Anyone from Nicoya surely is familiar with or perhaps has even traveled up the popular Cerro de La Cruz, located just a few kilometers south of the city. Most Nicoyans have heard at least one fantastic story, myth or mysterious tales about the hill.
The stories are numerous, and as always with any local legend, new nuances are added to them as they travel from one town to another, making them more impressive and implausible.
Some say goblins would appear, misleading visitors through secret trails. Others say a snake lies sleeping in the heart of the mountain and shouldn’t be awoken.
In addition, there are those who say that the mountain is really the final frontier of the Maya, and that inside there is a “water volcano” that is filled with a large quantity of the vital liquid that would bring calamity to the city if it were to erupt.
Every May 3rd, the Fiesta de las Cruces (Fiesta of the Crosses) – also called the Cruz de Mayo (May Cross) – is celebrated on the hill. On that date, pilgrims traverse the mountain to celebrate a Mass at its peak. Most people who attend the celebration are there due to faith. However, some go out of fear that the sleeping mythological snake will wake up.
Juan Roland Rodriguez said he has seen firsthand that the legends about the Nicoyan mountain are true. In 1992, he bought Finca Cerro de La Cruz, hoping to plant native species of trees.
Rodriguez related that he bought the 52 hectare farm from Carlos Quiros Albino, who was using the land for cattle. At the time, the peak was only accessible through its “belly,” which is to say its outer rim.
Rodriguez said that he made the current road or path on the hill with his ex-father-in-law Daniel Vargas. Together, they “opened the mountain” in 1992. The idea behind making the road was to allow people to reach the summit as well as providing a less dangerous route to La Cruz, since it is well-known that there are a lot of rattlesnakes on the trails.
According to Rodriguez, since he bought the farm, he has come across a variety of controversial situations that have scared him and set him back. The Nicoyan is sure that he saw pterodactyls in flight – enormous, prehistoric birds that are similar to vultures, with wings, sharp beaks, huge feet and a longer-than-average neck. “They were identical to the gigantic birds of the Jurassic Period,” he remarked.
In 1996, Rodriguez decided to build his Atelier (a French term meaning a home workshop) close to the peak of the hill, to dedicate himself to sculpting and writing poetry. Inspired by the countryside surrounding the hill and his romantic experiences, Rodriguez produced his first book of poetry, Moñtana y Pasión (Mountain and Passion), in 2009.
He said his workshop has also been the scene of unusual events, since on several occasions he was frightened or witnessed strange things. One time, Rodriguez said that he was resting in bed after a long day of work, and he saw an evil spirit that came to find and follow him. “He had hairy, boney and dirty hands with huge nails,” he described.
The Story of the Cross
According to Nicoyan Mario Rojas Cardenas and his compilation Notes on the History of the Parrish of Nicoya and the Colonial Temple, it is believed that 1544 was the date of the original founding of the Nicoya Parrish. For that reason, it is likely that the three original wooden crosses found on the hill were erected after that date.
In 1950, the Catholic Church, along with residents of the area, installed a “modern” cross made from 3-inch diameter plumbing tubes. Part of the structure of the cross is still there and pieces of metal give it weight and support.
Nowadays, those who wake up early to visit the hill and its cross can enjoy a journey filled with fresh air, traveling to the song of birds. They can even see howler monkeys heading up the mountain while enjoying one of the best views of the Colonial City.
Even today, Cerro de La Cruz continues to impress, whispering its legends to the travelers who visit. It is a symbol of Nicoyan history and pride.
The Serpent’s Eggs
Author: Juan Rolando Rodriguez
The legend says that, in colonial times, a Jesuit priest buried one giant egg in the capital of Mexico, another in Managua and a third one in the Cerro de La Cruz. From the eggs, three giant snakes were born, which eternally sleep so long as the rituals of May 3rd are maintained. It is said that the Nicoya earthquake of 1954 was caused by not celebrating the Mass.