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How does a cimarrón become a güije?

Published: 2017.09.27 - 16:01:49   /  /  Laura Barrera Jerez  /  translated by  Luis E. Amador Dominguez  /

How does a cimarrón become a güije?In the book entitled Historia de una pelea cubana contra los demonios, the Cuban anthropologist and ethnologist Fernando Ortiz assures that the word güije is of African origin and was used to name the goblins of the rivers, ponds and lagoons.

For centuries these beings have disturbed the peace of the Cuban countryside and have been protagonists of entertaining stories that survive, mainly in the rural areas of the country, thanks to the oral tradition. In this sense, the journalist, writer and researcher, Samuel Feijoo, in his book ¨Mitología cubana¨ (1914) states that the legends of the güijes are the most abundant in the largest Antillean archipelago, and that in many parts of the country they are often called chichiricús.

Legend has it that these characters have the ability to adopt the appearance of other beings and disappear without leaving a trace if necessary. They have been described as singers, lovers of drinks, playful, thieves, capable of abducting young women, protagonists of assaults ... If malevolence is involved, research has collected testimonials about "El güije de Remedios" and "El güije de Sagua."

However, some narratives also give him positive qualities. In this respect, Don Francisco Marín, who was a historian of Trinidad, published in 1945 a book of 406 pages illustrated with twelve plates and named it ¨Historia de Trinidad¨. In the volume there are references to the traditional pilgrimage to El Charco del Negrito, the day of the celebration of San Juan Bautista.

The people of the town made this procession because they believed that the children who bathed in the river were baptized by the güije who lived in those waters. In addition, at the time of the blessing, the actual San Juan Bautista manifested itself in the body of the güije.

"From the lips of old familiar logs the legend was transmitted that the sweet repose they call Charco del Negrito had been a theater of horrifying tragedy," says the historian. "In the nefarious days of slavery, when the men dragged an infamous shackle, there arose a new Spartacus. The puddle was a refuge for the muzzle, and, fleeing persecution, after seeing his family decimated and his parcel destroyed, he hid in its dark-green waters."

They say that the colonizers never found their prey and that just after they left, and the being could be seen "smiling, lustrous, wearing the shaggy head in the sun, and in the mouth, like an open and carved coconut, feline teeth."

To the popular imagination, the cimarrón had become güije in order to outwit his captors. And little by little, it was also a divine being, an objective of the traditional and popular pilgrimage, as the historian Marín narrates:

"There was no shortage of those who claimed to have seen the black man pouring water with a jícara on the head of some other boy who went to bathe on the banks of the puddle. Thus the legend increased, and, pulled by it, men, women and children came to the puddle, and no one stopped seeing on a stone, smoothing his hair with a gold comb, the legendary güije, with his eyes set on fire."

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