The Southern Cross ... The Holy Cross

by Jose P Garcia
San Telmo Living Arts

Learning the night sky is like learning the lines of a map. no matter where you go you call guide yourself back home again with the stars and their constellations.

In Belize because our geographical location is 18 degrees latitude we are lucky enough to catch a glimpse of both southern and northern constellations which is all the more exciting for us.

Anyway, as we are into the month of May, the constellation of interest to mention is one which lives in the south. It is a clear constellation, medium sized with only four stars forming a beautiful cross. It is the famous constellation known as the "Southern Cross." Looking upon it you would be facing due south towards Argentina, Antarctica and the Southern Pole. The lowest and brightest star in the Southern Cross named "Acrux" is positioned at "mere" south or exactly "due south.'"

To find the Southern Cross you step out on the beach or a pier (the farther away from lights the better the view). More or less you look towards Victoria House or Belize City and then a bit up from the horizon. Let your eyes rest on the brightest star "Conapus", keep your eyes there. Look towards the left and up a bit. There you will see, among others, four stars forming a big cross tilting a bit left. This is called the "False Cross". Keeping your eyes steadily there look again to your left a bit more and down a bit towards the horizon. There will be two bright stars flanked on either side with two fainter ones forming a smaller cross. This is the famous Southern Cross.

These directions. even though they are clear and correct to me, may not be clear for you. But if you put your eyes there and took and look, you will find it.

You call see the Southern Cross through the night hours year round. but during the month of May especially you will see it at the first hour of the evening. May 3, 1999 is actually the best. time to view it. At this time, it is perpendicular to the horizon at the first hour of the evening. It is the same day in the Christian almanacs. We celebrate the day of the cross. Many infants born on this day get their names Cruz (Spanish for cross) for boys or Cruzita for girls in honor of this constellation. During this time there are various celebrations and rituals done throughout the world.

In Central America. there is a tree with red skinny paper-type bark that grows easily from its limbs. It is called "Chaka" (Mayan), "Gumbolimbo".(Creole) and "Indio Desnudo" (Naked Indian in Spanish). For a celebration of the day of the cross, people throughout Central America build from its prolific limbs a cross and stick it in the ground. Soon there grows a living cross to beautify, the garden. On the island of San Pedro, the first dwellers used these trees to mark their property boundaries.

I have no more to say about the Southern Cross other than, it is a beautiful constellation. a beautiful view, a beautiful cross and a beautiful faith- don't lose any of them. And even if in today's life there are clouds... keep searching. Good Luck!

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