The famous Pass of the Hidalgos, where Christopher Columbus and his men crossed the mountains from their settlement at La Isabela to explore the gold-bearing mountains of the Cordillera Central, runs through this province. The largest town is Mao, with quaint Victorian homes built by Belgians who settled here several generations ago and mingled with the local residents, most of whom are of indigenous descent, for this was where many “cimarrones,” came, Taínos who fled the Spanish-dominated regions.
Today locals make cassabe bread in much the same way as their ancestors did, though many have commercialized the process in ingenious ways, and have maintained many other ancient indigenous beliefs and traditions. There are ancient Indian cemeteries here, numerous “balnearios,” freshwater swimming holes in the mountain streams and rivers, fabulous artisanry, and colorful folk festivals, including the famous Carnaval of Mao.
Location The Mao municipality belongs to the Valverde province and is located in the Western Cibao region. It borders the Esperanza and Laguna Salada municipalities to the north, the Santiago Rodríguez and Santiago provinces to the south, the Santiago province to the east and the Montecristi province to the west.
Mao was founded in the following manner: once the Osorio Evictions occurred in 1606, the residents of Montecristi and Puerto Plata decided to found different ranches throughout the Cibao region. Mao was founded among these ranches, on the shore of the river that bears the same name.
Many people arrived from Santiago de los Caballeros and other towns. Among those who came were Román de Peña, Gregorio Aracena, Sebastián Rodríguez, Juan María Peña, Bartolo Mejía, Estanislao Reyes, Baltasar Rodríguez, Sebastián Ramos and Fructuoso Rodríguez. Congress approved to make Mao a municipality on November 25, 1882. Later on, on August 5, 1885, during the government of Ignacio María González and through Decree No. 1441, the town was given the name Santa Cruz de Mao. Its first city council was presided by Román de Peña, President, Sebastián Rodríguez, Mayor and Juan María Peña, Secretary.
The word Mao or Maho is indigenous, of Taino origin. Some historians believe it means "miracle", while other say it means "land between rivers" or "delta".
The following are important dates in the history of the municipality:
Doctor José Francisco Peña Gómez, leader of the Revolutionary Dominican Party (PRD) until his death in 1998, was born Loma del Flaco, which belongs to Mao. Doctor Peña Gómez is one of the main political figures in recent history, in both the national and international realms.
The patron saint festivities honor Santa Cruz and were first celebrated on May 3, 1872. Due to a disposition by the II Vatican Council it has been celebrated on September 14 of each year since 1973.