Legends and myths make up Huatulco as much as its cliffs covered in deep jungle or the emerald and blue bays. They speak of pirates, saints and Indians. They make up the towns and villages, the cities and monuments. They are are the foundations of Huatulco. The biggest legend of them all still carries on nowadays… Do you know its story?
The Cross of the Sea
The legend reckons that during the first century A.D. a bearded, white man arrived on a small boat to the coast where nowadays lies Santa Cruz Huatulco. The man was carrying an enormous log, that somewhat resembled the shape of a cross. Once he got to the beach, which was populated by Zapotec and Mixtec Indians, he raised the log in them iddle of it without any help. He then spent some time with the locals teaching them new agricultural techniques and cultural improvements. Finally, he left with the same boat he had arrived in.
Some say that this man was Quetzalcoatl, while catholic sources believe he was St Thomas the Apostle.
The town received its name from the cross this man left there (Santa Cruz means the Holy Cross in Spanish). The cross, from that moment on has been object of worship and adoration from the local Indians and even from other ethnic groups from the surroundings.
The origin of “Huatulco”
About two centuries before the Spanish conquest of Mexico, the Huatulco area was colonized by the Mexicas, who we commonly name Aztecs. After noticing the locals worshiped the wooden cross, they called the place “Cuauhtolco”, a Nahuatl word which means “the place where the wooden log is adored”.
The Cross lived on!
After the Spanish conquest in 1521, Huatulco was one of the most active ports of New Spain. The small port thrived and grew, but in 1587 it was terribly attacked. The privateer Thomas Cavendish looted the area for months, forcing the local population to escape to the villages of Pueblo Viejo (Old Town) and Piedra de Moros (Moors Stone) – two towns you can visit with the Local Villages and Traditions tour and the Outback Safari tour!
The legend of the Cross of the Sea reached its climax exactly during this historical period…
The pirate Cavendish was a protestant and during his pillage was intrigued by the local worship of the cross, a symbol of Catholicism. He tried to destroy the sacred log in several different ways with no success. The cross was attacked with knives and axes, but it didn’t get cut. It was set on fire, but it didn’t burn. Finally, it was tied with ropes and chains to Cavendish’s ship, in order to pull it down into the ocean, but the ship stopped, unable to move!
After some time, the Bishop of Oaxaca ordered the log to be cut (with good intentions!). They were to make three big crosses: one was sent to the Vatican and another one to the Cathedral of Oaxaca. Some sources say the third one is in Mexico City, while others reckon it is in Puebla.
From the process of making the three crosses, several “discarded” pieces of wood were used to make smaller crosses. One of them is conserved inside the Chapel of Santa Cruz, which you can visit on the Huatulco City Tour, and another one is in the Church of Santa Maria Huatulco, which you can visit during our 3 Levels of Huatulco.
As you can see, legends are part of our history: part myth, part truth. Who knows to which extent they’re actually true! What we do know is that we live and feel them as real as ever in Huatulco! Give us a call and come and experience them for yourself!