(pic. from Robert Runyon Collection U.T. Austin)
La Santa Cruz
Four miles east of Rio Grande City (est.) on Highway 83 is a well known historical site, a particular hill called La Santa Cruz, often visited by tourists. It was named after a ranch in Mexico by the same name. The Domingo Pena family, the proprietors, in the 1920's, erected on the site a small ebony cross . Over the years , to some, the site has become a shrine. Local people recognize and appreciate the significance of the cross. West of the cross is a cave where candles are lit before sunset. Some of the candles have the name or even a picture to whom the prayer is being said. It is not uncommon for people to hear mass or have processions on the hill. Like almost every historical site, they each have their story. This monument has it's legend too.
It is said that in 1904 the hill had not a cross. The region was suffering from a tremendous drought. People would pray for it to rain, but the rains never came. It was then that Don Domingo Pena decided to place a cross on the hill, also as a remembrance of what had transpired on his once beloved Mexican ranch. Every night the families from the neighboring communities would climb the hill and pray for rain before the cross. Miraculously, days later, the drought ceased; people say their prayers were answered and attribute it to the processions of "La Santa Cruz". Once again, it was not uncommon that during the Great Depression people (in particular young ladies) of the area would have processions and walk from ÒLa Santa CruzÓ to ÒLa GruttaÓ (the grotto) in town in hopes of better times. Ò It seems as though peopleÕs faith was being tested by our Lord. Few people had (cash) money. People survived by bartering goods in exchange for services. Many people lost their properties due to this. It was not until the (federal) government created jobs for the unemployed...what were called CCC camps and other projects to beautify the Rio Grande Valley...that people began to see better times. Then the war (WWII) came...Ó
Today, upon climbing La Santa Cruz a beautiful experience of serenity overcomes one from atop that hill . In spite of the comings and goings of the people below, the peace and tranquility of the valley is amazing. Today many people are curious to witness the say-so of other people who have been there and experienced what it's really like being up on the hill.
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