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Santa Cruz: 525 anniversary of the city and 129 years of the Fiestas de Mayo

Alonso Fernández de Lugo founded
the city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. 
On May 3, 1494 the Castilian conquerors nailed the founding cross in Añazo, but it was not until 1890 when the capital of the island began to celebrate the commemorations

On May 3, 1494, the Castilian conquerors nailed a rudimentary wooden cross on the beach of Añazo with which they celebrated the mass that commemorated the founding of the Port and Place of Santa Cruz. The Cross remained in the same place for many years, where, forgotten by some, and abandoned to their fate by others, it endured rain, sun and seas.

When in 1735 the Logman brothers (priests) built a house to install a butchers shop in it, so that the income would help the poor resources of the first church (Concepción), the Cross was wedged between the aforementioned house and the wall that served as a defensive parapet. Therefore, in 1745, the mayor Juan de Arauz y Lordelo, observing the state of deterioration and abandonment of the Cross, ordered them to build a chapel so that it would be sheltered, being called the chapel of the Holy Cross or the Holy Shroud. From this date (1745), every May 3 they began to celebrate this holiday every year.

When the aforementioned chapel was demolished, the Franciscan friars placed the Cross next to the door of the hermitage of San Telmo, where it was forgotten by those who did not know its history and by the indifference of those who, even knowing it, were not aware of its value. It would be in 1850 when the chaplain of the Hospital de los Desamparados, the Dominican Lorenzo Siverio, assessing what that ancient symbol represented for the population, made the decision to move it to the hospital chapel, while exclaiming: "Nobody pays attention today to this old relic, but the day will come when everyone will dispute it."

Little by little, the inhabitants of the port of Santa Cruz began to understand what that old relic represented for the city and began to feel great interest in the founding of its history. The first civic procession of the Foundational Cross took place in 1867. It left the chapel of the Hospital de los Desamparados, where it was deposited, and, after touring the decorated streets of the neighborhood, it reached the hermitage of San Telmo. It was accompanied by the Banner of the City, which was followed by the Municipal Corporation, civil governor, the military band, and a picket line of the battalion. The Banner was new and had been made in Seville with all the details that the previous one lacked.

That day, the Municipal Corporation used, for the first time, a medal hanging from its neck, on a ribbon with national colors. These medals, made in Paris, in gilt silver, had the motto: "Constitutional City Hall of Santa Cruz de Tenerife". The R.O. who authorized it said: "The will of S.M. (His Majesty) is that the use of this badge is limited to solemn acts in which the City Council is to be included in a corporation, and not those that are individually celebrated by the councilors ".

During the first five days of the month of May of that year there were several festivities: regattas of boats, cockfights, balloons, races on horseback. At night there was strolling and music in the square and fireworks. Booths were also installed in the Plaza de la Constitución (La Candelaria), beautifully decorated and illuminated, since all the lanterns were lit, even if there was a full moon.

Finally, on April 19, 1873, the Provincial Commission reported that the Cross of the Conquest belonged in fact and of right to the Municipality, authorizing to collect for its custody all the ornaments that belonged to it.

In the hermitage of San Telmo, said: "The Cross of the Conquest, made of wood from time immemorial, is next to the Gospel, inside a wooden urn with crystals, and has a shroud of white taffeta. Two Chinese vases with golden fillets and fourteen different coloured glass lanterns are used for the decoration."

On May 2, the Cross was moved to the church of San Francisco, where it was guarded until the 3rd, when the ceremony took place and then the procession through the streets of the city centre, accompanied by the entire Municipal Corporation and people from all points of the island. The procession was described by the media as a great spectacle. As agreed, the Cross was kept in San Telmo and, from here, on its May festivity, it went out in procession through the ornate streets of the neighbourhood until arriving at La Concepción.

The first May Festivities were celebrated in 1890. They lasted three days and the animation was extraordinary. There was a mass in the Plaza de San Telmo, in commemoration of the first one that was said in the same place and before the same Cross, which was attended by all the troops of the garrison, the provincial guard and the sailors of the cruise Island of Cuba, anchored in the port, and at night there was a military retreat that travelled the main streets. In addition, a dance was held at the Casino, a literary-musical evening in the Instructive Cabinet, and a retinue of allegorical figures, carried out by beautiful young ladies from the Circle of Friends who wore fancy costumes.

Foundational Cross
Koppchen [CC BY 3.0]
In 1892, the City Council, upon checking the state of old age in which the venerated relic was found, and that could not resist much longer, in order to preserve it and guard it in the best possible conditions, agreed that it should be conveniently embedded in good wood, and introduced in a reliquary of wood, nickel and glass, in whose top figure, embossed, the coat of arms of Santa Cruz and an inscription that says: "Here is encircled the Cross placed by the conqueror of Tenerife Don Alonso Fernández of Lugo on the altar before which the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was celebrated for the first time on the beaches of Añaza, May 3, 1494. It was paid by the City Council of Santa Cruz.

In 1896, the Foundation Cross was transferred to the mother church of La Concepción, where it remains today. In 1909, Patricio Estévanez promoted a campaign, in the newspaper El Progreso, to promote the Fiestas de Mayo. That year the program of events was more extensive than ever, because there were two weeks of acts and rejoicings of all kinds. As of that year, the exhibition of Canarian flowers and plants and crafts, the decorated crosses contest and the baile de magos (country ball), among other events, have traditionally been held.

Santa Cruz: 525 aniversario de la ciudad y 129 de las Fiestas de Mayo

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