Category Archives: CULTURE

The Culture of the Dominican Republic.

National Symbols

Magical Being, La Ciguapa

La Ciguapa

The Ciguapa is a magical being, beautiful in appearance to some, horrendous to others. One thing people usually agree upon is that they are wild creatures and are compared to a mermaid. The Ciguapa is beautiful and cruel, not quite human yet innocent.

(Make sure to check out the short film La Leyenda de la Ciguapa: The Legend of the Ciguapa on the bottom of this page.)

Dominican Republic myths and legends Ciguapa interpretation by Artist-Illustrator Ray Wu
Interpretation of Ciguapa by Artist-Illustrator Ray Wu

They are said to have brown skin and black eyes. Ciguapa has smooth, glossy hair flowing the length of their naked bodies, covering them as if in a long beautiful gown. They are very shy in a sad way and also are deceitful. Their black eyes are piercing and slanted. and are always waiting in ready to capture the wayward traveler.

The Cigupa usually comes out of her lair, be it a wooded area, cave or hidden spot, on the eve of the full moon. She is said to be such a spectacular beauty that men will follow her into the forest even though following her tracks were very difficult. The difficulty is because her footprints are pointed in the opposite direction (the backward feet are found in ancient traditions to signify death, entry into the land of no return). Even thought following this striking creature was difficult she was followed because of the promise that a beautiful woman was waiting. She seduces men, kissing them passionately while sucking their life breath from their body.

Could this be the lair of a Cigupa?

Cigupa sings a sad mournful song known as the Canto de Sirena or the Mermaids Song. You will never hear a Cigupa speak words because they are said to communicate with small whines, like that of a crying child. It is a very somber woeful sound. The morning after a Cigupa cries the rocks and area where they were will be wet with their tears. Children are told if they stand by the shore facing the sea and yell “María la O, María la O, tu madre es puta y la mía no!”, a big wave will break and take you to drown in the sea.

The cinguapa is very mischievous. She likes to steal raw meat and butter from peoples homes. She has also been known to braid horses tails in the middle of the night.

So remember, if you do come across a Ciguapa do not ever try and capture her as this causes great pain and distress to the creature. Within days of capture she will surely die. Never never look into her eyes. She will bewitch you and you forever will be under her power sinking into an ecstasy of love disappearing forever……

Did you know…

*The ‘cigua’, Cigua Palmera, is the national bird of The Dominican Republic. It is a Taino word.
‘Ciguatera’ is something we get from eating contaminated (‘red tide’ algae) fish?

A friend of our web site made this video for her school project.

La Leyenda de la Ciguapa: The Legend of the Ciguapa — Spanish/English Short Film

by Crowned Fox Productions

Two men walking through a forest, encounter a strange creature…


The Bruja / Witch

The legend of the Bruja / Witch in the Dominican Republic originates in Europe with a little African flavor thrown in for good measure. This legend conserves the echoes of the medieval beliefs as an older person dies they become a bird. Our witches are old deformed women, perverse and night dwellers. They do fly on brooms but they prefer changing into large birds. In this form they can fly closer to houses and yell with loud squawking sounds. It is said that the witch removes its skin before flying and keeps it in soaking in a tintature. When they take to flight they are said to say “Without God nor Santa Maria!”. People say they have heard the Bruja during flight laughing and singing in a hideous voice.

Interpretation of Bruja by Artist-Illustrator Ray Wu

When the witches rest they do so under the branches of the platano tree. The witches will suck the blood of the children either from the navel or the big toe. It is said that a Bruja will not attack the children of its own friends or if they are twins.

The only way one can catch a Bruja is to knock her down. The “tumbadores” are said to be the only ones that are able to fall a witch because only they know the special orations and rituals. After a witch is caught one must wait for dawn. Only when the sun rises and the witches enchantment is broken can their true identity be discovered.

So be careful,

when it rains or when the day is cloudy. There could be a Bruja hiding in some dark corner or maybe even sleeping under your platano tree…

Los Biembiens

Los Biembiens

According to the legend, Los Biembien are found in the mountains of Bahoruco, Dominican Republic. They are escaped African Slaves and Indians who ran to the mountains to hide. As time passed they transformed into wild beings and became legendary.

Interpretation of Los Biembiens by Artist-Illustrator Ray Wu
Interpretation of Los Biembiens by Artist-Illustrator Ray Wu

The legend of the Biembien started in the 1700’s. It is said these beings are located in the mountains of Bahoruco, Dominican Republic. The story goes that an African slave and some Indians ran from their Spanish enslavers. After a long time, hiding in the mountains away from any type of civilization, they transformed into wild beings and became legendary.

The Biembiens only language is grunt-like sounds. They are mean, nasty and very unfriendly beings. They do not wear clothes to cover their naked short, deformed and ugly bodies.

These creepy creatures are very agile climbers of both trees and mountains. They travel and attack alone or in groups. Biembiens remain in hiding during the daylight hours, crawling out when the light dwindles. They emerge from their hiding places to search for food. Like the Ciguapa they also leave backward tracks to protect themselves from being discovered. These nasty creatures are known to eat humans, mainly the entrails, and also use humans as sacrifices.

So, if you are walking in the mountains and you hear unusual growls and gurgling and you know it is not your stomach. Run. Do not walk. Remember, here in the Dominican Republic we have no wild animals. If you hear a growl it can only be a roaming Biembien, looking for its next victim.