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Cuba is home to the oldest sign of Christianity in the Americas

Cuba is home to the oldest sign of Christianity in the Americas
Oct 11, 2014 By Erick Lappin

La Cruz de la Parra (The Sacred Cross of Parra), planted in Eastern Cuba
by Christopher Columbus upon his landing in the island, is officially
the oldest sign of Christianity in the Americas and perhaps the oldest
symbol of the cultural clash.
With the religious fervor of the time plus the incredibly harsh
circumstances of their voyage, it is not surprising that the Genovese
admiral and his crew called their arrival to the other side of the
Atlantic a miracle.
SEE ALSO: Seattle to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day
Among the many goals of the expedition was conquering lands for the
Spanish Catholic crown.
Columbus installed a total of 29 crosses that served for Spaniards’
religious practice and to evangelize the native.
“He placed a large cross at the entrance of that port which I believe he
named Porto Santo,” wrote Friar Bartolomé de las Casas on Dec. 1, 1492.
Porto Santo would be later replaced by Baracoa, the aborigine name for
the area.
But, the cross legitimacy goes beyond historical written accounts.
In 1984, Raquel Carrera Rivery, a wood anatomy specialist for the
Institute of Forestry Research of the Ministry of Agriculture of Cuba,
conducted an extensive scientific study in conjunction with wood expert
Roger Dechamps from the Central African Museum in Tervuren, Belgium.
The authenticity of the cross has been challenged through the times. To
clear all doubts, the scientists had to prove the age and origin of the
They took fragments and sent them to various research centers. They were
compared to 50 different tree species from Europe, 3,200 from Africa,
and 4,000 from the Americas.


The scientists concluded that the cross is made of Coccoloba
Diversifolia, a tree that populates the Caribbean Antilles including the
region where Columbus landed in Eastern Cuba.
The results chattered old rumors that the cross was actually brought
from Europe. Either way, carbon dating tests demonstrated with 95
percent accuracy that the date of the fragments oscillates between 860
and 1530 B.C. So, the explorers could make it in 1492.
La Santa Cruz de la Parra or La Cruz de Colon is the only one of
Columbus’ crosses that has endured more than five centuries, surviving
pirates and corsair’s attacks, hurricanes and historical turbulences.
But, the cross’ role in local folklore, religion and culture is
definitely as great as its resilience. La Cruz de la Parra has witnessed
many historical events like the first Catholic procession in the New
World in 1528 after an earthquake that hit the region.
Many locals considered the cross a divine artifact connected to numerous
miracles; therefore, every historical personality that visited the town
in colonial times took a piece of it.
That is the case of Spanish General Arsenio Martinez Campos,
Captain-General of Cuba, who appropriated of a fragment before his
return to Spain in 1879.
SEE ALSO: Shipwreck off of Haiti may be Columbus’ vessel the Santa Maria
The cross extremities were later encased in metal with the purpose of
preventing the numerous cuts it was subject to.
La Cruz de la Parra was offered to Pope John Paul II in his historical
visit to the island in 1998; but he refused to take away such precious
relic from the Cuban people.
The cross was relocated from the bay to an altar in the Minor Basilica
of Baracoa in 1757. It is still there.

Source: Cuba is home to the oldest sign of Christianity in the Americas
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