The Municipality of Loíza in the island of Puerto Rico is home of a beautiful and easy-access cavern that is not too far away from Piñones sector: Cueva María de la Cruz. We were surprised at the amazing ecotreasures seen during a guided walking tour in this cozy cavern, which stands in a park named Parque Histórico Cueva María de la Cruz.
The cavern was named in honor of María de la Cruz Walter, former owner of the land where Cueva María de la Cruz lies. Luz Martínez, one of the park’s tour guides, emphasized that remains of the first Puerto Rico’s settlers, the Arcaico indigenous people, were found in this cave during an exploration led by anthropologist Dr. Ricardo Alegría in 1948. Animal skeletal remains as well as pottery and stone artifacts from Taíno and Pre-Taíno indigenous communities were also among the discoveries at the cavern, as stated by Luz. In view of the archaeological findings, Cueva María de la Cruz was declared a historic monument in 1972.
This cavern is a limestone gem that shelters remarkable cave and limestone formations. We admired a 2.5-centimeter stalactite which evolved during a period of 4,000 to 5,000 years, as stated by Luz. As the tour guide explained that stalactites develop from minerals of water dripping from the cave’s ceiling, she pointed out water buildup in the bottom part of another cave formation. Also, we stared at intriguing coral reef fossils on a cave wall.
Then we saw fascinating limestone formations. Luz showed a particular limestone known as “El Indio Taíno” which resembles a sculpture carved as a Taíno’s face. Next she asked us to look at our right side in order to see “El Guardador de la Miel” (The Honey Keeper), an immense cave limestone wall which formations seem to be the image of a gigantic Taíno’s face with honey dripping on it. A curious fact is that Luz had previously pointed out around 16 beehives located on the cavern’s high ceiling. Prior to Hurricane María’s impact on Puerto Rico, the cave harbored even more beehives— approximately 40.
We must highlight that after looking at the photographs taken during this tour, we were astonished at our latest discovery. One of our pictures of the cavern’s entrance clearly shows another cave formation that results in a formidable optical illusion of a huge face with more defined features—a face that we would name “The Sleeping African”. You may see our finding while checking this story’s photo gallery.
By the end of the walking tour, Luz showed two spectacular Puerto Rican ceiba trees on the park’s area. The first ceiba seen is a 55-to-60-year-old tree known as El Abrazador (The Hugger). If you stand in a particular area near the trunk’s bottom, it seems that this ceiba tree hugs you. The other ceiba is a 35-to-40 year-old tree known as El Descanso (The Rest) in light of its trunk formation at the bottom. The designs of these ceibas’ trunks were impressive.
Afterwards, we were entertained by other amenities available in Parque Histórico Cueva María de la Cruz: (1) an art exhibition of Loíza vejigante masks and paintings showing Loíza’s culture, among others, (2) a workshop to learn how to tie the turban that African slaves typically used in Puerto Rico, and (3) a workshop about Puerto Rican bomba’s diverse music rhythms. To see Giovanna Márquez’s turban creations for kids who were part of the tour group, you may read the “delve!” subsection of this article.
Our experience at Parque Histórico Cueva María de la Cruz was more rewarding than we expected. Besides learning about the cavern and admiring its curiosities, the other recreations were very educational.
The Parque Histórico Cueva María de la Cruz is open from Wednesday to Sunday, 9:00 am- 4:00 pm. Guided tours at the cavern are available during the day. The turban workshop is held from 10:00 am to 11:00 am, and the bomba workshop from 11:00 am to 12:00 pm. For more information, you may contact the park’s staff at 939-241-1228.