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Remedios for Legends

Published: 2017.11.06 - 15:42:26   /  /  Laura Barrera Jerez  /  translated by  Luis E. Amador Dominguez  /

Remedios for LegendsSan Juan de los Remedios is one of the most emblematic cities of Villa Clara. Its foundation dates back to 1578 and it was declared National Monument in 1980. There the tradition of the Parrandas persists, which is one of the three most important traditional festivals of the country (together with the Charangas de Bejucal and the carnivals of Santiago), and they were declared Cultural Patrimony of the Nation due to the splendor of its floats.

Remedios has one of only two Statues of Liberty that exist in Cuba. In the Plaza Mayor, there are two churches: Nuestra Señora del Buen Viaje and La Parroquial Mayor de San Juan Bautista. In the latter you can see the gold-plated altars and the sculpture of the Immaculate Conception, one of the few monuments of its kind in the world.

It was precisely Remedios priests who reinforced the mystical character of the region. According to the popular voices, the priests constantly claimed that the caves and tunnels of the village’s subsoil led directly to hell. Those beliefs gave life to goblins, ghosts, demons and specters that were protagonists of a great number of legends that remain until today.

An example of this is the story of the güije de la Bajada, which also served as inspiration for one of the creations of our National Poet Nicolás Guillén. The feast of San Juan Bautista every June 24 is related to this mythological figure, as his capture is represented following the threads of the legend.

As described, the güije is a very ugly being, big-headed, with big bulging eyes, pointed ears, he is about six foot tall and has great strength and agility. Formerly the villagers accused him of the destruction of their fields and the slaughter of their animals. Thus, in the nineteenth century seven inexperienced soldiers joined to capture him in the early hours of June 24, just at 4 am in the morning. They caught him and led him to the village, but the devil escaped again and said that since then he has survived in the deep and dark waters, without anyone being able to capture him again.

But perhaps one of the most famous beings of Remedios is the Gritona del Seborucal whose ghost supposedly lives in the subterranean tunnels of the city. The story began with the constant pirate attacks that surprised the town. It was customary that during the actions, those men would kidnap young, well-endowed women. One of them refused to be a prisoner of the filibusters and work as her sexual slave. In the struggle to capture her, one of the attackers beheaded her, but according to legend, she had the strength to hold her head and run terrified to the cave of the Seborucal to find shelter.

According to the historian José Andrés Martínez Fortún y Foyo in his work ‘Anales y Efemérides de San Juan de los Remedios and its Jurisdicción’, the ghost used to walk down the streets on the first Friday of January, the Viernes de Dolores, Good Friday and the Friday before Christmas, always at midnight.

Thus, as in many other cases, popular beliefs embellish the city life of Remedios, where technological modernity and rationality of the 21st century coexist with the legends that gave life to the region in 1578.

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