Every so often, I learn a new Dominican cultural myth. Dominican culture is full of ideas that are different (and, I have to admit, I often label them as weird!) from the ideas that I grew up with. Many Dominican myths surround pregnancy:
- if you wear stretchy pants, you will squish the baby's head
- if you eat concon (crunchy rice), the baby will be born dirty
- if you don't walk enough during pregnancy, your baby will be missing bones in one of its feet
There are also some myths that are more like legends or fairy tales. For example, in some villages, it is "common knowledge" that at noon each day, witches kidnap all the children who are playing in the river. (That one, I'm convinced, was invented by a brilliant parent who was sick of bugging the kids to come home to eat!)
Today, I learned a new myth: La Ciguapa.
Here's how it happened. I was sitting in the office during recess with a kindergartner on my lap, talking with him about how he went to work in the campo (countryside) with his dad this weekend. Two 6th grade boys were sitting with us, too, enjoying the conversation. All of a sudden, one of the boys said, "Just don't stay out there at night because you might see la Ciguapa." I asked what la Ciguapa was, and both boys, shocked that I didn't know, proceeded to animatedly describe her: "You know, she's really short, she's blue, she has long, long, looooooong hair, her feet are backwards... you know!" I thought they were talking about a troll, so we searched the internet and sure enough, the first thing that pops up is a wikipedia article on "La Ciguapa!" Meanwhile, the boys tell me that la Ciguapa tricks men into coming with her by chirping at them, and then she kills them! And if you're not careful, she likes to sneak into your kitchen and steal salt! At this point, the wikipedia article has loaded, and sure enough, these kids know what they're talking about! They were especially interested in learning from wikipedia that there is a way to trap a ciguapa that involves a white dog and a full moon. I tell them it's just a legend and they shouldn't try to trap one, but they are convinced she's real! I tried to explain that it's like a fairy tale, which they understood, but then one of them said, "Well, maybe, but if my mom sees one she's going to faint!" The kindergartner (not necessarily a trustworthy source) claims he has even seen a ciguapa with his own eyes.
So there you have it. The newest Dominican myth in my repertoire: La Ciguapa. Be careful in the campo at night, and if you see a blue-skinned, long-haired, backwards-footed woman, don't look her in the eyes!