ArticlePDF Available

Buyío Taimani—Agua Dulce Continuing Taino Traditions in the Dominican Republic-Part 1 of 2


Abstract and Figures

DNA sequencing studies in the Caribbean reveal that the Taino did not go "extinct" as most historical narratives tell us, but rather were assimilated. But the extinction myth did its damage in that very little work has been done on surviving customs, traditions and especially the spirituality. This paper was written to point to a myriad of Indigenous spiritual customs, folklore, and intangible spirituality, that exist in the Maguana region of the Dominican Republic. The residents practice a conglomeration of African, Christian and Taino spiritual beliefs, but within this spiritual syncretism there is also a sect known as Agua Dulce, where ancient Taino gods are still alive, are adored and loved.
Content may be subject to copyright.
1 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
Buyío TaimaniAgua Dulce
Continuing Taino Traditions in the Dominican Republic-Part 1 of 2
By Jorge Estevez
Edited by Dr. Lynne Guitar
I wish to indicate that many inhabitants of the island of Hispaniola find themselves within an entirely
different Universe than the one I am used to and it is often through their way of telling stories that they
are able to slightly open up the door to that amazing world. Myths, legends, and rituals animate their
world, and if you are fortunate enough, you may catch a glimpse of how that “other” world might
appear…. Jan Lundius, 1995
As a child, I often witnessed my mother praying at her altar, which, in retrospect,
seemed to be a mish-mash of Catholicism and other elements I could not identify at the time. I
knew they could not be exclusively Christian. Devout Catholic neighbors often engaged my
mother in conversation regarding her altar, as they at times accused her of being a bruja (witch)
or something other than a devout Catholic. My mother’s response to these critiques and
concerns was a resounding, Yes, I am!” And indeed, she was. On more than one occasion, I
overheard her call some parts of her altar “La banda roja” (the red band). Many years later, I
would come to understand that this was, in actuality, is part of a more complex, often
misunderstood system of beliefs from the island of Haití/Kiskeya with deep indigenous roots.
My mother, however, did not, does not, refer to her beliefs as Taíno, Indian, African, or
anything else for that matter. They were simply spiritual elements she inherited from her aunts,
grandmothers, and random people she met on her journey through the Cibao Valley of the
Dominican Republic, where our family roots are. As she got older (she is now in her 90s), she
began to consider herself a devout Catholic, although she still observes some traditions that
would make the Pope literally faint. Being disconnected from her homeland and influenced by
other Catholics, it was only a matter of time before she would abandon her traditions.
This is my first attempt to explain, to the best of my ability, what I have learned of these
spiritual customs. Having traveled extensively for many years now to remote areas of the island
with local guides, some of whom are initiated into these very same spiritual traditions, I and my
2 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
fellow researchers have learned that there are hidden histories, spirituality, ritual, and culture
in the region named Maguana, that are barely understood and that have not been thoroughly
The people I interviewed in Maguana are very friendly. At times, however, they may
appear extremely shy, some even duplicitous, and most attempt to hide the true nature of their
core beliefs from outsiders. Most non-locals are usually fed half-truths or full lies. Secrecy is
paramount, as some believe the very survival of these beliefs depends on secrecy.
In 2003, I had the fortune of meeting Mrs. Irka Mateo, a Dominican folk singer, activist,
and investigator, who had done extensive research on the musical and spiritual traditions of the
Maguana region. This region has preserved many cultural and religious beliefs due to its
isolation and lack of good roads until fairly recent times (1935). To the residents of this land,
Maguana is known as “el Ombligo del Mundo” (the belly button of the world).
Irka insisted I visit the area and see for myself what hidden cultural and spiritual
treasures were to be found there. As impressed as I was with the information she shared, it was
not until many years later that I was able to travel there and investigate for myself.
On my first trip to San Juan de la Maguana, I found what can be described as a veil of
secrecy. It is not uncommon, after all, for people in remote villages to be wary of outsiders and
view them with mistrust. In addition, all the literature I could find on this topic mostly looked at
superficial aspects of the spiritual traditions that abound there and almost always highlighted
the African influence, often negating or ignoring altogether the ever present Native Indigeneity.
These attitudes began in the early 1920s, when Dominican caudillos (land barons) and
government officials were in open warfare with the peasantry and declared that the frontier
country had been invaded by black Haitians, who had “influenced” Dominican peasants with
African beliefs and customs.
To truly understand the regions peoples and their beliefs, one has
to delve deep into its history. It is here that the scene unfolds and reveals a legacy of survival
Jan Lundius, The Great Power of God in the San Juan Valley: Syncretism and Messianism in the Dominican
Republic. pp. 215-224
3 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
and continuity of Indigenous and African beliefs shared on both sides of the island. The
prevailing notion is, and has been, that if a certain element is not outright Catholic, then by
default it is African and, therefore, “bad. The Indigenous element is never considered due to
the belief that the Taíno Indians have been extinct since the mid-1550s We now know for
certain that this is not true.
This article, however, is not about re-arguing Taíno survival, but about finding the
source of the Indigenous beliefs and the origins of the mixture of religious beliefs and practices
that are common to the Maguana region and elsewhere across the island. My goal was to make
contact with curanderos and brujos (healers & witches), shamans, faithful devotees, etc.,
interview them, and get their perspectives. I used the following methods in order not to
“contaminate” the interviews:
1) Subjects were given the opportunity to express themselves fully.
2) We did NOT introduce words such as Taíno, Indian or African, until they themselves had
done so.
3) We always made them feel that they were (which they are) the experts on this subject.
Lastly, we compared and contrasted the lexicon, traditions, and customs with those of
South American Indians, particularly those of Arawakan lineages from which the Native people
of the Caribbean mainly descend.
Intangible Heritage
Cultural linear succession is passed down from generation to generation via the oral
tradition in communities, groups, and individuals. With each succeeding generation, however,
slight changes occur as people adapt and evolve. UNESCO defines Intangible Heritage as living
cultural heritage, which is transmitted by way of the following domains:
Oral traditions and expressions, including language as a vehicle of the intangible cultural
Performing arts;
Social practices, rituals, and festive events;
Knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe;
Traditional craftsmanship.
4 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
In addition to the above model, we were introduced to a similar concept by Dr. José
Barreiro of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. He refers to these as
“The Seven Markers of Indigeneity“:
1) Identity
2) Oral tradition
3) Language
4) Agricultural practices
5) Spirituality
6) Native customs
7) Material culture
In the beginning……
Christianity arrived in the New World with the Spanish invasion/exploration of the
region. The Spaniards had an almost maniacal devotion to Catholicism, the main branch of
Christianity in Spain. Invaded and conquered by the Muslim Moors in 711 AD, nearly 800 years
would pass before Spaniards were able to liberate themselves from their conquerors. Aside
from bounty and gold, their primary mission in the New World was to subjugate whomever
they met on their “adventures” across the globe and convert them to Catholicism. And so it was
that the islands of the Greater Antilles were ripe for conquest and conversion of the Native
Taíno Indians. On October 12, 1492, Christian beliefs found their way to the Western
Christianity is divided into various sects, with The Roman Catholic Church being the
largest and most powerful. Catholicism, in turn, is divided into the ecclesiastical hierarchy of
pope, cardinals, archbishops, bishops, priests, etc., and “Orders,” such as the Benedictines,
Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites, Poor Clare Nuns, etc. In addition there are also Cofradias
(brotherhoods), which are created voluntarily by lay people for the purpose of promoting
charity and piety, if approved by Church leaders.
In time, many of these cofradias began to emerge. Some functioned in secrecy. It is also
important to note that some of the sailors who arrived with Christopher Columbus were
5 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
actually Sephardic Jews, who had converted to Catholicism. No doubt the Spaniards’ religious
system, although structurally Catholic, also had embedded Muslim and Jewish spiritual values,
ideas, and expressions.
From the onset of Spanish colonization, both enslaved and free Africans were brought
to the Caribbean islands; many, if not most, of the early Africans who came had been
ladinoized,” meaning they were free, had been baptized Catholic, bore Christian names, and,
at least in public, acted the same as any other Catholic Spaniard. In addition, Moorish slaves,
who were either of African or mulato extraction, were also brought to the islands. Some of
these slaves brought Islamic elements of culture and religious beliefs with them. Slaves directly
from Africa began arriving in large groups on Hispaniola in the 1520s, when the Native
population had begun to dwindle due to disease and maltreatment. Note, however, that many
Taíno people escaped to inaccessible regions of the island to escape slavery.
The Africans brought with them rich and diverse spiritual traditions from Central and
West African tribes, tribes such as the Aja, Kongo, Yoruba, Akan, Mandinka, Wolof, Igbo,
Dahomey, Bambara, and Biafada. Aja people were known for forming religious brotherhoods,
much like the Christian cofradias.
African beliefs overall were similar in many ways to those of the Taíno Indians. The
Africans honored and prayed too many spirits, as well as to ancestors, while also believing in a
supreme being. African beliefs from different regions, tribes, and nations, however, were
different from each other, although there were also similarities. Most, if not all, used oral
traditions to pass on their beliefs, just as the Taíno did. They used wood, stone, and other
materials in the making of religious amulets and icons, but these were simply a means to an
end; basically they were symbolic representations of “gods” and spirit guides.
In the Americas, in particular, African beliefs would blend with others to form syncretic
religious customs. For example, they frequently overlaid their gods over the Christian saints
6 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
and angels of their oppressors in order to disguise” their own beliefs.
Divination played a big
part in the spirituality of many of these African religions. The practice of casting stone, wood,
shell, or bone objects within a circle on the ground to foretell the future was common, a
practice that still is common today, especially in the Hispanic Caribbean campo (countryside).
Although the majority of the African slaves who arrived on the islands were young and not fully
entrenched in their cord religious beliefs, they were able to continue spiritual traditions that
remain to this day. Such was the power of their gods.
Taíno Indians:
The Native Taíno people’s religion centered on cemí worship. Cemí are spiritual
objects that depict deities, ancestral heroes, and spirit guides. These were conduits to the spirit
world, and the Classic Taíno believed them to have characteristics similar to living beings. Made
of stone, wood, shell, or clay, these objects assisted the Indians in their daily lives.
To commune with these spirits, the Taíno people inhaled a sacred sacramental medicine
called cohoba. By grinding the seeds of the abbey tree (Anadenthra Peregrina) and mixing the
resulting powder with other ingredients, they produced a highly hallucinogenic snuff.
taking it, the user would lose bodily functions and fall into a slightly uncomfortable yet euphoric
state. As the hallucinogen made its way through the body, vivid geometrical patterns emerged.
These patterns would begin to distort the world around the user, inverting sky with earth,
dream with reality. Finally, the drug caused visions wherein the participant could communicate
with his or her ancestral spirits. Tobacco was also used during these ceremonies to assist the
cohoba and for purposes such as prayers and cleansings. A special blend of both cohoba and
cohiba (tobacco) was called guanguayo.
According to the writings of Fray Ramon Pané, a Spanish chronicler commissioned by
Christopher Columbus to document the beliefs of the Indians, Taíno religiosity consisted of and
often involved fire, water, and especially stones. To the Taíno people, these elements were
Edwin Anaegboka Udoye, Resolving the Prevailing Conflicts Between Christianity and African (Igbo) Traditional
Religion Through Inculturation, 2011.
In the Dominican Republic, Anadenthra Peregrina is known as Candelón de Teta. Its Taíno name, abbey, is also
used by the older generations (Estevez).
7 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
ancestral forces with characteristics of living beings. The Taíno religion was highly animistic.
Powerful caciques (chiefs) were associated with the patron cemí they revered. Thus in
different areas of the island, elaborate rituals were held in the name of these caciques and their
patron gods or goddesses.”
As early as 1505, Spaniards, runaway Africans, Taíno and other Christian people
coexisted in the Maguana region, among other once-isolated regions ,forming complex spiritual
traditions that are still observed to this day, and which have since spread across the island.
Intermarriage, no doubt, also set the stage for these varying spiritual beliefs to come together
in what is called syncretism. The core beliefs may have been different, but it was the similarities
that attracted people with these varying beliefs to each other. These similarities opened the
door for mutual understanding and eventual syncretism.
Across the Valley of San Juan De La Maguana, and reaching as far north as Dajabón, one
finds Catholic religious beliefs intertwined with African and Indigenous spirituality. While in
some locations it appears that the Christian and African expressions are stronger, , there is also
a third component intertwined with both of them that is strictly Indian. It is elusive, hard to
differentiate from the other two belief systems, yet ever present. On the surface, it appears to
be unorganized and scattered, but a deeper look reveals that Taíno Indian religiosity did not
disappear, as has been historically suggested, but in fact survived throughout the Colonial
Period and into the present.
The Maguana region (depicted in red) covers an area of
14,630 kilometers or 5,650 square miles (roughly 1 ¼ times
the size of Puerto Rico). It covers 7 provinces: San Juan,
Azua, Baoruco, Barahona, Elias Piña, Independencia, and
Bartolome de la Casas, The tears of the Indians, being an historical and true account of the cruel massacres and
slaughters of above twenty millions of innocent people, committed by the Spaniards in the islands of Hispaniola,
Cuba, Jamaica. Written in Spanish, translated to English by J.P. Las Casas was an eye-witness of events during the
Conquest of the Caribbean.
8 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
21 Division and Los Misterios:
The 21 Division is a religious tradition that originated in the Dominican Southwest. It is
sometimes referred to as Dominican Voodoo, due to certain similarities to Haitian Voodoo and
some shared deities; its principles and structure, however, are vastly different. It is also known
as the Misterios (Mysteries). The religion consists of a pantheon of African/Taíno deities and
spirits, as well as Catholic saints and reverence for ancient Taíno leaders. Initiates of this
religion are known to travel to Haiti to learn certain principles of Haitian Voodoo. These
principles, although adopted and acknowledged by many people, are denied by many others of
this overwhelmingly Catholic country who view any spirituality that is not Catholic as evil,
sorcery, witchcraft and black magic..
Just as in many African traditions, practitioners are often “mounted,” or rather
possessed, by misterios during ceremonies. A practitioner is known as a “caballo” (horse), who
has the ability to be mounted. These misterios or Luas, are divided into “divisions,” such as the
Black Division, White Division and the Indian Division. The Indian Division is at times called Blue
Water; however, it is best known as Agua Dulce (Sweet Water). They are also called “puntos”
Altars for 21 Division are called buyi/buye, a name of Taíno origin that refers to a small
thatch-roofed hut. Unlike Haitian Voodoo, this religion does not have temples. Ceremonies are
usually performed in yards or caves and in front of elaborate altars. The altars consist of
offerings to and pictures of African and Christian gods and spirits. The Indian spirits are kept on
the altars as well, in the form of North American Indian statues or pictures. Palo music, which
consists principally of Kongo Drums, is central to the religion.
Petwo family of Voodoo
The great Voodoo religion of Haiti has
always been viewed as a strictly African religion;
however, practitioners and many researchers
would disagree. Maya Deren, an American
9 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
anthropologist, detected many Native Taíno elements in the Voodoo religion.
There is a family of Luas called Petwo, which dedicate ceremonies to the Indigenous
gods of Haiti. According to Dr. Rachel Dominique Beauvois, who has done extensive studies on
Voodoo in her Native Haiti, all Voodoo altars are comprised of some Taíno elements. “In Haiti,
Voodoo altars are constructed with Taíno objects, specifically made of stone. These are placed
at the floor level of the altar. The central part of the altar consists of African iconographies”, she
At the top of the altar, gourds are hung, representing ancestral spirits, similar to the
descriptions given by the chronicler Fray Ramon Pané’s of the Taíno creation story.
Voodoo altars usually have a stone base, meaning that from the floor to mid-level one
can see the Taíno Influence in the shape of stones and Taíno artifacts. The middle is imbued
with African gods and a sprinkling of Christian saints. *Note: There are many more examples
of Taíno spirituality in Petwo and Voodoo in general; an exploration for another time.
Liborio Mateo is a Dominican messianic figure who was born circa 1876 and died in
1924. He was born of both Haitian and Dominican parents. Between 1916 and1924, Liborio, or
Olivorio as he was sometimes called, led a coalition of campesinos (peasants) against the
Dominican government and invading U.S. American forces.
In his youth he was known to be a quiet, introverted man. Many
called him a “tonto” (stupid man). On a fateful stormy night during a
hurricane in 1908, he lost his way home and went missing for 12 days.
He returned gifted with strange powers of divination, magic, and had the
power to heal and to wake up the dead. In the years that followed, he
became the most powerful curandero (healer) on the island.
Said to be the reincarnation of the Taíno Cacique Caonabó and St.
John the Baptist, Liborio amalgamated Taíno/African/Christian beliefs
into one single spiritual unit known today as Liborismo. As his influence
grew across the island, the Dominican peasantry soon joined in Liborio’s
Private conversation between Dr. Rachel Dominique Beauvois and Jorge Baracutei Estevez
Fray Ramón Pané, An account of the antiquities of the Indians,New edition by Susan Griswold pp. 14-16
10 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
struggle for equality and solidarity against the Dominican government and the powerful land
barons, who were bent on disenfranchising the local peasantry of their lands and on
“whitening” the island.
In 1916, the United States invaded the Republic of Haiti. During this period, the
Dominican government and the U.S. American occupation soldiers were actively searching for
Liborio and his followers, who did not observe a border between the Republic of Haiti and the
Dominican Republic, and moved freely across the island. Soon the American forces were all
over the San Juan Valley in hot pursuit of Liborio and his followers. Knowing the terrain, Liborio
and his people were able to evade capture and win many skirmishes against the invading
forces. In 1923, however, Liborio and 200 of his followers were betrayed by an unscrupulous
peasant among them.
This betrayal led to Liborio Mateo‘s capture. He was killed by the U.S. forces, and his
body paraded through the streets for all to see. This action shepherded in his martyrdom.
It is interesting to note that the Taíno Cacique Enriquillo, as well as the African maroon
named Sebastian Lemba, rose against the occupying Spaniards during the Colonial Period and
fought in the same general area as did the messiah Liborio, which is in the Bahoruco
Mountains. Like his Taíno and African ancestors, Liborio would rise against his oppressors
nearly 500 years later.
After his death, Papa Liborio,” as he is known, became a powerful presence in the
minds and hearts of the Dominican peasantry. His influence spread across the entire island as
his followers went underground. They would rise up again 40 years later at a place called Palma
Led by the twin brothers Plinio and León Romilio Ventura Rodriguez, who were said to
be Papa Liborio’s incarnation, the movement reinvigorated and became more determined to
fight for the rights of the Dominican peasantry. It rose in power once again, but as it began to
take hold once more, authorities took notice and, again, became fearful of its influence.
During the 1930s ,the Dominican Dictator Raphael Trujillo began a campaign to “whiten” the island, offering
White foreigners land at cheap prices, while simultaneously attacking poor Haitians and Dominicans of Black
11 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
On December 28, 1962, government forces, fearing another campesino uprising,
attacked the followers at Palma Sola. The military claims that 200
rebels were killed. The survivors claim there were 2,000 victims. The
exact number of casualties remains unknown. What is certain is that,
at the behest of the Dominican government, U.S. troops sprayed a
fireball that rained from the sky (according to eyewitnesses). Rumor
has it that the first use of napalm by the U.S. government was at
Palma Sola. The surviving twin, don Leon Romilio Ventura Rodriguez,
sadly crossed over in 2015. He was in his late 90s and continued
leading the Liboristas.
During his life, don Leon was known to be a marvelous healer and was keeper of the
Sacred Higo Tree. This tree, which is located in and around his land, which he called his
Iacayeque(note similarity to the Taíno yucayeque) is surrounded by concentric circles made
up of stones. Devotees walk through the circular maze until they reach the tree. They then
place their forehead on the tree to receive messages from St. John
the Baptist. Later they would visit don Leon, who would decipher
the message for them. This very custom was recorded by the
Spaniards among the Classic Taíno. The Taíno batey (ceremonial
grounds) also used these circular stone formations, and the people
of Maguana continue this tradition.
When a native was passing by a tree that was moved more than others by the wind, the Indian
in fear calls out, Who are you? The tree responds, Call here a behique or priest and I will tell
you who I am. When the priest or shaman had come to the tree and had seated himself before
it, he performed certain prescribed ceremonies and rose up to recount the titles and honors of
the principal chiefs of the island. He would ask the tree, ‘What are you doing here? What do you
wish of me? Why have you asked to have me called? Tell me if you wish me to cut you down and
if you wish to go with me,-how shall I carry you, whether I shall make you a house, and a farm,
and perform ceremonies for a year. The tree answered these questions, and the man cut it
down and made of it a statue or idol.
Jan Lundius, The Great Power of God in the San Juan Valley: Syncretism and Messianism in the Dominican
Pané, An account of the antiquities of the Indians,pp.41-42 New Edition by Susan Griswold
12 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
Pilgrimages take place all day long in the places that were sacred to Liborio. Worshipers
from across the country and around the world visit Liborio’s Calvario (Mission) all year round.
Once they reach their destination, they travel through a circular stone maze until they reach the
calvario, which holds three wooden crosses. Upon entering, they say their
prayers, light a candle, and then place stones on the crosses. NOTE: The
crosses are often painted blue.
Afterward they walk to the mission, where they are usually met by
Carmen Popa (right) or her husband Cirilo Hernandez de la Rosa. Carmen
and her husband were successors of
Doña Reina Miranda, who was in
charge of the mission for many years. Reina’s prayers
began as follows: “In the name of the father, son, holy
spirit, and our Queen Anacaona, Amen.
Anacaona was a female Taíno Cacique who is worshiped by Liboristas, 21 Division, and
Agua Dulce alike.
Upon entering the Calvario, worshipers say prayers at the door, enter and kneel, light a candle,
and pray. Carmen will feed and water a communal stone located behind the mission. This
custom can be found throughout the region.
Afterward, the pilgrims head to the Aguita de Liborio (a waterhole said to be frequented
by Liborio and his followers during their battles with government forces). Devotees bathe in the
water for purification.
Dominican Folklorist and Taíno activist, Irka Mateo spent many years living among the Liboristas and was
instrumental in explaining the customs of Papa Liborio.
13 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
Although Catholicism is central to this religion, devotion to Indian spirits is of high
importance. Many followers come to the mission when an Indian misterio (spirit) has
“mounted” them. The belief allowing one to be possessed seems to be rooted in African
dogmas, however Classic Taíno believed that the spirits of the dead have no belly buttons, and
that a spirit may enter a living individual’s body through his or her belly button. Thus, to this
day, campesinos will cover their belly buttons upon encountering a person on his or her travel
through the forest at night.
Liboristas believe that the Indian spirits are all around us, that they exist side by side
with the living. They say that at certain times you can sense them, while at other times you can
actually see them. They believe that Indian spirits live deep inside the caves where Liboristas
worship or under the rivers, where they live out their spirit lives as we do. The people of
Maguana truly believe that the Indians did not die off, but instead entered a different realm or
Plain of existence. Interestingly the Classic Taíno held this very same belief. Fray Ramon Pané
reports that the Classic Taíno informed him of a place named Coaibay where the souls of the
dead reside. Coaibay, in turn was located in a land called Soraya.
Carmen making a sign with water on floor preceding ceremony Feeding and watering the communal stone
--Photos by Irka Mateo
Pané, An account of the antiquities of the Indians, pp. 17-18 New Edition by Susan Griswold
14 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
The Liborista altars are Christian and Indian in nature, with a sprinkling of African
iconographies. Three (3) crosses,
painted in blue or green, are usually
found in Liboristas churches or homes.
The Indian component of Liborista altars
is always placed in a separate altar,
away from African or Spanish influence,
and always on the ground, often in a
cave. There may or may not be
pictures of Indians. Usually North American Indian figures (this is probably due to the fact that
Latin American Indigenous figures are rarely represented in sculptures or pictures) are used to
represent the Indian realm.
Agua Dulce and the Water Spirits
Although Agua Dulce is included in 21 Division and Petwo, it only encompasses a small
part of those religions. In fact, some of the deities in 21 Division that have Indian names are
actually representative of Africans. In the Liborista religion, on the other hand, the Indian plays
a much, much bigger role. For example, the Taíno chieftains Anacaona and Caonabó are
present in most, if not all, of their ceremonies. In addition, many customs surrounding the
Liboristas can be traced back to the Classic Taíno.
When this investigation first began, I believed that all these beliefs were one and the
same. After all, they are all practiced in the same general area and there are striking similarities,
especially when it comes to the Indian component. We know, for example, that past
investigators attribute the Indian imagery in Afro-Caribbean religions to be mostly or possibly
representations of African deities. Also, it is said that certain African peoples, for example the
15 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
Yoruba, paid homage to the spirits of the lands to which they were viciously transported.
While this is probably true in Santeria, which is heavily African based, we argue that it is not the
same for Voodoo and 21 Division, far removed from Liborismo spiritual customs, and totally
absent in Agua Dulce.
So what is Agua Dulce? First and foremost, Agua Dulce traditions and beliefs totally
reject components that are not Indigenous. Neither the Christian cross, saints, nor African
figures are allowed on or around Agua Dulce altars. Many interviewees specified that both
Christians and Africans work with blood or metal. Therefore, these two substances are not
allowed in Agua Dulce proper. Pinpointing Agua Dulce is tricky. One informant explained, “The
Indians like to hide.” Most practitioners will not discuss the intricacies of the religion unless
they have gained the trust of an individual. This takes time, of course. What we were able to
gather comes to us from interviews granted by practitioners whose family members were
friends with either the crew or mutual acquaintances.
The Agua Dulce Sect is divided into sub-divisions such as the red band, blue water, stone,
mountain Indians, river Indians and so on. Listed below are some specifics
Agua Dulce deifies ancient cacike (chiefs) from the islands historical past. A number of these
cacike, do not appear in historical texts.
The spirits are called “indios” (Indians).
In addition, certain deities either have the identical names of Taíno gods, or names that are not
in the historical records yet, but appear to be of Indigenous origins.
All medicinal plant knowledge is attributed to Indians.
Water purifies the soul, they say.
Crops planted and collected according to moon phases.
Prayers must be performed during planting and harvesting of medicinal plants.
Water and stones are considered to be ancestral and to have characteristics of the living, and
must be shown reverence and devotion.
Stones must be watered and fed daily.
NOTE* This appears to be a form of Cemíism /Cemí worship
Judith Bettelheim, Caribbean Espiritismo (spiritists) altarsThe Indian and the Congo, 2005.
16 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
Guamao: The Supreme Being of Agua Dulce:
Agua Dulce practitioners inform us that the leader or cacique of all the Indian spirits
revered in this religious tradition is a spirit they call Guamao or Gamao. This being is supreme
above all others. He is also the central figure in the sunrise ceremonies conducted daily in some
areas of the region. In the 21 Division traditions, his African counterpart is called Tinyo Alawe.
Here we find that the more African-based religion of 21 Division has an African name for this
deity, which is also a Sun God to them, yet Agua Dulce calls him Guamao. The mere fact that
there are two names, one African and one Indian, for a being which represents the sun god to
both, implies that Taino religious beliefs survived into the present, After all this name
represents the supreme being to the Taino. But Is this name truly Taino? Is it even Indigenous?
The late Dr. Jose Juan Arrom, a Cuban Historian, Writer and linguist, informs us that the
Supreme Being of the Taíno people, as recorded in the writings of Fray Ramón Pané, was
Yocahú Bagua Maorocoti. Further, Pané translates this name to “Lord of the Yuca and the
Ocean, without male ancestors.
While this translation is certainly plausible, there are some
problems. But first let us look at the name Guamo through the lens of Fray Ramón Pané’s
work, An Account of the Antiquities of the Indians, where three different spellings for the name
1) Iocauna GUAMAOnocon By Peter Martyr de A’nghiera
2) IocahuaGUEMAOrocon By Alfonso de Ulloa
3) Yocahu BaGUA MAOrocoti- By Bartolome de las Casas
In all three of these versions, I highlighted GUAMAO to clearly demonstrate that the
name is Indigenous and obviously related to the traditional version. Our attempt to translate
the name “Guamao yielded the following translationGUAMAO = Lord of the Mountain. The
plural suffix -con or -kon is used by the Kalina (South American Carib) and Arawaks as an
José J. Arrom, Taíno Mythology: Notes on the Supreme Being, 1980.
17 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
honorific to the names of spirits.
Thus the TaínoYocahuba Guama O Con can translate to
Lord of the Abundant Yuca Mountain, which describes the Taíno conuco (farm).
Devotees of Agua Dulce, as stated above, are secretive, as are the practitioners of other
brotherhoods/clans of the region. Their customs are not always uniform, and some things
change from town to town or from individual to Individual. Agua Dulce is not a religion per se,
but rather a faith devoted to serving all things Indian, natural, and native.
Another spiritual custom of interest is that “los indio quieren que los quieran y los
adoren.(The Indians want to be loved and worshipped.) This is done through the special
altar dedicated to the devotion of the Indian. Worshippers know that the Indians spirits will
work best if you do not ask for things, but rather show gratitude for the things you already
have. In turn, the Indians will help you decipher dreams and warn you of any coming
Water Deities and Agua Dulce:
The Taíno had many water deities, as did the Africans and Spaniards. Atabeira (Taíno Earth
Mother/Goddess) for example, is a water being as is Taiguabo, master of the waters. As various
practitioners of Agua Dulce grew together, a religious “reinforcement” took place. A good
example is the very name “Water Division,” which is what many call Agua Dulce, especially
among the 21 Division. The Africans from Dahomey, such as Fon and Ewe speakers, believed in
spirits named Toxusus (Kings of the Water), who were children born with deformities and were
very powerful.
The Spaniards, on the other hand, believed in water maidens known as Xanas.
These spirits, which originated in Asturia, Spain, are believed to offer travelers gold or food.
They were said to live in caves, waterfalls, rivers, and lakes.
C.H. Goeje, Philosophy, Initiation and Myths of the Indians of Guiana and Adjacent Countries, 1943.
Jan Lundius, The Great Power of God in the San Juan Valley: Syncretism and Messianism in the Dominican
Republic, p 136.
18 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
Note: Neither of the names Xanas or Toxusus were ever recollected by any of the people
interviewed. In fact, no one had ever heard of these before. Yet the Taíno names for water
deities persist.
Rain Singers
There are people who specialize in bringing forth rain during drought. These are always
women, usually three (3) who, during drought are called upon to entice the rain. They travel to
a hilltop, alone and with no men present, and perform prayers and sing special songs so that
the waters may come raining down from the heavens.
Bathing in Agua Dulce
Bartolomé de las Casas informs us that: “The most common entertainment was bathing;
they enjoyed plunging into the water intensely, until the point that daily bathing was prolonged
for hours.
The Spaniards noted on several occasions that Taíno Indians spent a lot of time bathing
or swimming. Considering the humid tropical weather, one can imagine the favorite past time
would be swimming. Yet, there could have been a more profound reason why Las Casas and
others constantly found the Indians in or near the water. Bathing rituals are called “limpiezas
(cleansings) by the people of Maguana. In fact, spiritual baths are common throughout the
Caribbean. Some ceremonies are performed in streams or lakes within caves. These are
especially important. Others are performed in open-air lakes, rivers, and sometimes in the sea.
These ceremonial baths are for purification purposes.
Water in Agua Dulce traditions is very importantit is life. All ceremonies, all altars
must have it. It symbolizes cleanliness and purification. It is highly probable that Las Casas and
others were observing water ceremonies and mistook these rituals for “entertainment,” as they
called it.
Bartolomé de las Casas, The Apologetic and Summary History of the People of These Indies, XXIX.
19 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
Stones and Agua Dulce
Just as important as water, and equally central to the beliefs of Agua Dulce, are stones.
Various stones, especially stones found in or around rivers, are of extreme importance. Stones
are believed to be ancestors. They are considered medicine and also used for divination. Some
stones are collected due to their shape, which may appear to be animals or plants. Stalactites
and stalagmites are the most powerful, followed by quartz and green jadeite. Pané also
describes the use of stones amongst the Classic Taíno: And the woman, Guabonito, gave
Albeborael Guayahona many guanines (medallions made of guanín, made by Maya people of
the mainland) and many cibas (stones) so that he would wear them tied to his arms, for in those
lands the cibas are made of stones very much like marble…”
Pane, mistakenly calls necklace’s
“Cibas” in the above quote.
Obviously stones were important to the spiritual life of the Classic Taíno. Cemí, for
example, are made from bone, wood, clay, and especially stones. Stones are central to the
beliefs of Agua Dulce practitioners today. In fact, stones are important to most American
Indians of the Circum-Caribbean area:
The Neophytes who have passed receive their malaka itywayo-no-lekon (the high ones of
the rattles) from the masters own rattle. The pebbles multiply, just like the spirits to which they
belong. According to 3P, the medicine man gathers the pebbles at the base of the mountain and
they vary in color, in keeping with the spirits to which they belong. Many of them have a whitish
tint, but some of them are quite dark. Formerly there had been 4 pebbles in the rattle,
Tukayana-topu-le, Tukayana’s pebble. G1 says: Each of these orders of spirits are represented by
stone of a distinctive color or texture…
Pané, An account of the Antiquities of the Indians, pp.10 & p.48
C.H. Goeje, Philosophy, Initiation, and Myths of the Indians of Guiana and Adjacent Countries, 1943,p. 3.
20 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
We had the privilege of interviewing Margarita
Antonia Acevedo, whose family hails from the town of
Jacagua in the Cibao Valley.
This town appears in the
Pané manuscripts with regard to the cemí Corocote.
Her case is unique in that she, a practitioner of 21
Division with its White/Black and Indian divisions,
discarded the Divisions version of Agua Dulce and
substituted it with that of her mother, who practiced
unadulterated Agua Dulce, as practiced in Jacagua.
Below are a few excerpts of the conversations filmed during our interview session.
Margarita: The Indian Division to me is the best. It is a good and clean division; they give you
whatever you ask for. They have given me protection and my children protection. The Division I
have is separate from all the other divisions. I feel very good serving them. It makes me very
I received my Indian Division from my mother. In fact, my mother looks like the Indian spirit
known as Caimito. I will show you a picture of my mother later.
Jorge: As you were speaking, we heard many words and things we were not familiar with.
However, we have heard other names in relation to the Indian Division , such as Agua Dulce….
Margarita: Yes, that is its name for sure. I know it is Agua Dulce.
Jorge: Please explain, what is the significance of the water?
Margarita: Water is strength, purity cleanliness and clarity. When I feel heavy I just have to go
to Agua Dulce and all clarity returns, water has the strongest power. In fact she is so strong,
she even puts out Fire. Note: Margarita considers water to be female.
Jorge: Okay, how about the stones? What do they mean?
Margarita: Stones are power, strength, and healing. Stones are medicine. With a stone, they
can cure anyone.
Jorge: A man in Maguana told us that different types of stones produce different types of
dreams or visions….
The toponym, “Jacagua,” appears in Cuba, Puerto Rico, as well as the D.R. See Pané, An account of the
antiquities of the Indians, p 28.
21 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
Margarita: Yes, that is correct. That is true. There is one ceremony where we paint our faces
red with the powder we get from a stone found only at the Yuna River in Bonao. We make lines
on our faces the way they used to. There are some rivers that do not have Indian spirits
connected to them. [NOTE: “They” refers to Indian ancestors or spirits.]
Jorge: We notice that the Indians (statues) are on the ground and away from the Catholic or
African statues. Why is that?
Margarita: Because if the Indians are elevated, they feel like they are burning, and they tell me
so! If, for some reason, I have to elevate one, I need to pour water over them quickly!
Jorge : In Maguana, we have heard that altars have a special name. For example the names
taimani or tamani are used, sometimes, only mani. What do you call your altar?
Margarita: I suppose some people have different names. An altar is a sacred place. We call our
altars baxio (ba-ji-o) or buyi (bu-yi). [ Note: The name bajio means thatched lean-to in
Kalinago and Garifuna. Mrs. Acevedo was referring to a small bohio used as the altar for the
This interview was most informative, demonstrating to us that there is uniformity in the
stories and beliefs stretching from Maguana in the Southwest to the Cibao in the North Central
Dominican Republic, through to Dajabón in the Northwest.
Taiguabo, Lord of the Waters in Agua Dulce
A powerful water deity named Taiguabo has persisted in the Dominican Republic, Cuba,
and Haiti. All Agua Dulce ceremonies involve water; therefore, Taiguabo is invoked in most
ceremonies. He is known to control the rains, springs, lakes, and rivers. He is referred to as the
encabeza” (head) of all waters by devotees.
This description of th water deity’s attributes is nearly identical to the description of the
Classic Taíno deity named Boynayel. Boynayel and his sacred twin Marohú represent the
duality of nature. Boynayel brings the clouds and rain, and Marohú brings clear skies and the
dry season.
“ In that cave were two cemíes made of stone, the size of half an arm, hands tied and
attitude of sweat; whose cemíes consider them much, and when it was not raining say
they came there to visit them and suddenly came the rain. Of these cemíes, one called
Boynayel and the other Maroya [Marohu].
Filmed interview August 23, 2016, at Margarita Antonia Acevedo’s home in Santiago, Dominican Republic.
Pané, An account of the antiquities of the Indians, p. 17.
22 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
In Haiti this deity is called Macabu, as recorded by French traveler Edger La Selve, during
his visit to Minguet Cave in Dondon, Haiti, in 1871. Taiguabo appears to be a regional name for
Boynayel. Morahú is known as Maicabo or Maitabo in Cuba. We come to this conclusion
because both of these, Taiguabo and Macahú, are linked via water or the absence thereof ,just
as Boynayel and Marahú are.
Taiguabo is either a regional name or title of the Classic Taíno deity known as Boynayel.
Boynayel is god of the rain and waters. Marohú is god of clear skies and the dry season.
Boynayel had a sacred twin who went by the name of Marohú (bringer of clear weather).
Taiguabo is associated with a spirit named A) Maicabo in Cuba, B) Macabú in Haiti and the
Dominican Republic.
At the commencement of all Agua Dulce ceremonies, Taiguabo is invoked.
During rain storms, people in the countryside of the D.R. tie stones to trees, believing that
this will cause the rains to subside.
Traditionally, the classic Taíno tied the Cemí of Boynayel with the Cemí of Marohú to stop the
Huracán and Baguada are considered “BAD waters” by locals.
Baguada are severe storms that begin far out at sea and move inland. Campesino can predict
when the baguada are coming because sea birds make their way inland. The Taíno word
bagua” or “bawa is the name for the sea or ocean.
Amarrador de Agua
Literally, Amarrador de Agua describes a curandero (healer) usually a
man, who possesses the knowledge of how to stop the rain. This is achieved by
tying a stone to a tree and an offering of prayers, as described above the Classic
Taíno tied the cemi Boynayel and Marahu together to prevent rain.
23 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
Anacaona/Atabeira & Fertility in Agua Dulce
Historically, Cacique Anacaona, a female chieftain from the island
of Hispaniola, ruled the chiefdoms of Jaraguá and Maguana. Her family
originally resided in the village of Yaguana in today’s Republic of Haiti.
She inherited the chiefdom of Jaraguá after the death of her brother,
Cacique Behechío, who ruled during the contact period. Anacaona was
married to Cacique Caonabó, ruler of the chiefdom of Maguana.
Christopher Columbus wrote that Cacique Behechío had 200 “Nitaíno” or sub-caciques in his
realm, making him the most powerful cacique on the island. Thus Anacaona inherited two large
and powerful chiefdoms after her brother and husband had both passed away.
The name Maguana is said to translate
to Mother Stone. Its people were known for
celebrating the islands caciques with lavish
festivals and areito (dance and music
celebrations), in particular Anacaona and
Caonabó. The patron cemí of Maguana was the
goddess Apito, who is one of the four
manifestations of Atabeira, the Earth Mother
and female water deity. It is evident worship
and devotion to the goddess Atabeira/Atabei
and her various manifestations were very
important to the Taíno people.
In modern times, the people of Maguana, in particular, and other regions in general,
believe that the spirit of Queen Anacaona is associated with water and that she holds the same
respect and power as Guamao, Lord of all Indian spirits. It is said that she appears to
worshippers in the form of a Jaiba (river crab). She is also associated with the Virgen de la
Altagracia (Virgin of her High Grace).
Prayers among the Liboristas, for example, invoke her name in Christian prayer: “In the
name of the father, the son, the holy spirit, and our Queen Anacaona, Amen.” Her altar requires
24 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
water, stones, red flowers, and casabe bread offerings. She and the Virgen de la Altagracia are
worshipped on January 21.
In Herrera, just north of San
Juan de la Maguana, there is a big stone
dedicated to Anacaona within the large
ceremonial park in the center of the
town. Local legend says that Anacaona
sat on this stone while reciting her
areito. Devotees travel here to pray to
her, leave offerings of food and water,
and believe she is “Una India del Agua
(an Indian of the Water).This custom is
very old.
Devotees recognize spiritual leaders who have become caretakers of the stone, such as
Amantina García (left) who has taken care of the stone most of her life. She is known for
interpreting people’s visions and dreams associated with Anacaona. Amantina is associated
with 21 Division, Liborista, and Agua Dulce.
Residents will readily say that there have always been caretakers for the stone.
The devotion to Anacaona has been in effect since the contact period. There appears to be
certain similarities, however, between Cacique Anacaona worship and the Taíno goddess
Atabeira. It is possible that both personages merged into one and the same. It can be easily
reasoned that Anacaona, paramount chief of the people of Maguana and adored by her people,
was held in such high esteem that she became synonymous with both Atabei and Virgen de la
Jan Lundius, The Great Power of God in the San Juan Valley: Syncretism and Messianism in the Dominican
Republic, p. 138.
25 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
Caonabó in Agua Dulce
Caonabó is considered the bravest of the caciques, and his territory was one of the most
powerful on the island. According to Herman Colón, Caonabo was a Carib Indian who had been
adopted by the Taíno people of Kiskeya. The term Carib,” however, was often a designation for
any Indian who rebelled against the Spaniards. Some Dominican scholars believe that Caonabó
was, in fact, a Taíno from the Lucayan islands (Bahamas). In any event, he would rise to be the
most feared chieftain of the island. He was also husband to Cacique Anacaona and an ally of
Cacique Behechio, Anacaona’s brother.
Columbus’s ship, the Santa María sank off the coast of today’s Haiti on Christmas Eve of
1492. Cacique Guacanagarix and his people helped Columbus salvage what they could from the
vessel and used most of its wooden planks to build a fort that they named La Navidad. Leaving
39 men behind under the command of Diego de Arana, Columbus sailed back to Spain and
returned to the island that he had baptized “Hispaniola” one year later.
It is not known exactly what happened when he left. Some say that the Spaniards at the
fort began abusing native women. Others believe that it was possibly a betrayal by
Guacanagarix’s people, who lived in fear of Caonabó. They themselves may have killed the
Spaniards and blamed Caonabó. What is certain is that all 39 Spaniards were killed and the fort
destroyed. Caonabó proved himself to be a fierce a warrior with unadulterated hatred for the
Spaniards.Caonabó was now in open warfare with the Spaniards. He was not defeated until
1495, when he attacked the fort of St. Thomas, which was under the command of Lt. Alonso de
Ojeda. Caonabó’s brother Maniocatex launched a frontal attack on the fort. Valiant as the
Taíno warriorswere, they were no match for the Spaniards and their superior weapons. The
battle was a massacre. Caonabó cursed Ojeda and swore his people would stomp on his grave.
Although the Spaniards usually got the better of the Taíno, it can also be said that the battles
were not as easy. For one, the Taíno had superior numbers. Unable to totally subdue the
cacique, Caonabó was tricked into a peace meeting by Ojeda. Ojeda approached the cacique on
horseback, dismounted, and engaged the chief in conversation. He convinced the Caonabó that
the shackles he had with him were a great honor, metal bracelets sent as a gift from Admiral
Christopher Columbus. Seeing as how the Taíno wore arm and leg bands, Caonabó thought that
these shackles were similar. Ojeda prompted him to put them, on which he did. Ojeda then
26 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
shut them and captured the chief by offering him a ride on his stallion. This was the
dishonorable trick that the Spaniards used to capture the great Cacique of Maguana.
Columbus ordered Caonabó to be sent to Spain. A great storm over took the ship and
Caonabó drowned at sea. Some say that Caonabó had died before the storm from a broken
heart. Caonabó, however, was not to be forgotten. In Maguana, the place where he was raised
and would rise to be a powerful cacique, he is revered as a powerful spirit, often associated
with St. John the Baptist. He is present in all Agua Dulce ceremonies, as is his wife Anacaona.
Abbreviated list of Indian spirits venerated in Agua Dulce
AnainaThis spirit is a female who accompanies the spirit of Anacaona.
Ercilia—Ceremonies are held for “La India Ercilia” on March 28.
CaribeSaid to be a warlike spirit. Ceremonies for him are held on December 18th.
Caremelina Dasolei
Anaisa *May possibly refers to Anne, a Christian figure*
27 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
The Four Sacred Directions
Native Americans across the
hemisphere as well as other peoples
around the world observe ceremonies
utilizing the four sacred directions. In
the Dominican Republic, many
curanderos (healers) pray to the four
directions when planting food crops or
medicinal plants. As a child, I
remember my mother had a peculiar custom of tying together two sticks in the form of an X
with cotton forming a candlewick. She would then place the wick in a water-filled higuero
(gourd) or cup, with a tiny bit of oil. She would then light the wick, raise the gourd and pray to
the four directions. Supposedly this would help her locate a family member who was missing
and, in turn, would make the family member return home.
Inhabitants of Maguana perform a
sunrise ceremony that also invokes the four sacred directions. Although it has some Catholic
overtones, its Indigenous elements are indeed quite discernable. Below, Don Juan de Mateo
and his wife (Liborista) arrive at a church located in lower Maguana. The church is rumored to
be the birth place of Saint John the Baptist.
Don Mateo and his wife arrive waving a flag
and singing Christian songs. His wife carries an
higuero (gourd) filled with corn flour, which
represents the sunrise. He then begins building
sacred geometrical designs that contain the four
directions; however, instead of one Four Direction
symbol, he creates seven. As he draws the design, his wife welcomes the morning sun. Prayers
for this ceremony are Catholic yet the Indigenous element is undeniable.
Picture of four directions candle prepared by Doña Luz Patria Estevez.
Photos from documentary special The Dominican Southwest parts 1-2-3, by Martha Ellen Davis, available at
Youtube. Permission granted by Mrs. Davis.
28 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
Voodoo priests also use geometric
patterns to build what they call “VeVe” or
“bei-bei.” Veve designs are said to have
arrived with Africans to the New World, in
particular with Africans from the Congo
region. Africans use four directions
symbols as well.
To ascertain as to whether the designs in Maguana are African or Taíno, I spoke with Dr.
Robert Farris Thompson of Yale University, who is a renowned expert of African cosmograms.
His reply to me, via email, was: “ Hi Jorge. A book on Taíno cosmograms must be written and
you are the man to do it. This message coming from Mr. Thompson, was quite an honor for
me. I admire his work immensely. But we needed further proof……
The answer came to us on May 4, 2014, when I traveled to Pomier, a town in San
Cristobal Province, Dominican Republic. I was there with my wife Valerie to assist in the second
annual Pomier Taíno Festival. There are a series of 55 caves in Pomier, most of which are
covered with ancient Taíno petroglyphs and pictographs. Don José Corporán and his family are
caretakers of this national treasure. They are wonderful to work with and love these caves as if
they were alive. They report that people come from all over the island to offer tribute to the
cave spirits. Upon entering the second cave, I was astonished to find a four-directions symbol
29 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
on the wall of the cave identical to the one in the photos with Don Mateo. So not only are Don
Mateo designs four directional, but they are ancient and Taíno.
In addition, directly facing west of these symbols there are what appear to be sun
symbols. One of these apparently faces east, representing the rising sun, and another
represents the setting sun. It appears that the symbol was used not only to mark the sacred
directions, but also as a sunrise ceremony symbol, just as in Maguana.
Could Don Mateo have visited Pomier and copied this symbol? Perhaps, but then the
real question would be, how and why would he assume they are four-directional symbols and
use them in an elaborate ritual to “lift” the sun? No, Don Mateo is merely exercising a tradition
quite common in Maguana. After all, the four-directions symbol is common throughout the
island from Haiti to Higuey.
Another 4-directions symbol is to be found in Higüey Province in the Eastern side of the island
at a place called Piedra de Anamú (Anamú’s Stone) This flat stone is approximately 20 x 20 feet in
diameter and is covered in petroglyphs. The symbol below illustrates a unique four-directions symbol.
30 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
Each arrow on this symbol points to a cardinal point.
The four-directions symbol on right comes from a
Carib Indian community of Sambua Woyupore. It
appears identical to the one above from Anamuya.
This symbol, perhaps coincidently, is used in
Haitian Veve ( African cosmograms) as well. As stated
above, some researchers have suggested that Haitian
Veve originated in the Congo region of Africa. It may
well be that Africans incorporated this particular symbol into their own, since they are similar; perhaps a
religious iconographic reinforcement has taken place. Whatever the case may be, it is clear that the
symbol at the Piedra de Anamú predates African arrival to the
island and has been in continuous use since ancient times.
On the left is an illustration of a Haitian Veve. It is used as a guiding
beacon for the Voodoo priests (Loa). This one represents Loa
Example of four-directions medicine wheels. On left,
Mapuche Indian symbol from Argentina, South America.
On right, Lakota Indian version, South Dakota.
31 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
Ciguapa, Male and female
The Ciguapa is never absent from Dominican folk tales.
They can be male or female, although the females are more
common. They are said to have copper-colored skin, with long
black hair reaching their ankles. Their feet are inverted, facing
backwards, thus making it hard to track, since their foot prints
point in a direction opposite of where they are actually going. It
is said they have a shrill cry, similar to that of a crying baby.
Supposedly, if a Ciguapa falls in love with a human, upon its
death, the human will die as well. The Ciguapa is also a water-
being, which of course connects this being with the narratives of water maidens and water
Some people believe Ciguapa to be “wild” Indians still living in the mountains of the
Dominican Republic. While it is true that most Dominicans have Native American ancestry, it is
highly improbable that there may be uncontacted Indians on the island. However, prior to the
1930’s this may indeed have been the case. Some residents of the region assert that Ciguapas
are actually ancestors.
Some Dominican writers believe that this mythical creature is not of Taíno origin, citing
that the legend does not appear in Taíno artwork, petroglyph,s or pictograms. This entity,
however, is not unique to the D.R. Indians in Brazil call it Caipora, in Venezuela it is known as
Currupia, and in El Salvador it is known as Ciguanama. Trinidadians call it Duen, and the
Kalinago people of the small island nation of Dominica call it Tata Duende.
The fact is, this being is found throughout the Circum-Caribbean. , It can be thought of
as ar trickster beings in Indigenous myths and legends. In most South American nations where it
is present, the story is used to keep children out of the forest at night. They too do not portray
her in their arts or crafts. In the D.R., the Ciguapa is the local “boogeyman.He or she is known
to steal corn and salt, roam the countryside calling to its brethren, and campesinos can even
distinguish if one is male or female by their call!
32 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
El Indio del Charco/Opiyelguabirán
Another important entity that has persisted in the D.R. is the cemí known as
Opiyelguabirán, also described by Pane. Although it is not known by this name any longer, the
descriptions of its habits are undeniable. This cemí has four feet, like a dog, they say, and is
made of wood. They say this cemí escaped into the lagoon when the Christians arrived and
was never seen again
All over the island of Hispaniola, and in particular in the Maguana region, stories abound
of a strange being that walks on all fours and lives deep in a cave. He is often seen walking out
and plunging in the river. Later, he comes out and combs his long hair with a golden comb. It
appears at times as male, at other times female, and is known as “The Indian in the Waterfall.
It is truly uncanny that in the same region where this cemí once lived, the modern inhabitants
still describe this entity exactly as he was.
Still today, through a sieve of five centuries, this cemí
quadruped governs threads of naive legends in our
peasants. He is transformed, but rests in the deep
backwaters of the rivers; And on moonlit nights the
simple man on the ground swears that an Indian male,
or an Indian female, smooths his hair with a golden
comb. And they say that it is dangerous to approach
the rivers, because the appearance is lost in the water,
as it did in the aboriginal image of the Cemí
Opiyelguabiran, it could very well be angry and to
scatter on the vagabond head of the intruder countless
Without the golden comb, which undoubtedly
was syncretized with a Spanish story of a water-
maidens who carried a golden comb, the Opiyel story
has continued to this day.
Pané, An account of the antiquities of the Indians,p 28-29 New Edition by Susan Griswold, .
Juan Bosch, Indios: Apuntes Historicos y Leyendas, p. 41.
33 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
The late Dr. Juan Bosch, historian and ex-President of the Dominican Republic, also
informs us of the following:
There is also another disfigurement of the legend; and it is this: On the side of a little known
river, because it comes from a thick mountain, or because it runs so bare that it can scarcely be
recognized, there is a cave with an Indian saint. I spent many days in the vicinity of my village, a
river called the Seco, very small, carried by the hope that little points of truth would encourage
the words of an old and honorable patriarch of the campo:
The cave is small, but it widens inward. There is a healthy four-legged man who goes out
every night to bathe in the river.
Empty of results but full of craving, it was the slow hours he spent exploring the river. And when
I returned discouraged to expose my failure, the old peasant thought to calm my dismay by
explaining that perhaps the idol would have left that afternoon to cool in the cloudy but heavy
There are many, many such stories yet to be deciphered in the D.R. They are stories
that tell an ongoing tale of a people who, although fighting, running, and hiding from their
oppressors, took the time to remember, preserve, and transmit the beautiful stories of their
ancestral Indigenous past.
Taíno peoples used caves for ceremonial activities, shelter from storms, and food
storage. Taíno creation stories speak of caves such as Cacibajagua, from which the Taíno
people emerged and set off to conquer the Caribbean Sea and their island homes. Caves, it
seems, played an important role in their stories.
Dominican cave expert Domingo Abreu estimates that the island of Hispaniola has more
than 40,000 caves, of which only some 400 have been explored. These caves can be enormous,
ranging from room size to the size of football fields, or larger. Many of the explored caves have
extensive petroglyphs and pictographs made by the Classic Taíno and their ancestors. Caves are
Juan Bosch, Indios: Apuntes Historicos y Leyendas, p. 42.
34 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
still used for religious purposes in the Dominican Republic and Republic of Haiti, as well as for
shelter from hurricanes and baguada (inland storms originating out at sea). [NOTE: The Taíno
word for sea is bagua.
The very same ceremonial caves once used by the Taíno are being used today by their
descendants in seemingly same ways. The enormous Bánica cave near the town of the same
name hosts thousands of people, who gather there every year to celebrate St. Francis. Imagine
a cave with thousands of people, from multiple faiths, praying at the same time!
Not all caves are made of rock, however; some caves are made from dirt. The Spaniards
describe the Indians as planting their cemí idols of Yocahú Bagua Maorocoti in the fields to
insure that they may have an abundant harvest. This custom is still observed in the Dominican
Republic. Irka Mateo, our informant, was able to film an interview with Ms. Colasa Beltre, a 70-
year-old woman from the Azua region, describing this Taíno custom. It is very similar to the
ancient custom, except she does not bury the cemí. Instead, she builds a cave from dirt, inserts
Taíno idols within it, and then covers it up. This is done at planting time. She then uncovers the
idols at harvest time. It would be interesting to see just how far back his tradition goes in Ms
Beltre’s family, or if it is truly cultural continuance. In any event, it is truly remarkable.
In general, Dominicans feel a strong connection to caves. There are many communities,
particularly in the mountains, where residents explore the caves, often keeping them secret.
One of the most common stories told is of caves where residents leave garbage at the mouth of
the cave, and by morning the cave entrance and inside are completely clean. They attribute this
to Indians who live deep inside the caves.
Interview with Colasa Beltre by Irka Mateo at
35 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
Lastly, many people will travel from as far as Haiti to Higüey, on the opposite end of the
island, to leave offerings to ancestral spirits. These offerings consist of flowers, casabe bread,
corn meal, and tobaccoindeed an indigenous recipe.
As in most Latin American Countries where Christianity has influenced the population’s
perception and treatment of snakes, Maguana in particular and the DR in general, are the
same. Snakes are viewed as evil and many kill them unnecessarily. Snakes after all are good for
the environment as they eat mice, rats and other harmful rodents.
This fact does not explain why in Maguana people speak of a giant rain serpent goddess
who makes her way down the mountains after a Bagauda (rain storm). They call it a “She”
which is interesting and claim that she leaves her mark on the landscape. In most South
American Indian lore, the snake is described in this very same way.
Agua Dulce Altars Buye/Buyi Tamani
For the sake of clarification, let us explain once more the difference between Agua
Dulce Altars and those of the other related faiths that contain Agua Dulce principles.
21 Division
Contains an Agua Dulce section;uses Indian statues: some Taíno deities are
superimposed over African ones. Uses the names of Taíno Cacike for their
spirits and gods-Sometimes altar is kept away from the Christians
Uses many Taíno deities and iconographies. Further study must be done on
this and other strong Indigenous elements in Haiti.
Primarily Christian in nature, but uses many Taíno gods. Usually Taíno
pottery shards or pictures of Anacaona and or Caonabó are placed on these
altars- Altars kept away from Christian andr African idols.
Agua Dulce
Strictly Indian. No Christian or African pictures or pottery allowed. Altars on
floor away from any other influence. No metal allowed on altar.
On the surface, all these faiths seem similar, which in the past has confused many
investigators. After all, they sometimes operate side by side, and followers of one faith may
worship or attend ceremonies of the other. Only when the elements of each altar are closely
examined can one discern and distinguish the differences, which are, in fact, major.
Recorded my Milton Sanchez Velasquez in September, 2016
36 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
Casabe bread:
Made from yuca tuber (manihot escuelenta). The yuca is highly nutritious, yet bitter yuka, from
which casabe is made, contains cyanide. Special steps are required to rid it of its poison.
Corn flour is used in the drawing of certain geometrical designs laid out on the ground. Many of
these designs can be found as well in various cave drawings around the island.
Bell: After every prayer, the shaman or curandero rings a bell. Supposedly this carries the prayers
to the spirit guide faster. One informant claimed that before bells, maraca were used.
Flowers: Certain flowers are used in altars as offerings. The colors are important and specific.
Water: Many ceremonies begin with acknowledgement and offerings of water to the deity
known as Taiguabó. Prayers begin: “ To Taiguabó, head of all waters,” etc.
Stones: Stones are very important in ceremonies. Different types of stones are supposed to
produce a set number of visions. For example, quartz is believed to produce five dreams
(visions), and the very common green jadeite gives you two. Thus for curing practices, a
curandero will utilize both stones in order to enter an individual’s dream in order to cure him or
her of a particular affliction (Interview with Daniel Arias, Dominican Curandero from Boca
Chica). Friar Ramon Pané makes reference to the special uses of stones in Pané, An account of the
antiquities of the Indians,p 10-48, New Edition by Susan Griswold
A group of stones is placed around the perimeter of the altar. These stones must be gathered
from the river. Only river stones are allowed.
Tobacco: All ceremonies have a tobacco component. Although there is no clear connection
between tobacco smoke and the four directions, there is, however, the common concept of
blowing smoke to the heavens, a visible way to see prayers rising to domain of the divine.
The name for altar in Maguana is buyi or buye. We speculated the name is of Taíno origin. We
found that buyi ,bahio or buyio describes a small hut. Bohío is the Taíno word for a thatched-
roof house. Another term, taimani or tamani describes a type of ceremony or altar. Using Julian
Granberry’s Languages of the Pre-Columbian Antilles, we discover that taimani translates to
something like “her middle water.”[ to TA=Her/ MA-midmost or central/ NI=Water--- Her
middle waters. Thus Buyi Tamani is “House of her middle waters”.
The Indian Altars usually consist of drawings of the supreme deity Guamao, and Cacique
Caonabó and Cacique Anacaona, a clay jar with seven stones, accompanied by an offering of
certain foods that the Indians are supposed to eat, particularly casabe bread.. In addition,
certain herbs, seeds, ribbons, and beads decorate the Indian altars. Salt is absolutely forbidden.
People claim that Indians (spirits) simply do not eat with salt.
37 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
Peculiar customs common in the regions of Maguana & Cibao
If a child’s hammock is rocked without the baby in it, this will cause the child to become
mentally ill.
Women cannot wash their hair for 41 days after child birth
Women who are pregnant should not eat pineapples (native fruit)
Women on their moon should not bathe in certain rivers.
Pregnant women should not go into the ocean
Do not get your baby's hair cut before he is one. If you do, he won't talk!
A pregnant woman should not walk underneath a Guanábana tree or eat Guanábana or she may lose
her child.
If a baby is getting sick or congested, take a hair off a menstruating woman's head and tie it around
the baby’s wrist for 24 hours and the child will not get sick.
When a baby has hiccups, put a hair from the mother's head on the baby's forehead until the hiccups go
“Often there is a remarkable similitude in the myths of tribes that for centuries have not had
any contact and we even find distinct points of similarity between myths of South and those
of North America. This proves that the tales are scrupulously passed on”.
C.H. Goeje.
Philosophy, Initiation and Myths of the Indians of Guiana and adjacent countries p.96
The Taíno people of Hispaniola once had powerful spiritual traditions. Arriving African
slaves, who came from many different ethnic groups, had traditions that sometimes mirrored
Taíno traditions. They were more like to each other than either of them was to the Spanish
Christians. African and Taíno spiritual syncretism, reinforcement, and survival therefore, was
inevitable in the mountains of Maguana (and elsewhere), where so many Africans and Taíno
ran to escape Spanish enslavement.
From the time of the Spanish invasion, Spanish authorities reported Indians escaping
into the mountains, many of which are in inaccessible areas and have countless numbers of
caves. Taíno formed cimarrón (runaway or maroon) communities that were probably spread
throughout the Southern, Central, and Northern mountain ranges of the island.
The Africans, who lived side by side with Taíno on the Spanish plantations, ranches, and
gold mines, adopted Taíno customs, adding them to their own spiritual traditions. As tensions
38 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
mounted between the slavers and slaves, Africans began running off to the mountains as well,
just as the Taíno had been doing since the beginning of the contact period.
Non-Native peoples, both African and Mainland Indians, would have had a difficult time
finding food or water sources in the island’s interior regions, some of which are arid desert.
People in flight do not have the luxury of time to figure out which foods are edible and, most
importantly, where to find water. Africans needed Indian help to survive. Adopting Taíno
customs was essential for their survival.
Some historians claim that for every three (3) African males who survived the arduous
trip from Africa to the Americas, only one African woman survived. African women were in
short supply, as were Spanish women. The Spaniards reported that 40% of all “recognized”
wives were, in fact, Taíno, as were concubines without number. Mestizo children born from
African-Indian and Spanish-Indian unions began very early onmost likely nine months after
Spaniards landed on the island.
As time went on, more and more slaves escaped some with mixed blood children and
made their way to the mountains where they again would encounter “wild” Indians. Perhaps
the mixed bloods did not identify as Indian, but they certainly recognized words, customs, and,
most importantly spirituality. And so began Agua Dulce.
As scattered as these communities were, they were probably aware of each other’s
presence, since they undoubtedly encountered one another in the mountains and forests.
Isolated maroon communities often appear in the history books. For example, in 1555, fully 63
years after Spanish colonization, four entire villages of Indians were found by Spanish soldiers,
three of them in the Puerto Plata region of the country and one on the northwestern coast in
today’s Republic of Haiti.
This shows that Indians hid so well, they could not be detected, even
after nearly a century of Spanish control.
Although the Spaniards destroyed much of the Classic Taíno’s social structure, intangible
Indigenous spiritual beliefs were too powerful and indestructible to simply disappear. Key
elements survived and became important ingredients in the complex spirituality of the region.
The Classic Taíno believed the spirits of the dead entered through the bellybutton. Maguana is
known as the bellybutton of the island to the locals and is thus the entry point for ancestral
The word cimarrón , long thought to be Spanish, is actually Taíno. It comes from simarra meaning “fly like an
Lynne Guitar, Cultural Genesis: Relationships between Indians, Africans and Spaniards in Rural Hispaniola in the
first half sixteenth century,” doctoral dissertation, December 1998, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee.
39 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
The people of Maguana truly believe that there are Indian spirits walking side by side
with the livingdead, yet alive in an otherworldly dimension, making themselves visible only to
those who are worthy and live honorable lives. They remind us that they never left, have always
been here, and if we act quickly to preserve them always will be.
My intention for this writing this article was to point to out certain undeniable facts.
This phenomenon deserves a deeper, truly scientific investigation. There are just too many
customs that persist despite the institutionalized myth of extinction, to ignore. I decided to
make this a two part investigation because for every question I asked, two new questions
How can we explain why the art of dreaming is so prevalent in this rural culture and
almost always involves Indians? Perhaps Indigenous identity was somehow purposely
misdirected? Misplaced? Hidden?.... only to be experienced via the dreamscape. It is as if
these peoples Indigenous identifies are expressed through “those Indians” in their dreams and
spiritual encounters. Thus, just as the Taíno people fled the Spanish physically, they also fled
the Spaniards spiritually and hid in the one terrain the Spanish could not go to, the landscapes
of the Taíno mind and soul.
This is clearly not an academic paper, for I am not a scholar. Nor am I a very good writer
for that matter. Although I do indeed respect scholars and academia, nevertheless I also see
their limitations. I state this because many investigators, who have visited the area, could not
see beyond the extinction narratives. Thus all the wonderful lore, deities and magic of the
people of Maguana must fit into the “pre-packaged extinction archetype”. I am free to write as
I see it, as I feel it, as I experience it. My only hope is that closer attention is paid to these
traditions. Those who live them today are for the most part in their 80-90s years of age. In ten
years’ time these wonderful stories and rituals that have survived for so long, will be lost
Special thanks to Angel Goaconax Vasquez, Rene Perez de Liciaga, Peter Morla,
Dr. Jose Barreiro, Dr Lynne Guitar , my wiife Valerie Tureiyari Vargas and my mom Luz Patria
40 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
41 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
Name for Creator
Classic Taino
Yocahuguama ----------- ------------ -(Pane)
Iocauna Guamaonocon ----------- -(ANGLERIA) ULLOA)
Yocahu Bagua Maorocti ----------- - (Bartolome de las Casas)
Iocahuague maorocon --------- -- (ULLOA)
Antiquities of the Indians Pane- P. 31
Agua Dulce
GUAMAO is the name for the Cacike of all Indian Cacike Spirits- He is
considered lord of the sun and sunrises ceremonies are dedicated to him.
South American
Arawakan Tribes
The Goajiro (Wayu) Indians of Venezuelan& Colombian Peninsula believe
in a thunder god name YULUHU and another named MAREIGUA. Yuluhu
is connected to thunder and lightning, Mareigua is creator and culture
hero. (1)
(1) Hand of the South American Indians Juilan H. Steward p. 382
Water Godesses and Spirits
Classic Taino
Earth Mother- ATTABBEY was mother of the waters- she is a healer-
Antiquities of the Indians Pane- p. 56
Agua Dulce
In Maguana , Anacoana has become Earth mother- Indian water maiden-
Healer and diviner-
Appears to devotees in the form of a fresh Water Blue Crab named
JAIBA-Has a companion named ANAINA- (1)
Residents Believe that a Serpent goddess causes floods as she makes her
way down the mountain. (2)
(1) Recorded by Irka Mateo
(2) Recorded by Investigator Milton Sanchez Velazquez, October 2016
South American
Arawakan Tribes
Earth mother- Is often a Snake- Connected to the water- Water Spirts
belong to the CRAB, MACAW and TAKINI groups (1)
“This goddess is a water spirit, the chief of all water spirits and the Kalinas
call her as well as all water spirits, Okoyumu (okoyo snake-yumu-spirit)
the Arawaks ORIYO (Ori-snake-yo mother) (2)
(1-2) The Indians of Guiana and adjacent Countries GOEJE p 45 and
page 26
42 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
Water Goddesses and Spirits
Classic Taino
Earth Mother- ATTABBEY was mother of the waters- she is a healer-
Antiquities of the Indians Pane- p. 56
Agua Dulce
In Maguana , Anacoana has become Earth mother- Indian water maiden-
Healer and diviner-
Appears to devotees in the form of a fresh Water Blue Crab named
JAIBA-Has a companion named ANAINA- (1)
Residents Believe that a Serpent goddess causes floods as she makes her
way down the mountain. (2)
(3) Recorded by Irka Mateo
(4) Recorded by Investigator Milton Sanchez Velazquez, October 2016
South American
Arawakan Tribes
Earth mother- Is often a Snake- Connected to the water- Water Spirts
belong to the CRAB, MACAW and TAKINI groups (1)
“This goddess is a water spirit, the chief of all water spirits and the Kalinas
call her as well as all water spirits, Okoyumu (okoyo snake-yumu-spirit)
the Arawaks ORIYO (Ori-snake-yo mother) (2)
(1-2) The Indians of Guiana and adjacent Countries GOEJE p 45 and
page 26
The meaning of STONESs and their uses
Classic Taino
Mention of stone use among classic Taino appear frequently in the
Chronicles- Cemi idols made from stone- Cemi idols said to speak-
Green stone important for making necklaces. T
Antiquities of the Indians- Pane p 10 New Edition by Susan Griswold
Agua Dulce
Practitioners believe that stones have spirits that cure. It is believed
that stones speak to an individual
Stones are fed and watered by Individuals- There are communal
Stones as well.
Stones are said to produce visions. Quartz 5 Green jadeite 2
Green Stones are most important
Stones are Medicinal- Used in Conjunction with plants
Stones said to give birth to other stones.
Rub stones together or on body to release energy
South American
Arawakan Tribes
The Lache Indians of Northern Venezuela believe that the dead
become stones and will be reborn and a future time.
Green Stones are used for offerings-
The Otomoc Indians of the Orinoco river basin believed they
descended form stones. Their forefathers having been transformed
into stones Tribes in South America America believe that stones can
be rubbed into the skin to allow ancestors into a sick individual. (1)
(1) Hand book of the South American Indian p, 444
43 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
Classic Taino
Unknown- most tribal peoples of the Amazon river basin did in fact use Soba
in their ritual.
Agua Dulce
Soba- Is a healing practice where Is a healing practice where the healer
rubs a particular ailmentthe healer blows tobacco smoke and rubs the
evil spirts affecting the ill
South American
Arawakan Tribes
Tobacco smoke is blown over the ill, sick or suffering
Classic Taino
Classic Taino believed that Cemi were alive, representative of Ancestral spirits,
deities and gods.
Antiquities of the Indians, Pane New Edition Susan Griswold
Agua Dulce
Worship Cemi and classic Taino pottery Shards found in caves, planting fields
or in the mountains. These are called “Caritas” (faces) and will end up in altars,
especially Agua Dulce Altars.
South American
Arawakan Tribes
Worship of cemi as in the Classic Taino sense unclear although Lokono
Indians used some objects roughly similar to Cemi. The word Cemi
derives from the Arawakan word SEME or Semici meaning “sweetness of
life” or rather “essence” as in Spirit. “She Again emerged from the water
with small white Stones in her hand which she desired for him to enclose
in the gourd in the manner before described. After instructing him into
the mysteries of the Semici, she retired to her watery abode”. (1)
Sven Loven however states “In a later stage of development, these
assemblies ceased to exist among the True Arawaks. In the course of time
Semi-ci or Semet-ti,) came to denote medicine man, sorcerer, priest, and
seme-hi witch-craft “(2)
(1) The Indians tribes of Guiana p 293 by Rev W.H.Brett 18 New York
Robert Carter & Brothers No. 285 Broadway 1852
(2) Origins of Tainian Culture, West Indies Sven Loven p. 579
OPIAS and Spirits
Classic Taino
Chroniclers documented that for the Classic Taino that opias (souls of the
dead) had no navels. These were also known as Operitio
Antiquities of the Indians Pane
Agua Dulce
It is believed that the dead, called Opias, have no navels. Also when a person
walks through the forest he/she must cover up their navel because that is the
entry point for spirits.
South American
Arawakan Tribes
Water Spirits do not have navels. One such spirt ,Orehu is known for not
having a navel
The Indians of Guiana and adjacent Countries GOEJE p. 26
44 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
Classic Taino
*Not enough information on Ciguapa for the Classic Taino*
Agua Dulce
Ciguapa are creatures (male and female) said to roam the countryside,
Savannahs, and mountains. They are known for having inverted feet, hair
down to their ankles and easily fall in love with humans. Sometimes covered in
feathers. If they fall in love with a human, upon its death, its loved interest
dies also. Males whistle one way, females another. They steal salt and corn.
Used as “boogey man” to scare children.
South American
Arawakan Tribes
The South American Currupire or Currupia has identical features to the
Ciguapa. Said to harm people who harm the forest. Used to scare children
from going out at night. Covered in Hair at times.
Also known as Caipora, Duen and Ciguanama.
Ciguapa are also similar to another South American Entity, the ORIYU, who
have strong sexual predilections.
The Indians of Guiana and adjacent Countries GOEJE p
Classic Taino
Shapeshifters appear in most Native American lore, although none were
recorded for the Taino, their descendants certainly do believe in them
Agua Dulce
Gualipote or Galipote is the name given to an individual who has the power to
transform into an animal or a plant.
South American
Arawakan Tribes
Guairapoti is a spirit being among the Guarani people who say that he
announces the worlds doom due to floods. Similar to the Kalina Indian story of
Kailipiu. No information on shapeshifting abilities, but appears as a one legged
man at times. The name is strikingly similar to the Dominican Galipote
Philosophy, initiation and myths of the Indians of Guiana CH Goeje p 97
Classic Taino
No Information on Clan System in the Chronicles. Most Arawakan tribes
however do have a clan system. See below
Agua Dulce
Agua Dulce is divided in “tribes such as the river, Mountain, forest. A
person must be born into a spiritual Brotherhood. A healer must pass on
his knowledge only to one of the brotherhood, usually his eldest
children. A healer without children must pass on his or her knowledge to
3 people who in turn must pass it on to three each, in this way starting a
new line, and insuring the thee lineage continues
South American
Arawakan Tribes
There are numerous clans among the Arawak of SA. Most Arawak’s
assert that their families descend from eponymous animal, bird or plant.
The Wayu (Goajiro)are subdivided into 30 Matrilineal sibs (castesor
Tribes) each identified with an animal” (2)
(1) The Indians of Guiana and adjacent Countries GOEJE p 19
(2) Hand of the South American Indians Juilan H. Steward p. 374
45 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
Classic Taino
*Not enough information on Dreaming for the Classic Taino*
However the wide spread use of Cohoba (Anandenthra Perrigrina) which has a
heavy concentration of Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) indicates that Classic Taino
were indeed preoccupied with dreams, dreaming & visions.
Agua Dulce
As in most cultures Dreams play an important part in the spiritual customs of
Maguana where Dreams however are deemed to be real. Curanderos will
enter dreams of the ill in order to extract whatever maleficent spirit is causing
the illness. Stones are used to extract these from dreams. People believe that
their dreams foretell future events well
South American
Arawakan Tribes
The Wayu Indians of South America, also known as Goajiro, as do most
Arawakan Indians, give considerable mportance to Dreams.
Handbook of the South American Indian Julian Steward p 383
Classic Taino
Spanish chroniclers observed Taino ceremonies were held in caves. Most Taino
caves contain petroglyphs and pictograph which indicate that not only were
they sacred locations, but also contained clues as to their origins. Taino
Creation story tells us that the first people exited from a cave called
Agua Dulce
Agua Dulce, 21 Division as well as Liboristas all perform deep within caves.
People travel great distances around the island to leave offerings within. Some
claiming Indian spirits instructed them to do so.
South American
Arawakan Tribes
It is known that ceremonies and cave oocupation has been going on in the
Amazon for at least 9,000 years.
Classic Taino
The Spanish recorded that fireflies are. the eyes of the Opias.
Agua Dulce
Nimita and Cocuyo (fireflies) are said to be the eyes of dead children to the
people of the Maguana.
South American
Arawakan Tribes
The one of the twin brothers of the Toulipang Indians, Ippoe-mung, decorated
his body with fireflies thus becoming the big Serpent Constellation. P.I. and
myths of the Indians of Guayana CH Goeje, p 43.
Ceremonial Tobacco Use
Classic Taino
Guanguayo was a substance/spell that the Deity Bayomanaco spat on
Deminan Caracaracol’s back causing a lump to appear which later begat a
turtle. This turtle in turn begat the first flesh and blood beings. An
account of the Antiqueties of the Indians-Pane Pg 15-16
Agua Dulce
Guangua is the name used to describe a spell in Maguana- Usually an annoyed
individual will utter” I will spit the Guangua on you at another person. Tobacco
use common in healing ceremonies. Similar use to that of SA Indians
South American
Arawakan Tribes
The majority SA Indian tribes blow smoke over the afflicted so that the tobacco
spirit can enter. Tobacco is considered medicine.
46 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
Classic Taino
The story of Guayahona and Guabonito as related by Fray Ramon Pane,
indicate that Illness was treated not on medicinally but also
ceremoniously. The sick individual in the above story is taken to Guanara
“ A place apart” which translates tois
Agua Dulce
Believe that sickness is caused by bad “winds”, ancestors, evil spirits and
witch craft. Treatment requires curandero (healer) to enter the sick
persons dreamscape, use of stones in conjunction with one or more of
the 52 endemic medicinal plants (most of which are still planted by the
phases of the moon.
South American
Arawakan Tribes
Classic Taino
Made thunderstones which are axe heads (stone celts).
Agua Dulce
Agua Dulce practitioners believe that after a thunderstorm, the celts
(thunder stones fall from the sky to a depth of 7 feet. These stones are
gathered, put in a water jug and placed in Agua Dulce Altars for luck,
spiritual protection
South American
Arawakan Tribes
The Thunder stone is story is common in SA and uses its use is identical
among the Indians of South America to those of the Caribbean. They say
the stones fall from the sky to a depth of 7 feet below the ground along
with 12 smaller thunderstones, believed to be the teeth of a thundergod.
When found they are said to bring much luck and prosperity.
Summer Solstice
Classic Taino
All Native peoples around the world celebrate the Equinoxes.
Agua Dulce
In Bani, near Maguana, a summer solstice dance and ceremony is
performed. The Jacana dance (Taino name for a certain type of water
fowl) is performed. Many aspects of the music are Afro/Indigenous.
South American
Arawakan Tribes
Solsitice ceremonies are performed by many Arawakan Tribes
47 | Bahío TaimaníJorge Estevez
(1) José J. Arrom, Taíno Mythology: Notes on the Supreme Being, Reviewed work(s):
Source: Latin American Literary Review, Vol. 8, No. 16, Hispanic Caribbean Literature
(Spring, 1980), pp. 21-37 Published by: Latin American Literary Review Stable URL: . Accessed: 07/12/2011 22:13
(2) Judith Bettleheim- Caribbean Espiritismo (spiritists) altars- the Indian and the Congo
Caribbean Espiritismo (Spiritist) Altars: The Indian and the Congo Author(s): Judith
Bettelheim Reviewed work(s): Source: The Art Bulletin, Vol. 87, No. 2 (Jun., 2005),
pp. 312-330 Published by: College Art Association Stable URL: . Accessed:
12/01/2012 13:30
(3) Rev. W.H. Brett- The Indians tribes of Guiana p 293 by The Indians tribes of Guiana
New York Robert Carter & Brothers No. 285 Broadway
(4) Bartolome de las Casas- The Apologetic Summary History of the People of These
Indies- Bartolome de las Casas XXIX
(5) Martha Ellen Davis- Video Documentary “The Dominican Southwest
(6) Julian Granberry- Languages of the Pre-Columbian Antilles
(7) C.H de Goeje- Philosophy, Initiation and Myths of the Indians of Guiana and
Adjacent Countries” by C.H. De Goeje.
(8) C.H de Goeje- The Arawak Language of Guiana
(9) Sven Loven- Tainan Culture of the West Indies
(10) Jan Lundius- The Great Power of God in the San Juan Valley: Syncretism and
Messianism in the Dominican Republic, p. 138.
(11) JE Marcano-
(12) Fray Ramon Pané, An account of the antiquities of the Indians, pp. 17-18 New
Edition by Susan Griswold
(13) Julian H. Steward- Handbook of the South American Indian Volume 4-
Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 143- 1948
Edwin Anaegboka Udoye- Resolving the Prevailing Conflicts Between Christianity and African (Igbo)
Traditional Religion Through Inculturation, 2011.
The Voynich Codex, discovered in 1912 by Wilfred M. Voynich in Italy, had been long assumed to be of pre-Columbian European origin. This conventional dogma was put into question in 1944 by the distinguished botanist Rev. Dr. Hugh O’Neill, who identified in it two New World plants, sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) and capsicum pepper (Capsicum annuum L). Despite his credentials as a botanical taxonomist and an expert in Mesoamerican plants, his work was either ignored or ridiculed. In 1991, an obscure note by an Australian, Jacques B.M. Guy, confirmed the sunflower identification and noted not a single European species. He mentioned that a botanical colleague identified passionfruit. Tucker and Talbert, in a seminal paper (2013), extended the identification to 39 plants as either indigenous to the New World or circumboreal, such as Actaea rubra (Aiton) Willd. Tucker and Janick (2017) extended the list to 55 species while Tucker and Janick (2018a) added two additional ones. The identification in the Voynich Codex of New World plants as well as a mineral and 21 animals (Flaherty et al. 2018) provides hard evidence that the Voynich Codex is post-Columbus and not a fifteenth century European work, as had been almost universally assumed by Voynich Codex researchers (Zanbergen 2004–2017).
Notes on the Supreme Being Reviewed work(s): Source: Latin American Literary Review Hispanic Caribbean Literature (Spring, 1980), pp. 21-37 Published by: Latin American Literary Review Stable URL
  • J José
  • Taíno Arrom
  • Mythology
José J. Arrom, Taíno Mythology: Notes on the Supreme Being, Reviewed work(s): Source: Latin American Literary Review, Vol. 8, No. 16, Hispanic Caribbean Literature (Spring, 1980), pp. 21-37 Published by: Latin American Literary Review Stable URL: Accessed: 07/12/2011 22:13
Initiation and Myths of the Indians of Guiana and Adjacent Countries
  • H De Goeje-Philosophy
H de Goeje-Philosophy, Initiation and Myths of the Indians of Guiana and Adjacent Countries " by C.H. De Goeje.
Brett-The Indians tribes of Guiana p 293 by The Indians tribes of Guiana New York Robert Carter & Brothers No. 285 Broadway (4) Bartolome de las Casas-The Apologetic Summary History of the People of These Indies-Bartolome de las Casas XXIX (5) Martha Ellen Davis-Video Documentary
  • W H Rev
Rev. W.H. Brett-The Indians tribes of Guiana p 293 by The Indians tribes of Guiana New York Robert Carter & Brothers No. 285 Broadway (4) Bartolome de las Casas-The Apologetic Summary History of the People of These Indies-Bartolome de las Casas XXIX (5) Martha Ellen Davis-Video Documentary " The Dominican Southwest (6) Julian Granberry-Languages of the Pre-Columbian Antilles
spiritists) altars-the Indian and the Congo Caribbean Espiritismo (Spiritist) Altars: The Indian and the Congo Author(s): Judith Bettelheim Reviewed work(s): Source: The Art Bulletin
  • Judith Bettleheim-Caribbean
  • Espiritismo
Judith Bettleheim-Caribbean Espiritismo (spiritists) altars-the Indian and the Congo Caribbean Espiritismo (Spiritist) Altars: The Indian and the Congo Author(s): Judith Bettelheim Reviewed work(s): Source: The Art Bulletin, Vol. 87, No. 2 (Jun., 2005), pp. 312-330 Published by: College Art Association Stable URL: Accessed: 12/01/2012 13:30
Sven Loven-Tainan Culture of the West Indies (10) Jan Lundius-The Great Power of God in the San Juan Valley: Syncretism and Messianism in the Dominican Republic (12) Fray Ramon Pané, An account of the antiquities of the Indians
  • C De Goeje-The Arawak
  • Language
  • Guiana
C.H de Goeje-The Arawak Language of Guiana (9) Sven Loven-Tainan Culture of the West Indies (10) Jan Lundius-The Great Power of God in the San Juan Valley: Syncretism and Messianism in the Dominican Republic, p. 138. (11) JE Marcano- (12) Fray Ramon Pané, An account of the antiquities of the Indians, pp. 17-18 New Edition by Susan Griswold (13) Julian H. Steward-Handbook of the South American Indian Volume 4- Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 143-1948
The Indians tribes of Guiana p 293 by The Indians tribes of Guiana New York Robert Carter & Brothers No. 285 Broadway (4) Bartolome de las Casas-The Apologetic Summary History of the People of These Indies-Bartolome de las Casas XXIX
  • W H Rev
  • Brett
Rev. W.H. Brett-The Indians tribes of Guiana p 293 by The Indians tribes of Guiana New York Robert Carter & Brothers No. 285 Broadway (4) Bartolome de las Casas-The Apologetic Summary History of the People of These Indies-Bartolome de las Casas XXIX
Julian Granberry-Languages of the Pre-Columbian Antilles (7) C.H de Goeje-Philosophy, Initiation and Myths of the Indians of Guiana and Adjacent Countries
  • Davis-Video Documentary
Martha Ellen Davis-Video Documentary "The Dominican Southwest (6) Julian Granberry-Languages of the Pre-Columbian Antilles (7) C.H de Goeje-Philosophy, Initiation and Myths of the Indians of Guiana and Adjacent Countries" by C.H. De Goeje.
Lundius-The Great Power of God in the San Juan Valley: Syncretism and Messianism in the Dominican Republic
  • C De Goeje
C.H de Goeje-The Arawak Language of Guiana (9) Sven Loven-Tainan Culture of the West Indies (10) Jan Lundius-The Great Power of God in the San Juan Valley: Syncretism and Messianism in the Dominican Republic, p. 138. (11) JE Marcano- (12) Fray Ramon Pané, An account of the antiquities of the Indians, pp. 17-18 New Edition by Susan Griswold (13) Julian H. Steward-Handbook of the South American Indian Volume 4Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 143-1948