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Dominican Republic Myths and Legends Page 3

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Sirens (Sirenia in Latin means mermaid)

The Sirens have been around since man started exploring the world by sea. Ancient maps have drawings of sea serpents and mermaids. Cristóbal (Christopher) Columbus men saw Sirens in their many journeys throughout the Caribbean. In recent times a mermaid is portrayed as being beautiful but in this time they were said to be ugly. Columbus wrote in one of his journals "[A crewman] saw three mermaids, who rose very high from the sea, but they are not so beautiful as they are painted, though to some extent they have a human appearance about the face."

Sirens are said to lead seamen astray with their singing and womanly shapes. This was done by enchanting the mortal if they stopped to listen to the song. If a man listens to the song of a siren they will never return to their family again. It has been said that entire ships crews were enchanted and this is why they were lost at sea forever. Ships run ashore and sometimes entire crews are said to have been suffocated by these mythical creatures of the sea. Just spotting a siren is very bad luck.

Ratoncito Pérez / The Mouse Perez

Who takes your children's teeth in the night from under their pillows? It is not the Tooth Fairy/ Hada de los Dientes as we were taught in USA. It is a little mouse who wears a straw hat, gold glasses, linen cloth shoes and carries a red pack on his back.

This little mouse has been around for a long time but in ancient times he did not wear clothes. Mothers would offer the baby teeth of their children to the mice that lived in the fields to ensure good crops thus making their children strong and healthy. The mouse in clothing came about in 1894 when Queen Maria Cristina Coloma of Spain asked the Jesuit priest, Father Luis Coloma to write a story for eight-year old Alfonso XIII when his baby milk tooth fell out. The priest wrote the story about the small Mouse Perez, clothed him and made him the most beloved mouse of all time.

So remember, all little mice are not nuisances. It just may be the friendly Ratoncito Pérez visiting to exchange the little tooth with money or a small gift. Taking his precious tooth to make jewelry, build a castle or adding another star to the sky. Also, do not forget to remove those mouse traps before you place that tooth under the pillow.

*I have spoken to other Dominican children and they tell me that they throw their teeth onto the roof of their homes so the new teeth will grow down straight and good."

La Jupia

Jupio or Hupio is an Indian word meaning dead men come to life. The Jupia is the feminine version of the same. She was a spirit or ghost of the air who hides eating guavas during the day only appearing after dark in the form of a human. This spirit resembled a human in all ways with one exception; it did not have a navel. The Jupia did not have a navel because it was not born of a woman. 

Many men have fallen for these spirit women and made love to them unknowingly. He found that just as they were reaching the loving climax his arms and love nest would be empty. It is very important to remember to always check and see if whomever you decide to make love to has a belly button. If not then you know you have been had by La Jupia.

Today this indigenous legend is still said to be seen by Dominican farmers and people who live away from civilization. Jupia is a ghost woman who visits, riding on a dark horse. Quietly, in the darkest night, roaming through the open fields....

Dominican Republic Myth Legend La Jupia by Artist-Illustrator Ray Wu
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Interpretation of La Jupia by Artist-Illustrator Ray Wu

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Dominican Republic myth and legend Ratoncito Pérez by Artist-Illustrator Ray Wu
To read more about some superstitions involving children go to the superstitions page here

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Interpretation of Ratoncito Pérez by Artist-Illustrator Ray Wu
Dominican Republic myth and legend Siren or Mermaid by Artist-Illustrator Ray Wu
It is thought that these sirens or mermaids were really Manatees. The tails of mermaids in the drawings closely resemble the manatees. Maybe the long hair is attributed to the way manatees rise from the water and have seaweed dangling from their large bodies. They could look like they are trying to embrace a man as they embrace their young in the same way a woman might embrace a man. Yet, for a man to see a woman in a 2000 pound manatee is way out there for sure. Could it be that being at sea too long he wanted a woman so bad that he was hallucinating? Men long ago did like a more voluptuous woman, but for them to think a manatee was a woman is pushing it a bit.

So, if you are a man at sea and yearning for a woman beware when one rises out of the sea and starts singing to you. Don't fall prey. Get to a doctor and fast to be treated for hallucinations. Because if you succumb you may never return to life as you know it....

Did you know....
*Sirenomelia or mermaid syndrome is a rare birth defect where one is born with their legs joined together.
*It is said the American Indian tribe Penobscot is descended from a mermaid.
*The Selkies of Scottish and Irish legend are more seal and mated with man.

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Interpretation of Siren or Mermaid by Artist-Illustrator Ray Wu
The Nimitas/ Fireflies/ luciérnagas or Lightening Bugs/ bichos de luz

Nimitas are a very common sight in the country around the open fields in Dominican Republic. The males have a bright tail light that flashes hoping to get a return flash saying that the female is interested in getting to know him  

Dominican superstition says that the Nimitas are the souls of the dead who are watching out for their loved ones still living. They shine their light reminding all who see that they are there always there....watching.

Fireflies are also called Cocuyo which is Taino Indian word.

Interpretation of Dominican myth legend of las Nimitas by Artist-Illustrator Ray Wu
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Interpretation of las Nimitas by Artist-Illustrator Ray Wu

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