Long before Columbus, the Huatulco  area was well known to the Aztecs and their predecessors. The name itself, from Aztec words meaning “Land Where a Tree (or Wood) Is Worshipped,” reflects one of Mexico’s most intriguingly persistent legends — that of the Holy Cross of Huatulco.
When the Spanish arrived on the Huatulco coast in the 1520s, the local native people showed them a huge cross they worshipped at the edge of the sea. A contemporary chronicler, Ignacio Burgoa, conjectured the cross had been left by an ancient saint — maybe even the Apostle Thomas — 15 centuries earlier. The cross remained as the Spanish colonized the area and established headquarters and a port, which they named San Agustín, at the westernmost of the Bahías de Huatulco .
Spanish ports and their treasure-laden galleons from the Orient attracted foreign corsairs — Francis Drake in 1579 and Thomas Cavendish in 1587. Cavendish arrived at the bay now called Bahía Santa Cruz, where he saw the cross the natives were worshipping. Believing it was the work of the devil, Cavendish and his men tried to chop, saw, and burn it down.
Failing at all of these, Cavendish looped his ship’s mooring ropes around the cross and with sails unfurled tried using the force of the wind to pull it down. Frustrated, he finally sailed away, leaving the cross of Huatulco still standing beside the shore.
By 1600, pilgrims were chipping pieces from the cross, so much so that in 1612, Bishop Juan de Cervantes had to rescue it. He brought the cross to Oaxaca City , where he made four smaller two-foot crosses of it. He sent one specimen each to church authorities in Mexico City, Rome, and Santa María de Huatulco , head town of the Huatulco municipio. Cervantes kept the fourth copy in the cathedral in Oaxaca City , where it has remained, venerated and visible in a side chapel, to the present day.