HAVANA – “La Cruz de la Parra” (The grapevine cross), planted by Christopher Columbus in Cuba in 1492 and the only one of the 29 crosses the admiral placed on his travels around the Americas still in existence, has been declared a National Monument and Treasure of the Nation, Cuban government media outlets reported Tuesday.
The decision was made known on Monday during the celebration of the 500th anniversary since the founding of Baracoa, considered to be the oldest city in Cuba, in whose parish church the cross has been preserved.
The declaration was made “by virtue of the spiritual and heritage values” of that symbol, Havana’s official historian, Eusebio Leal, said in comments cited by Communist Party daily Granma.
The daily said that “La Cruz de la Parra” was displayed at a Mass celebrated for Baracoa’s anniversary during which a message from Pope Benedict XVI was read in which the pontiff blessed the city’s residents.
Columbus arrived on Cuba’s far eastern coast on Nov. 27, 1492, with two of his ships – the Niña and the Santa Maria – and on Dec. 1, he planted the cross on the site of what would come to be Baracoa, which was founded in 1511 by Diego Velazquez.
Government Web site Cubadebate said Tuesday that the authenticity of the cross was proven by studies performed under the direction of the National Heritage office, and its age was verified in an “irrefutable manner” by Belgium’s Forestry Institute.
Carbon dating confirmed that the cell structure of the wood comprising the cross corresponds to a species that still exists in the mountains of that part of the country, according to the Web site.
“That proved that Columbus did not bring crosses (with him) but that they were fabricated with island woods,” Cubadebate noted. EFE