CERTAINTY ABOUT THE FOUNDATION OF THE VILLAGE

Although there are no documents to certify the exact date of its foundation, the Villa del Espíritu Santo (Village of the Holy Spirit) was born on June 4, 1514, on the banks of the Tuinucú River. It was there where the founding ceremony must have been held, coinciding with the Pentecost Sunday and with the celebration of the Holy Spirit, after which the village was named.

Despite the complexity of the historical inquiry into the founding of the first seven Cuban villages, Sancti Spíritus is one of the few that can accurately establish a date for its first years of history.

This certainty is born from what was expressed by Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas who, in his Historia general de las Indias, written in the third person, said: …“and because Diego Velázquez departed from the port of Jagua where he had already founded Trinidad to establish a town he called Sancti Spíritus (…) such Bartolomé de las Casas, on the occasion of the Pentecost celebration, agreed to leave his house and go to say Mass and to preach to them”.

Local historians Manuel Martínez Moles and Segundo Marín had the unquestionable merit of specifying the day and month in which Friar de las Casas celebrated the foundation mass on the banks of the Tuinucú River. Later on, researcher Santiago Prieto supported their investigation with a hypothesis —that has not yet been denied— in which there is a time coincidence between the celebration of the mass and the official consecration of the village with the Pentecost, a religious festivity that celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit and which, therefore, gave the village its name.

In order to reach these conclusions, it was necessary to determine the difference between the Julian and Gregorian calendars, and to take into account the dates of celebration of the feast in the catholic liturgy.

We must suppose that the foundation of a settlement such as the town of Sancti Spíritus did not occur suddenly as if Spaniards had placed the cross in the chosen place without any expectations.

In a broader sense, the founding process should be understood as an initial period of creation and promotion, and the location of the lands that in this case lasted from the spring of 1514 until the relocation of the village from near the Tuinucú River to the banks of the Yayabo River, in 1522.

The foundation of Sancti Spíritus on June 4, 1514 coincides with the presence of Father Bartolomé de Las Casas who, when saying the founding mass, priched his famous Sermon of Repentance, in which he condemned the abuses against the native population by the colonizers.

The significance of that sermon marked an unprecedented milestone in the ideals of justice of the New World and Las Casas became the defender of the Indians for the rest of his life. The allegation of the Valencian priest would have been sufficient in itself to consider the date (June 4) as significantly important for the village when compared with the other six settlements founded between 1511 and 1515.