Cuban Village of the Holy Spirit Celebrates 504 Anniversary


city of sancti spiritus
Sancti Spiritus was the third village founded in Cuba. (Photo: Vicente Brito / Escambray).

The city of the Holy Spirit, the only one in Cuba that keeps its Latin name, enjoys the pleasure of celebrating the 504th anniversary of its foundation

The first location of the town, on the right bank of the Tuinucú River, near the site known as Loma or Cayo de la Iglesia, must have been established on Sunday, June 4, 1514, day of Pentecost.

According to researchers, that day the liturgical activity was led by Dominican Friar Bartolomé de las Casas. Renowned historian Manuel Martínez-Moles, in his article Fundadores de Sancti Spíritus (Founders of Sancti Spiritus) proved that the village was not founded in 1515 nor in the second half of 1514, but during the first half of the latter.

In 1522 it was moved next to the Yayabo River. Oral tradition says the moving was attributed to a plague of ants that attacked newborns on their navels, thus killing them.  However, experts consider the real cause was the shortage of lands and the imperative need to look for new areas with greater amounts of gold and aboriginal workforce.


For the last four years, the colonial town has exhibited five allegorical bells which allow parodying the title of one of American writer Ernest Hemingway’s works, although the aforementioned do not produce any sound at all.

Bells can be found on the street next to the Iglesia Mayor (National Monument), as well as in several other places of the urban historical center.

In the fourth of the first seven villages founded by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar there’s an area —on the Honorato Street— where five huge bells recall the history lived from  June 4th, 1514 to 2014, when Sancti Spíritus turned 500.

Each of the bells represents 100 years, that is, the first one covers from 1514 to 1614 and so on until completing the five centuries of this city, located about 350 kilometers east of Havana.

The bronze color bells feature the shield of the city, represented with a pigeon with wings outstretched, four Cuban flags, the letters N and S, and the motto Mi lealtad acrisolada (My sterling loyalty). The phrase Testigo del Tiempo (Witness of Time) is written on the lower edge of the bells.

The motto refers to the allegiance of the Council towards Spain when, in 1762, the English took over Havana. On the other hand, the pigeon represents the Holy Spirit, patron saint of the city.


Güijes are characters intrinsically linked to the myths and legends of Sancti Spiritus. People say that these small, playful, naughty, ebony-color creatures live in puddles, lagoons and rivers.

People imagination associates güijes with the Yayabo River but some experts believe these lively characters, who are sometimes also called jigües or chichiricúes, were created by local aborigines.

They were like goblins. They used to appear and disappear in the arches of the bridge over the Yayabo River, or dragged chains along cobblestone streets in full moon nights.

Tradition lovers say that the güijes made countless deviltries with which they frightened those who walked over that old bridge. Among the many legends there’s one about some güije who wandered through a tunnel and reached the presbytery of the Iglesia Mayor.

Juan Rodríguez Paz, El Monje, who died in 1995 and was one of the most renowned primitive painters in the country, became famous because his paintings of guijes and elves.


Taken from PL, translated by Escambray




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