Posted by: Johan Normark | March 29, 2009

The talking cross

During the final two days of the field season 2003, Alberto Flores and I passed by a cave called Santa Cruz (“Holy Cross”;) by the people living in Sacalaca. The name is apt since inside its narrow vertical entrance is a chamber with several charcoal paintings, one of them with the text “Santa Cruz”. We do not know the date of these paintings since they could be from around 1550 up until the present (the ceramics in the cave are Prehispanic as are the nearby mounds). However, this is also in the area where the Caste War broke out and this gives me the opportunity to discuss the “talking cross”.

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz

In the period after independence from Spain (1821-1847) the oppression of the Creoles (Mexicans of European descent) against the Yucatec Maya increased and the Creoles in Yucatan also declared independence from Mexico. Maya groups rebelled against the Creoles in what has been called the Caste War. The early successful campaigns by the mazehual (“Maya”, 1847-1848, which almost drove the Creoles out from the peninsula, ultimately led to a series of setbacks and approximately 40 percent of the population of Yucatan died between 1846 and 1850.

In 1850, the Caste War was almost lost for the mazehual. At this time, a spiritual mobilization and a revivalistic movement appeared. José María Barrera and his band came to a place called Lom Ha (Cleft Spring), which was a small cenote, 60 km southeast of Saban, one of the southernmost larger settlements. He found a small cross carved in a mahogany tree at the edge of the cenote. One of the members of the band was Juan de la Cruz Puc, who was trained in priestly duties. He heard the voice of God coming from the cross in the tree. This cross became a santo, the Santo Jesucristo, an intermediary with God, which had the capacity to speak. Juan de la Cruz Puc could hear the voices in his head, but in order for others to hear the Talking Cross he needed the ventriloquist Manuel Nauat to project the words as if they came from the tree.

The Talking Cross told its followers, the Cruzob, to continue the fighting. The town Chan Santa Cruz (contemporary Felipe Carillo Puerto) grew up on the location and became the centre for resistance until 1901. However, the last skirmishes between cruzob and the Mexican state occurred in 1933. The religion still exists at some places between Saban and Felipe Carillo Puerto. Maybe the painting in the Santa Cruz cave depicts the Balam Na church at Chan Santa Cruz (it could of course depict other crosses as well and may be unrelated to the cruzob).

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