What does Andalucia celebrate with Cruces de Mayo?

by Lorraine Williamson
Cruces de Mayo

The streets and squares all over Andalucia are filled with their traditional ‘Cruces de Mayo’ these days. This festival harks back to pagan rites and has become a symbol of popular religiosity and diversity. It is celebrated in different ways, but always with flowers; the arrival of spring.

The origins of the Cruces de Mayo in Andalucia date back to “pagan festivals before the Baetica”. In Roman times, the celebrations of the “floralia festivals” emerged, “especially on May 3,” explains writer and lecturer at the University of Córdoba, Antonio Manuel Rodríguez. This festival took place in honour of the goddess Floradie who was “Christianised” when, according to legend, Saint Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine, “found the cross” of Jesus Christ in May 326.

And since then, the celebration has become popular after the Castilian reconquest of Spain in 1492. Because the “population had to prove that it was not Jewish or Muslim.” And the best way to do this was “to place the cross on the pagan festivals dedicated to flowers.”

Andalucian symbol for popular religiosity

“The Cruces de Mayo are an Andalucian symbol par excellence, typical of popular religiosity, and it is logical that their celebration is diverse, because what unites us in Andalucia is precisely respect for differences. And in this case, there is a common background, the vocation of life, the transformation of the cross, which is initially a symbol of death, into a symbol of the projection of life,” concludes Rodríguez.

Córdoba and Granada full of crosses

According to Rodríguez, the celebration of the fiesta is more deeply rooted in the areas of Córdoba, Granada and Almería. However, the party can “take different forms” depending on the place.

In the city of Córdoba, where the celebration begins as early as May 1, brotherhoods and neighbourhood associations place around fifty crosses in the main squares. This is also where the annual Patio Festival takes place. In the province, the feast of Añora also stands out. There is a more sober celebration but one that shows true works of art in the shape of a cross.

Something similar is happening in Granada, where this year the celebration will be extended until May 4. Here, the celebration has its origins in the early twentieth century, in the Albaicín and El Realejo neighbourhoods, where young people built small altars around a cross.

In the main squares and in the neighbourhoods of Granada, the crosses are decorated with flowers, scarves and ceramics. But also with scissors stuck in an apple to figuratively warn, as tradition dictates, that anyone who dares to criticise the cross runs the risk of having their tongue cut out.

Cogesa Expats

The “Maya” of Almería and Seville

Also in Almería, where crosses are celebrated until May 4, the so-called “Maya” stand out, always accompanied by the phrase “Un eurico pa’ la maya, que no tiene manto ni saya” (A euro for the maya, who has no cloak or skirt). Children dress up in their Mayan costumes to get money. They fill streets with colourful dresses, hairstyles and decorations of ribbons and flowers.

The “Mayans”, but in a different style, can also be seen in the province of Seville, specifically in Carmona. There are “chairs” next to the cross decorated with cloths and flowers. There is a tray so that the children can ask for a donation.

Crosses in Lebrija

However, the most important crosses are those of Lebrija, which have been declared a Tourist Interest in Andalucia. This also applies to the town of Berrocal, in Huelva. There, the popular tradition was celebrated as early as the 15th century. Here, pagan and Catholic rites are depicted together, with a “healthy competition” between the Cruz de Arriba and the Cruz de Abajo.

Also unique in Huelva is the celebration of the ‘Cruz de Alonso’, which dates back to the end of the 19th century and consists of ‘house crosses’, known as ‘colás’, as the places where they were traditionally placed were the ‘coladeros’ of the houses, through which access was gained to the corral.

Cruces de Mayo in Jaén and Málaga

The celebration of Cruces de Mayo has also become popular in the province of Jaén, especially in Alcalá la Real, Úbeda, Linares and Baeza. The most notable are those of Jimena. The famous “tíos de ricia”, a custom in which dolls sit on chairs. They are beaten, this evokes the “Judas” tradition that is celebrated in different parts of Spain.

In Málaga, the celebration is especially deeply rooted in the municipality of Vélez-Málaga. There, the festival has also been declared a Tourist Interest. It is linked to a historical moment such as the capture of the city by the Catholic monarchs in 1487. To commemorate this event, streets, squares, courtyards and even shop windows in the city have been decorated. There are altars in honour of the Holy Cross.


Finally, although less numerous, in Cadiz the procession of the Cruz de Mayo de Puntales stands out. It is usually held in the third week of May. The children who take communion take part in this, accompanied by young people and neighbours from other districts of the city.

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