagro más visible, p. 27, mentions a miraculous wooden cross at Huejotzingo in the sixteenth century; miraculous crosses at Sayula, Audán, and Zacoalco, Jalisco are mentioned in Taylor, William B. Magistrates of the Sacred: Priests and Parishioners in Eighteenth-Century Mexico (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996), pp. 268269, 663 n. 134, and 669 n. 13; and a stone cross at an intersection in Totolapa, Morelos, was said to tremble on May 3, 1728, and later worked healing miracles, as found in Bao, Ricardo MelgarCristocen-trismo, una constelación veneracional en Morelos,” in Barabas, Diálogos, 2, pp. 323324. (See text paragraphs below for discussion of similar events at Tlayacapan, Morelos, also in 1728.) More recent cases of living crosses in Oaxaca are mentioned in Marroquín, La cruz mesianica, p. 42.

61. This is a theme of Astor-Aguilera, The Maya World of Communicating Crosses, which he associates with ancestor veneration and propitiation; see especially pp. 73, 95, 96, and 110.

62. Rugeley, Terry Rebellion Now and Forever: Mayas, Hispanics, and Caste War Violence in Yucatan, 1800–1880 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009), pp. 3, 5, and chapt. 3; Bricker, Victoria Reifler The Indian Christ, the Indian King: The Historical Substrate of‘Maya Myth and Ritual (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981), pp. 102103; and the cross’s instructions to the governor in 1851, pp. 208–218.

63. de Landa, Fr. Diego Yucatán Before and After the Conquest[1566], trans. Gates, William (New York: Dover Publications, 1977), p. 47.

64. Usos y costumbres funerarias en la Nueva España (Zamora, Mich.: El Colegio de Michoacán/El Colegio Mexiquense, 2001), p. 60.

65. Copia de un original muy precioso de la junta que se hicieron en la ciudad de Thenuxtitlan México” [1539], appendix to Concilios provinciales primero, y segundo, celebrados en la muy noble, y muy leal ciudad de México … ed. de Lorenzana, Francisco Antonio (Mexico: Imprenta de el Superior Gobierno de Joseph Antonio de Hogal, 1769), p. 329.

66. Edgerton, Samuel Y. Theaters of Conversion: Religious Architecture and Indian Artisans in Colonial Mexico (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2001), chapt. 2, and his “Christan Cross as Indigenous ‘World Tree’ in Sixteenth-Century Mexico: The ‘Atrio’ Cross in the Frederick and Jan Mayer Collection,” in Exploring New World Imagery: Spanish Colonial Papers from the 2002 Mayer Center Symposium, ed. Pierce, Donna (Denver: Denver Art Musuem, 2005), pp. 1140; Lara, City, Temple, Stage, chapt. 5.

Eleanor Wake’s Framing the Sacred also discusses the symbol-studded stone atrium crosses and is even more emphatic in emphasizing indigenous roots: “a greater part of the religious art and architecture of Indian Mexico expressed not only native religious responses to the conversion program but also native cultural responses to its introduction and imposition,” p. 3. Like Lara, Edgerton, and other authors who recognize native conceptions in early colonial architecture, she highlights the orientation of new construction according to sacred features in the landscape and the five-part precolonial conception of the cosmos (with an even greater emphasis on the great central tree of Tamoanchan), but she criticizes Edgerton for viewing this organization of space as mainly an opportunistic strategy of the early mendicant evangelizers, thereby denying “any autonomy of native thought and action,” pp. 4,228–232. See Marroquín, La cruz mesiánica, pp. 4245, for another work that emphasizes the precolonial quincunx and associates the planet Venus with the central direction.

All of these important recent works by art historians focus on the visual, especially the symbols on the stone crosses, with less attention to the ever-present plain wooden crosses. Within her emphasis on precolonial continuities and crosses as “ritualized cosmic trees” (p. 229), Wake sees the early stone crosses as an example of native horror vacui. If that is so, what is one to make of the many crosses in the colonial landscape with no decoration permanently inscribed on them? If the plain crosses were new, and represent the opposite of a preference for inscribing the entire surface, could this be evidence of Christian conceptions of the cross finding their way into colonial Indian practice, reworked in ways similar to the incorporation of the word “cruz” into colonial Maya texts discussed in Hanks, Converting Words? Wake seems to close off this possibility, suggesting that while the word “cruz” was adopted in Nahuad “native perception of the cruz did not change” from its precolonial meanings, p. 217.

67. “Callaway, “Pre-Columbian and Colonial Mexican Images of the Cross: Christ’s Sacrifice and the Fertile Earth,” Journal of Latin American Lore 16:2 (1990), pp. 211–220, and p. 213 for Callaway’s understanding of Xipe Totee, drawing from Seler.

68. Ibid., p. 222.

69. In a dedication booklet that regarded this cross as an early missionary creation, de Barcena, Miguel described it as an “hermosísima cruz de piedra de cantería colorada … grabada con mucho primor de arte que plantaron los primeros religiosos,” Relación de la pompa festiva y solemne colocación de una santa y hermosa cruz de piedra, que el ilustrísimo señor don Juan de Mañozca, arzobispo de México … trasladó al cementerio de esta Iglesia Cathedral de México … (Mexico: Hipólito de Rivera, 1648). According to Barcena, Arch-bishop Mañozca found the cross in pieces in the atrium-cemetery of the church complex of Tepeapulco during his pastoral visit there. Before long, Indians from the town paid a visit to the archbishop in Mexico City and ceded the cross to him “a pesar de que la estimaban en mucho, pues creían que la había levantado el famoso Fr. Francisco de Tembleque.” He sent them on their way with expense money and 100 pesos to repair their church. The cross was placed in the cemetery directly in front of the main door of the cathedral and covered with flowers and sedge for the dedication ceremony on the Day of the Exaltation of the Cross, September 14, 1648. Later known as the “cruz de Mañozca,” it was moved again in 1792 during the reconstruction of the Zócalo, after being reworked into a plain, cylindrical cross, its low-relief carvings obliterated. Information about this cross after 1648 comes from the archdiocesan website at Hist Fabrica Material La Cruz.html, accessed December 14, 2010.

70. Examples of surveillance and restriction, and in one case removal, include the cross of Huaquechula in 1806, Taylor, Shrines, pp. 4951; the found cross of Teccistlán, Jalisco in 1721, cathedral archive of the Arzobispado de Guadalajara, unclassified 1721 expediente, “Autos pertenecientes a la cofradía del Santo Cristo de la Expiración del pueblo de Jocotepec”; and the “cross of justice” at San Francisco Galileo, Querétaro, in 1817, AGN Inquisición 1465 exp. 7, fols. 85–87. Found crosses were reported again in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The example of El Señor de la Misericordia in Tepatitlán (in the Altos de Jalisco), a cross that appeared in an oak tree to a campesino from the El Durazno ranch in 1839, is discussed in Chapter 4 of Kinga Novak’s forthcoming dissertation in History at UC-Berkeley.

71. Archivo Histórico de la Mitra, Arzobispado de México LIOB/28, fol. 107. Eighteen years earlier, Archbishop Alonso Núñez de Haro y Peralta sent a letter to his parish priests notifying them of his forthcoming pastoral visit in which he ordered the local cofradías, “even Indian cofradías,” not to go out with crosses and images to meet him until he was “very near the church,” Archivo Histórico de la Mitra, Arzobispado de México LI0/11, 1774, carta circular at the beginning of the volume.

72. Weckmann, Medieval Heritage, pp. 289–290.

73. For the de Huatulco, Cruz I am drawing especially from Torquemada, the earliest printed source, Monarquía indiana, 3, pp. 203206 (libro 16, cap. 28). Two other miraculous crosses from western Mexico with similar stories occurring at about the same time are associated with Colima and Autlán (Jalisco): Weckmann, Medieval Heritage, pp. 289290, and

74. On the connection to ocean travel and the port of Huatulco, there are several late seventeenth-century sources appealing to the cross of Huatulco to protect the port and ships against the “perfidious heretic.” de Cervantes, Nicolás Gómez Sermón de la Exaltación de la Cruz Sacrosanta, en la solemnidad que esse día celebra la Iglesia Cathedral de la Ciudad de Antequera Valle de Oaxaca, en memoria del triumpho, y Victoria del milagroso y Santo Madero del Puerto de Guatulco contra el perfido herege (Mexico: Francisco Rodríguez Lupercio, 1671); 1685 news of pirates burning the port of Huatulco again, Rivera, Juan Antonio Diario curioso del capellán del Hospital de Jesús Nazareno de Mexico (Mexico: Vargas Rea, 1953), 1, 40; and for some years thereafter prayers being offered to the cross when news was received of the annual fleet’s safe arrival in Spain, Maldonado, Fr. Angel Oración evangélica en la solemnidad que a la Santa Cruz de Huatulco dedica todos los años la Santa Iglesia Cathedral de la Ciudad de Antequera, Valle de Oaxaca, día de la Exaltación de la Cruz. En ocasión que llegaron de España las noticias de la flota (Mexico: Francisco de Rivera Calderón, 1703).

75. One braza (about 5 1/2 feet). This extraordinary demand for bits of the Huatulco cross as wonderworking relics (and also of the great wooden cross of the chapel of San José de los Naturales in Mexico City mentioned earlier) makes me wonder why splinters of the True Cross—the Ligno Crucis—were not more popular in colonial Mexico. It was not for lack of certified relics of the True Cross exported to the New World, but they were far less plentiful than in Europe, and for the most part were safeguarded in cities by the religious orders. By the late seventeenth century, relics of the True Cross were reported in Mexico City’s cathedral, two Franciscan convents, the Dominican convent, the convent of Regina Coeli, the Jesuit Colegio de San Ildefonso, and the Confraternity of the Holy Cross; in the Puebla and Valladolid cathedrals; in the Jesuit colegio in Valladolid; and in the church of the missionary Franciscans of Pachuca, Hidalgo. An exception to the guarded veneration of pieces of the Ligno Crucis was the one belonging to the Pachuca church in the late colonial period after the secularization of the Franciscan doctrina there, which was displayed for public veneration on the September 14 feast day, and around which controversies about proper devotion and damage to the relic swirled. AGN Clero Regular y Secular 125 exps. 2–4,1807, Tulane University Viceregal and Ecclesiastical Mexican Collection 66 exp. 13, 1808–1809; Gazeta de México, May 19, 1784, May 30, 1786, and July 22, 1797.

76. Monarquía indiana, III, p. 205 (libro 16, cap. 28).

77. Dalevuelta, Jacobo [pseud.], Oaxaca, de sus historias y sus leyendas (Mexico: Andrés Botas e Hijo, 1922), p. 71.

78. Dávila, Gonzalez Teatro eclesiástico, p 79. de la Asunción, Isidro Itinerario, p. 108, said it made a complete cross roughly 12 inches tall (said to be a palmo y medio high; a palmo being about 8 1/4”); he also claimed to have “un pedazo muy grande envajado en una cruz” to ward off lightning strikes and exorcise demons. Yet another fragment went to the Mercedarian church in Mexico City and eventually to the Colegio de San Pedro Pascual de Belén (founded in 1784). It was said to be large enough to be fashioned into a small cross, Dalevuelta, Oaxaca, p. 71.

79. “con que sucedió el prodigio,” de Alcedo, Antonio Diccionario geográfico de las Indias Occidentales o América [1786–1789], vol. 206 (Madrid: Ediciones Adas, Biblioteca de Autores Españoles, 1967), II, 207, drawing from Villaseñor y Sánchez.

80. Judging by the scarcity of documentation after the late seventeenth century, this devotion began to decline then. Jaime Cuadriello noted its virtual extinction in the twentieth century, Las glorias de la República de Tlaxcala, p. 396.

81. Gertrudis, Santa Cruz de piedra, pp. 2324, 33–34. García, Antonio RubialSantiago y la cruz de piedra. La mítica y milagrosa fundación de Querétaro, ¡Una elaboración del Siglo de las Luces?” in Creencias y prácticas religiosas en Querétaro, siglos XVI–XIX, coord. Jiménez Gómez, Juan Ricardo (Mexico: Plaza y Valdés, 2004), pp. 2728, cites a May 3, 1649, notarial record by De la Rea that refers to the chapel there being built 40 years before and attracting both Spaniards and Indians.

82. Crónica de la Orden de Ν. Seráfico RS. Francisco, Provincia de San Pedro y San Pablo de Mechoacan en la Nueva España … año de 1639, 2nd ed. (Mexico: Imprenta de J. R. Barbedillo, 1882), pp. 287–295.

83. “El origen de esta reliquia no se sabe porque con el tiempo se ha borrado.” In a 1649 notarial record located by Antonio Rubial García, he also failed to mention miraculous apparitions or a founding battle: “Santiago y la cruz,” p. 28.

84. De la Rea, Crònica, pp. 287292. He also mentioned that this fallen horseman had survived another accident that should have killed him. The growth and movement of this cross are recurring themes in this literature. Writing in 1680, Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora understood that the growth was ongoing but that the trembling had lapsed for many years, until May 5, 1680, at 3 p.m.; he further understood that the new movement was an “obsequio cariñoso de su amante Madre,” and that the cross “pretendía festejar a la inmaculada Reina del Universo” at the time of the dedication of Querétaro’s church of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Glorias de Querétaro (1531–1680), (Querétaro: Gobierno del Estado, 1985), pp. 29–31.

85. Gertrudis, Santa Cruz de piedra, p. 23.

86. Judging by the urgent application of Querétaro’s leaders in April 1694 for permission to hold their annual feast of the Holy Cross, and responses by the archbishop and viceroy before the end of the month, the feast day in the seventeenth century would have been May 3. AGN General de Parte 17 exps. 34–35, fols. 29v–32. If so, it had become September 14 by the turn of the nineteenth century. Ruiz Narváez, Sermón de la exaltación. Or perhaps this cross was honored on both feast days of the Holy Cross.

87. Gertrudis, Santa Cruz de piedra, p. 23. For completion of a more capacious church in 1654 and a new convent in 1666, see Zeláa e Hidalgo, José María Glorias de Querétaro: en la fundación y admirables progresos de la muy insigne y venerable congregación eclesiástica de presbíteros … (Mexico: Zúñiga y Ontiveros, 1803), pp. 3739. Góngora, Sigüenza y in Glorias de Querétaro, pp. 2931, spoke of the new construction and growing devotion, crediting Fr. Jose Santos, the guardián in 1680, with collecting 120,000 pesos in alms over the course of 12 years of travel in the province.

88. “tan radicada y costumbre tan antigua en sus moradores”

89. AGN General de Parte 17 exps. 34–35, fols. 29v–32.

90. The new college was founded by Fr. Antonio de Linaz and 27 Franciscan missionaries who accompanied him to Mexico. García, RubialSantiago y la cruz,” pp. 3037, also emphasizes the role of the Franciscan missionary college in the development and promotion of the miracle stories.

91. Zeláa, Glorias, pp. 3739.

92. Sermón que en el día primero de su celebridad, en la mut plausible fiesta de la ampliación de elCruzero y reedificación del Templo de la milagrosa Santissima Cruz de Piedra de la Ciudad de Querétaro (Mexico: Francisco Rodríguez Lupercio, 1702), sponsored by Isidro Félix de Espinosa.

93. A different reading of the text is given by Gruzinski, SergeMutilated Memory: Reconstruction of the Past and the Mechanisms of Memory Among Seventeenth-Century Otomis,” History and Anthropology 2 (1986), pp. 337351.

94. GruzinskiRubial García infers that the Muntáñez narrative was set down in writing in the late seventeenth century, and that it drew from earlier indigenous oral tradition, “Santiago y la cruz,” pp. 42–43. Another possibility is that the text was created for the Franciscans from oral tradition and other sources in 1717.

95. Relación histórica de la Conquista de Querétaro, pp. 139, 142, 143.

96. Relación peregrina de la agua corriente … [1739], facsimile ed. (Querétaro: Presidencia Municipal de Querétaro, 1998), pp. 17ff.

97. These two versions of the founding miracles—Tapia’s, said to date from 1531, and Muntáñez’s, said to date from 1550—are juxtaposed by Rubial García in “Santiago y la cruz,” pp. 25–58. He attributes both to native traditions, but places their narrative formulation and promotion in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, in the hands of Franciscans of the Santa Cruz colegio.

98. Bancroft Library M-M 240, part 3, “Memorias piadosas de la nación indiana,” 1782, pp. 68–84: “ésta es la más prodigiosa reliquia y el más estimable tesoro con que la divina Providencia quiso enriquecer a la Novilísima queretana ciudad,” p. 83.

99. Zeláa, Glorias, pp. 4144. Two unpublished sermons by members of the Colegio de la Santa Cruz at Querétaro in the early 1740s suggest that Franciscans there were already promoting the devotion and feast day of the Exaltation of the Cross, perhaps at the expense of the feast of the Invention of the Cross: untitled volume of 34 handwritten Mexican sermons and “pláticas religiosas” dating from the mid-eighteenth century, deaccessioned from the St. Francis Xavier College Library, New York City, and purchased by the University of Dayton Marian Library in 1970, fols. 4–10 (sermon preached by Fr. Tomás de Urive Larrea in 1741) and 11–14.

100. Correa, Phyllis M.Otomí Rituals and Celebrations: Crosses, Ancestors, and Resurrection,” The Journal of American Folklore 113:450 (Autumn 2000), pp. 436450; Lastra, Yolanda, Sherzer, Joel and Sherzer, Dina Adoring the Saints: Fiestas in Central Mexico (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2009).

101. The available documentation on this tradition is digested in González, Pedro López Album histórico del exconvento de la Cruz de Zacate, 2nd. ed. (Tepic: Ayuntamiento de Tepic, 2000), and put to good use in García Mar, GuillermoLa Santísima Cruz de Tepic. Construcción, difusión, amplitud y permanencia en el occidente de la Nueva España, 1619–1812,” M.A. thesis in History, Universidad de Guadalajara (2011).

102. Crónica miscelánea de la Santa Provincia de Xalisco (Mexico: Ed. Font, 1942), III, p. 45.

103. Mexico: Impr. de Juan Joseph Guillena Carrascoso, 1694, pp. 6–8.

104. In the mid-eighteenth-century, another Jesuit, Francisco Javier Alegre, added to the idea of a prior Christian evangelization when he wrote that there were precolonial crosses in the region and an ancient image of Christ carved into a local rock face: Historia de la Compañía de Jesús en Nueva España, que estaba escribiendo el P. Francisco Javier Alegre al tiempo de su expulsión (Mexico: Imprenta de J. M. Lara, 1841–1842), I, p. 201.

Beginning in the 1720s there is direct evidence of the verdant cross attracting attention outside its home area. In 1722 Santa Gertrudis referred to it in his devotional history of the stone cross of Querétaro, and in its December 1729 issue the Gazeta de Mexico reported that the bishop of Guadalajara had made it a point to visit the shrine during his pastoral visit to Tepic, adding that the site was celebrated for its perennially green cross of grass in an arid spot, present even during the winter. León, Bibliografìa mexicana, p. 154. García Mar suggests that the devotion was spreading with the encouragement of Bishop León Garabito from 1694, if not before. Bishop Gómez de Parada (r. 1736–1751) also promoted the devotion: García Mar, “La Santísima Cruz de Tepic,” chapt. 3.

105. Taraval’s text is known in a manuscript copy in the Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid, cited by González, López Album, pp. 7273; it is also discussed in García Mar, “La Santísima Cruz de Tepic,” chapt. 3. Francisco Xavier Alegre added a bit to the aura of crosses in the Tepic area in his Historia de la Compañía de Jesús en Nueva España, which was still in manuscript when he and other Jesuits left Spanish America in 1767. Speaking of Tepic as “famoso por el prodigio de la Santa Cruz que allí se venera,” Alegre mentioned that in April each year beautiful sounds of a bell coming from the same mountain (Sierra de Chacala) where the face of Christ was located could be heard throughout the valley, Alegre, Historia, 1, p. 201. The Bustillo manuscript is in the Bancroft Library, MSS 99/374m, fols. 48v–49r. Another then-unpublished mid eighteenth-century source, Francisco de Ajofrín, muffled the story of discovery in 1619, saying “there is no memory from the time this prodigy appeared.” He also described the size and nature of the grassy plot: the grass was half a vara high (about 16 inches), 21 2/3 feet wide (8 1/8 varas), and 40 feet long (15 varas), with arms extending 12 1/3 feet (4 5/8 varas) on each side. The grass was unlike any that grew in the area and was always green even though the site was naturally arid. Like Bustillo, he stressed that much grass was taken away as relics, yet the cross somehow was never diminished. Diario del viaje que hizo a la America, I, pp. 220–221, 280.

Skepticism about the authenticity of this cross’s miraculous greenery and regeneration surfaced in a 1770 treatise by a canon of the cathedral church in Guadalajara: Dr. Mateo José de Arteaga y Rincón Gallardo, discussed in García Mar, “La Santísima Cruz de Tepic,” pp. 313, 320—322.

106. Bancroft MSS 99/374m, fol. 48v.

107. AGN Clero Regular y Secular 215 exp. 29; University of Texas, Latin American Library, Garcia Collection, folders 74, 75. Another acclaimed late-colonial cross that led to a different kind of early investigation and report and a very different outcome is the Cruz de Huaquechula in 1806, discussed in Taylor, Shrines and Miraculous Images, pp. 4950. Enthusiastic devotion to this cross was spreading far beyond the town, but there was nothing particularly unusual about the image itself other than that no one seemed to know how it came to be there. And the times had changed. Regalist bishops in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were reluctant to endorse new shrines and miraculous images, and quicker to contain what Durkheim called “the contagiousness of the sacred” in the name of episcopal authority and decorous faith.

108. AGN Clero Regular y Secular 215 exp. 29, and University of Texas, Latin American Library, Garcia Collection folders 74, 75. The AGN case is summarized with a different purpose by Osowski, EdwardPassion Miracles and Indigenous Historical Memory in New Spain,” Hispanic American Historical Review 88:4 (2008), pp. 607638.

109. The cross was said to be 2 3/4 varas tall—about 7 1/2 feet.

110. AGN Clero Regular y Secular 215 exp. 29.

111. The teniente general del partido, appointed by the alcalde mayor.

112. According to the pastoral visit records of the Archdiocese of Mexico, the “Spaniards” of Tlayaca-pan had their own confraternity dedicated to the Holy Cross as early as 1716; it was still in place in 1757. This pattern of popular beliefs and practices being widely shared across classes and ethnic groups in Tlayacapan is taken up in Ingham, Mary, Michael & Lucifer, p. 38. In 1743, about 10 percent of Tlayacapan’s families were Spaniards and mestizos. The social gulf between them and the majority Indian population was reduced by the fact that few of the non-Indians were large landowners. Many were shopkeepers and artisans, and most of those among them who farmed and raised livestock were renters. They had an interest in protecting village lands, and although it was in their interest to perpetuate ethnic distinctions, they were rarely in open conflict with their Indian neighbors.

Other examples of multiethnic devotion to miraculous crosses and figures of Christ for the Mixteca Baja of Oaxaca in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are mentioned in Smith, “‘En el nombre de Dios,’” chapts. 1 and 2.

113. Gazeta de Mexico, January 1729, in León, Bibliografìa mexicana, p. 91.

114. “se espera finalize la devoción de los vecinos y comarcanos,” reported the article; Gazeta de México for May 1737 (in León, Bibliografia mexicana, p. 698). This cross and its wondrous movement also merited mention by the author of the relación geográfica for the Chalco Tlalmanalco district in 1743, who summarized the judicial record in two paragraphs. de Solano, Francisco ed., Relacionesgeográficas… 1743, 1, p. 46.

115. Tlayacapan is famous for its many neighborhood “chapels,” some of them substantial little churches. The most detailed study of them is by Ordendáin, Claudio Favier Ruinas de utopia: San Juan Tlayacapan; espcio y tiempo en el encuentro … (Cuernavaca, Mor.: Gobierno del Estado, 1998). In addition to the sixteenth-century Augustinian church, there are reported to be 26 chapels, 18 of them still in use. Judging by Favier Ordendáin’s discussion, no barrio chapel today is called Santa Ysabel, nor is Tepetenchi the name of a barrio.

116. Ingham’s Mary, Michael & Lucifer offers a valuable engagement with issues of folk religion and how religious symbols and meanings still pervade social relations in Tlayacapan, but he sheds little light on my questions or barrio-level devotions. He notices in passing (p. 103) that crosses in churches, chapels, homes, and fields protected against the ever-present Devil, but focuses mainly on Carnival and Holy Week observances, in community-wide terms.

117. Mendoza, Bibiana Ugalde Xitaces con sentimiento y tradición: historia del culto a la cruz verde de Tequisquiapan en la voz de un pueblo creyente (Querétaro: Hear Taller Gráfico, 1997). The ethnographic literature on miraculous crosses is scattered, but considerable. For recent studies of former Otomi communities in Guanajuato, see Correa, “Otomi Rituals and Celebrations”; LeFlore, Elizabeth H.The Force of Devotion: Performing a Transnational Spirituality,” Ph.D. dissertation in Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin (2009); and Lastra, Sherzer, and Sherzer, Adoring the Saints. Here again, May 3 is the principal feast day in these places, and hilltop crosses are the focal point.

118. Barrio San Juan, Barrio Magdalena, Barrio El Cerrito, Santa Rosa Xajay, San Francisco Hidalgo, San Joaquin, and Maguey Verde. Other communities that participated in the fiesta cycle are mentioned. Informants from the barrio of San Juan predominate in Ugalde Mendoza’s group of informants.

119. Not surprisingly, the informants from San Juan had the most elaborate stories to tell about the legendary beginnings, among them members of the local Bárcenas family coming out as the overseer dragged the cross past their house, crying “Ahí va mi papacito,” and pleading with him to leave it with them.

120. Donando Gonzalez from Santa Rosa Xajay averred that while San Juan’s cross is the main one ( “la principal”), theirs is the most important to them: “nosotros tratamos como principal la que tenemos, aunque sea una peregrina.” Mendoza, Ugalde Xitaces, pp. 6970.


  • William B. Taylor (a1)


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