Photo By Milton Sanchez Velasquez
Wednesday, May 17, 2016
Jose Barreiro, along with, Milton Sanchez Velasquez, Ivel Cenac, Isabel Amarante, Elsaand Juana Guerrero, all members of the Taino
Cultural Group, Union Higuayagua, and myself head out. The day is scorching hot. Where is the rain storm when you need it! As we travel through the countryside, Jose remarks how the scenery is reminiscent of Cuba. For years, I dreamed of being
here with Jose as his descriptions of Cuban Indigeneity are eerily similar to those in the Dominican Republic. I consider Jose my final teacher and I owe him gratitude for always guiding me and teaching me the correct way to document my own work.
spent the day traveling from one source to the other. I was getting worried we would not contact anyone. My concern was that most of these healers are also farmers and no doubt would be working during the times we came. By 5 pm, we called it a day.
My frustration showed in my face. I was not upset as I knew something good would happen. But I was worried. We did visit one home who had an altar where they had Catholicism on one side and “agua dulce” on the other. Note AGUA DULCE ALTARS are always placed on a dirt floor, away from any Catholic or African influence and usually out of site.
The group decided to visit “El Corral de los Indios”
where there is a woman there by the name of Amantina who is a Agua Dulce practitioner. She is also the caretaker of the huge Anacaona Stone, said to be the seat of the ancient Cacike Anacaona during the colonial period. We speak briefly with Amantina.
Visit her altar and the stone. Afterward, we return to our hotel rooms at 6:00 pm
Our plans are now to travel to Dajabon, where we will meet Fatima Liriano Portoreall. Milton and Isabel decided to go for a night swim in the river. Later that evening,
Milton's Car breaks down. They text me, asking to pick them up at Amantina’s place. Upon my arrival, Isabel reveals that Milton was able to contact a man by the name of Robert, whose mother is an Agua Dulce source. They have already made
plans to visit her the following morning. Finally a good lead. Further, Isabel plays an audio recording of Robert’s mother. What I hear convinces me she is indeed the real deal. Relief at last!
Thursday, August 18, 2016 - 10 am
Heading out early the next morning we make plans. We will interview the woman, head to Santo Domingo, rent another car (Milton’s Car will not make the long trek, and reach
Dajabon that evening where we will meet Fatima.
Robert’s mother’s home is modest and very clean. We are offered coffee right away as is the custom. Robert’s mother has strong Indigenous features. Her husband is in his underwear
and announces “I am Turkish”!
We explain what our project is about, and after Milton sets up his camera and sound equipment, and we begin the interview:
What is your name?
“My name is Gloria Maria Herrera Vicioso. I am 63 years old, I was born on June 15, 1953. I am the legitimate
daughter of my father and mother. My father was a healer. He had a stone which he used to cure children with. He found the stone by a shore and brought it home. We lived in the countryside. Once he put the stone in a bag atop a burro. The burro
died. Shortly after that, he passed away. I was 11. He then passed away and I became the guardian of the stone. Later we moved to Bani.
When we reached Bani, I began curing with the stone too. The stone eventually disappeared. I searched
for it in rivers, everywhere but I never saw it again. It was heavy and had a design. When I touched it, you could feel it touching you back.
NOTE: The stone as in all Dominican
stone lore, speaks, feels, heals and is considered an ancestor, and has designs on ( many stones are Taino artifacts). CEMISM?
How did you learn to heal with the stone?
Gloria: “I watched my father him heal others and learned
this way. Also, when he was healing he would call me over and say do this or do that. This is how I learned.” Sometimes the stone would sweat on its own, even though the house was dry. A few times I looked at it while it sat in the dark. Its eyes
would glow red like a Cocuyo. (smiles)
NMAI: What are Cocuyo?
Gloria: Those are little bugs that glow in the dark! Some people call them fireflies. But they glow green. As children
we were told they (Cocuyo) were eyes of the dead children): NOTE: There are similar stories of this among the classic Taino
NMAI: Why do people use water in their ceremonies?
Well, because they have Indian descent. They do things with Indians. Others burn candles to Indian (spirits). That’s how it is. NOTE: Indians are associated with water. This is at the heart of Agua Dulce.
Can you tell us a little about the Ciguapa, we have heard many such stories here in Maguana. (Creatures said to inhabit the mountains and forests. They have long straight hair to their ankles but their feet are inverted. Thus when you follow its footprints
you invariably follow in the wrong direction. This same story is found in many of the Circum-Caribbean Indian peoples).
Gloria: Well, my father had a plot of land where he planted beans. (smiles) I am
going to tell you the whole story! While harvesting, he would make us a little house. He used to make a little bed with the bean pods, that’s where I slept. As we were on a hill and the house was low, and did not have a door. We would see the image,
the shadow of the Ciguapa walking by at night. We could see its long hair! She had a long nose and walked funny. They would steal corn and salt from the house.
NMAI: yes my mother said the Ciguapa would also steal corn and salt.
Gloria: My father used to tell my brothers “don’t look at her if you do she will capture you and force you to get her pregnant. She would keep them and force them to give her children, That’s the
Ciguapa. Male Ciguapa does the same with human women.
NMAI: There are both male and female Ciguapa?
Gloria: Yes, both male and female
Suddenly her son interjects:
There is one boy Ciguapa who comes by the “cacho” , every Friday . He is always staring at me, has long long hair and backward feet.
NOTE: CIGUAPA stories are not unique to the Dominican Republic. In fact, most Indians
of the Circum-Caribbean region have the same story in their lore. The creature is known as CAIPORA in Venezuela, Currupia in Brazil, DUEN in Trinidad and CIGUANAMA in EL Salvador. In all stories The creatures have long straight
hair to their ankles and their feet are inverted. Thus when you follow its footprints you invariably follow in the wrong direction.
Gloria: We only saw them from afar. They whistle too. They have a strange
NMAI: We have heard that the male Ciguapa and the female Ciguapa have different whistles (calls)
Gloria: the females cry out WOOOO WOOOOOO
is how they go. I don’t know how the males whistle. They were so noisy we hardly slept. We would stay up at night looking at the stars. The sky was full of stars.She then begins to speak about falling stars. She continues…
When my father planted his fields I would pray to the stars so that his fields would grow. But I said my prayers in my head because wishes are not to be spoken aloud.
NMAI: Did your father know
a lot about medicinal plants?
Gloria: Oh yes! This finger, was…do you remember Robert when my foot was bad? People told me my foot was going to have to be cut off. I would get fevers and was sick all the
time. My father took TUA TUA (endemic medicinal plant). When I awoke I went out right away and got all the ingredients.Ground it up and added lemon to it. Of course, my father told me this in a dream (her father passed away when she was young). I put
it on and it stung. It melted on my skin. My flesh rose Look, my foot healed perfectly.
Note: Many Curanderos insist that their knowledge is passed down to them in Dreams.
At times when the witches
would “suck” on the children, my father would get a Hicotea (Indigenous name for Turtle) and gives us their blood to drink. All my children drank Turtle blood to protect from the witches. There was one witch who would turn into animals. One day
she turned into a Chicken, but my father knew it was her. He hit her with a broom and broke its wing. The next day the witch walked by our house with her broken arm. My father said “you see, that was the witch sucking on the children’s flesh. You
will see that the kids will not get sucked on again (as in mosquito sting)
NMAI: Jorge-What do you call people that transform, that shapeshift?
NMAI: Jose-Pardon me, please tell us again,
you received these from your father in a dream? Was he dead or alive?
Gloria: No he was dead, he comes to me in dreams.
NMAI: Was he a dreamer also?
Yes he was a dreamer too.
NMAI: So your source is your father is that correct?
Gloria: Yes. All my brothers and sisters, my mom all died, but he
comes to me and says “Daughter I am with you”! Thank the lord all my children are alive and healthy. I am the youngest of all the siblings, I have struggled hard and look at me!
NMAI: Was your father from Maguana also?
Gloria: No he was from a village “hasto del padre” near Herrera. NOTE: Herrera is the name of this town where Gloria lives in Maguana.
My father’s last name
was Herrera. This family had many children and mixed with themselves until they founded this town we live in now called Juan de Herrera. My father was named Jesus Maria Herrera Villega.
NMAI: Was your
father's people Indian ?
Gloria: I was young when my father died, and never got to ask him about our family history. I learned very little of this
Did your father ever mention RASTRO, that is curing with animals ? Or curing children with asthma?
Gloria: No I don’t know Rastro, but curing asthma yes. I know a remedy for asthma. We use
bitter coffee to cure this. There is also Carbon de Oscalito which is good for Asthma, also for diabetes too.
NMAI: Did your father use Tobacco when healing or did he sell it?
Gloria: No, but he did grow it and smoke it himself or his family and friends. He rolled the leaves….you know he made TUBANO NOTE: Tubano is an Indigenous word:
How about Anduyo ? (compressed, fermented native tobacco common in South America)
Gloria: Yes , you mean the long thing that you cut with a knife? Yes he smoked Anduyo as well. He would
roll is Pachuche! My mother also smoked her Pachuche. Note: Pachuche is an indigenous word for rolled Anduyo.
NMAI: Did you ever hear him use the word Macuyo? Note: Macuyo is an indigenous name for a type of Tobacco
Gloria: No, I do not recall that word.
NMAI: I am Cuban and that is a word we use in Cuba. Many of the words and customs I see here
are the same as in my country.
NMAI: We want to ask you about medicinal plants. Did your family grow………
No, those you find in the mountains. Look, we plant“sorosi” here, as well as Yerba Buena and Sabila. Also the Cubanita with its purple water, and Mata de Brujo (witch weed).
Do you know the Anamu?
Gloria: Yes! Anamu is good for stuffy noses , you can drink it.
NMAI: What about for pregnancies, midwives, herbs related to care for pregnant women?
Gloria: Yes of course. My mother was a midwife. She would tie a rope to the ceiling so the woman would grab onto. She would then place a pot of hot water below the woman. With a warm rag, she
would cleanse the woman as she gave birth naturally. Once the baby was born she would take the baby to the table and cut off the umbilical cord, remove the placenta and so. The woman would the rest for 33 days. Today they don’t do that, but that’s
how it was done.
NMAI: Could she wash her hair? Were special meals prepared for her?
Gloria: No the woman cannot wash her hair. Yes special meals
are prepared, for example they would slaughter a pollo criollo (free range chicken), or goat, soups with noodles like in the old days. But not any more?
NMAI Can the woman eat pineapples?
Gloria: Yes. But no salt,
especially menstruating women cannot eat salt, or Herring. They cannot eat Guanabana either. But as I said, people eat anything these days. Science.. NOTE: In most of our Interviews, there is a strong belief that Indians
do not eat salty foods
Life before was simple, but now it’s not like that any longer. We grew crops without fertilizers. My uncle grew Pineapples really big. Try one today. They do not taste that good and are small. That’s what
science has done. Eat a fruit today and your mouth stings.
Indians used tobacco for mosquitos. Even Marijuana, was used to ward off bugs, by rubbing its leaves on the skin. This way the mosquitos would not bite. They would ground it up.
They also made stone knives. Molino (round stone mortars) to ground corn, to make chen chen (corn dish native to Maguana). She goes on to describe how corn was prepared.
From the corn, we make Chen Chen and Chaca (local
NMAI: So did they ever clean the corn with ash?
Gloria: No, not that I know of
NMAI- Jorge, you wanted to ask about Kaweiro?
Yes thank you Jose- Gloria, you mentioned something about shapeshifters. Can you tell us about these?
Gloria: A person who you see here, then there, then over there is a Galipote….
A witch. Note: Kaweiro as they are known in Cuba or Galipote or Gualipote are shapeshifters.
A family member interrupts and adds: Galipote can change into an animal, into a fruit or in a log, anything.
NMAI: Have you heard them called Kaweiro here? This is the Cuban name for what you describe……………?
Gloria: No I have not heard that word here
There is more to this interview, but let us move on to the other two for now