Every September 13 at dusk, the night before the celebration of the Day of the Exaltation of the Cross (Day of Christ), a mysterious ritual of pagan origin, arcane and intoxicating, that fills the Plaza Mayor and its surroundings with light, magic and mystery, springs up in Santa Cruz. It’s the Night of the Chozos!
This ancestral pagan rite is known in the village as Quema de los Chozos (Burning of the Chozos), being celebrated the night before the Day of Christ as a strange fusion with the Christian festivity of the following day, since September 14th is also the Day of Christ. in Santa Cruz, professing adoration to the Santísimo Cristo del Perdón (which is the oldest Patron Saint of the town), because San Agustín and Santa Rita became Patrons of the town once the exclaustration of the Convent took place in 1835, since they were two saints belonging to the old monastery of the Augustinian Recollect Friars.
Once these friars left the Convent, the images that were venerated there were brought to the Church of the Vera Cruz, and the two mentioned were elevated to the category of Patron Saints, but without forgetting the one that was already there, and still is today (although many people do not know it): the Holy Christ of Forgiveness.
In this sense, our people develop an ancestral practice with fire as the protagonist, a seal clearly linked to the pre-Roman and undoubtedly pagan world, which by joining it to the Festivity of the Cross is merging apparently disparate cultures, but that have been intertwined since ancient times. Fire is used as a purifying element, an element that allows the alchemical transmutation of matter into energy by favoring the change from the superfluous to the subtle. It should not surprise us, therefore, that this rite of pagan origin is maintained in a Christian feast such as the one mentioned above, and that by being performed the night before the Christian feast it is symbolically paving the way for that feast to begin in a clean, pure and renewed way.
The temporal moment close to the autumn equinox, the end of summer and the progressive advance of darkness favor the cult of fire, of light, as protective symbols against demons, mysteries and darkness; and in this way of giving light, this battering ram could not be absent. ChristicThe Vera Cruz, the guiding light for Christians, will begin its untiring battle with the shadows on those dates, culminating with the arrival of the winter solstice, when the Sun Invictus is reborn with strength to drive out the darkness, all symbolized in the Christian feast of Christmas. Undoubtedly, the alliance of Christianity and Paganism continues to accompany us in a clearly functional tandem.
In addition, in these rituals of the Santa Cruz festivities of September 13 and 14, we see that there is a true harmonious fusion between pagan and Christian symbolism, since the bonfires do not burn at any time, but rather they wait for the arrival of the Cross to light them (the procession passes by each of the bonfires, which are lit as the Cross approaches, thus seeking the maximum purification in the presence of the Cross); And in the same way, the Cross stops its advance for a few moments once it has passed the bonfire, which are necessary for the burning hut to reach its peak, to fall, to fall, to fall, to fall, to fall, and to fall. defeated and then, and only then, the Cross continues its journey. It is a clear symbiosis of religious symbolism, which alludes to an apparent triumph of the Cross (as it witnesses the destruction of the hut, the diminishing of the flames, the annihilation of fire, the banishment of Paganism), but curiously what has survived in the spirit and popular memory of this festivity is the rite that Christianity has not been able to exclude, which is precisely the Burning of the Chozos, rather than the religious content of the Santa Vera Cruz.
And in line with the purifying fire of the Inquisition, in Santa Cruz a very curious thing happens: of the three huts that are arranged to be lit at the same time that the procession of Christ passes by, in the second one to be lit (the one in the Plazuela de la Independencia) it is customary to place a straw doll dressed in adult clothes, which reminds us of the famous figure of the the dummy that the Inquisition threw to the stake in substitution of the prisoner when circumstances demanded it
One hut is located in the Plaza Mayor, another in the Plazuela de Ramón y Cajal and a third in the Plazuela de la Independencia (these are small squares attached to the Plaza Mayor). They are burned as the procession of Christ passes by them, not in image but symbolized in a large wooden cross (not in vain is the Day of the Exaltation of the Cross), leaving the one in the Plaza Mayor to be burned last.