Sweet Water Clans 2

photo by Milton Sanchez Velasquez
\Virgilio de la Rosa Cueva
photo by Milton Sanchez Velasquez
\Virgilio de la Rosa Cueva
photo by Milton Sanchez Velasquez
\Virgilio de la Rosa Cueva
Virgilio hold up his power stone. Cemism alive , wide spread and well in Kiskeya.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Onn the way to meet  our 3rd interviewee Mr.  Virgilio de la Rosa Cueva, we come across an area with an overlook. Our guides explain that this area is used by many locals as a prayer center. People come from all over the island to leave offerings and prayers. Fatima Liriano Portoreall and the NMAI crew notice that the trees in this area are different than the valley down below. As we approach we realize these are Anadenanthera peregrina, the sacred Cohoba. The seeds of this tree were used by the Classic Taino people to prepare a powerful hallucinogenic powder. They ingested the powder through their nostrils. Similar in properties as the DMT laced Ayahuasca brew from South America, it was used for spiritual purposes, a way of communicating with the spirit world.

 In the Dominican Republic it goes by many modern names. Milton Sanchez Velasquez, our cameraman asks a local what the name of the tree is. The man replies “ some people call it Candelon de Teta, but others know it by its original name, ABEY”.  This confirms for Milton and the rest of the crew that ABEY is the Native name for this sacred medicine plant. In the Taino Language, Abey is the suffix for words such as ATABEY (Earth Mother) and COABEY (Spirit realm).  Undoubtedly this is a spiritual center which curiously contains more ABBEY trees than any other place any of us have yet seen. There were at least 20 in this area alone.

 Time is now 2:00 pm

 We reach Mr. Cuevas home.  As we are taken to his altar, we notice that he is a LIBORISTA (this is deduced by the type of Altar he has.  After a brief introduction we begin our questions:

 NMAI:  What is your name?

 Virgilio: Virgilio de la Rosa Cuevas at your service.

 NMAI: What do you know about the caves in the area.

 Virgilio: Well the one that goes from here to Banica, its at least 100 kilometers long. To reach Sebico its 200. And not everyone can travel under the ground like that either. Only a person who does not rob, steal or kill. That is Gods will. That is the law. I myself travel with young women of all ages with total respect and am respected, I obey the law. (natural law?)

 NOTE: Banica, Boya and several others are towns where Enriquillo's people settled after fighting a 15 year war with the Spaniards and signing the first peace treaty with Spain.  Medric de St. Merry found Enriquillo's descendants living at Banica in 1740

 NMAI: Have you walked the entire cave?

 Virgilio: I have only traveled 12 to 14 kilometers, my reach is not that good (smiles). I take care of myself. We had problems with the holes. There have been deaths , I almost died last year. When the engineer was killed…yes I was there, the carbon monoxide killed………. I was already dead. At 72 feet I was gone. I asked god “if I have been good, please take me out of here. I don’t know how I got out, whoever got me out….all I know is that I made it out, had no recollection of who I was. One thing, it was not a human who got me out!  My brother died ……

Virgilios Altar has the common materials which make it Liborista. This includes water and stones for the Indian and Catholic iconograpahies. Little if any is African. Liboristas share the same pantheon of Indian spirits as Agua Dulce for the most part.

 Virgilio continues: I am not a curandero, there are many who like to be called that. I have my altar, for my children, family and friends Now if someone stops by with a problem that I can help solve , I will. But I am not a curandero, because curanderos charge money and I cannot accept money. NOTE: In Maguana there are those who charge money and those who do not for their services. Often, the ones that do not charge a fee for their services view those that do as being spiritually weaker and often times tricksters and hooligans.

 Virgilio: Some healers also get mounted, I do not do that either. I most work with women an children. I help women deliver. Like cutting a tree, I have never lost a child. Sometimes the baby is too far down and the doctor cannot do anything, then I can help.

I have never lost a child, God has given me that strength. I have my altar there but that is all. I cannot claim to represent Papa Liborio, that has not come to me yet. And one cannot assume something like that!

 Note: in reference to 21 Division that utilizes spirit possession

 Virgilio:  My brother Hernandez takes care of a lot of people. If you come to me, I will tell you if I can or If I cannot help. I also give you a date. I say If I cannot help you within this amount of time, then we both know that it was not in my power to help you.

NOTE: the NMAI team has coincidently interviewed his brother Hernandez in Maguana. Apparently Hernandez had made his way south from Dajabon to Maguana where he received his calling.

 NMAI: And you say you do not charge?

Virgilio: Correct, I will not accept any money. However, if later you feel like giving me a bag of sugar or a fruit, this I will take and drink a juice in your name, that I can accept.

NMAI: What can you tell us about this stone, did you find it?

Virgilio: Well (laughs) All I can say is that you can offer me any amount of money , all the millions in the world and I will not sell you that stone!

NMAI: Can you tell us why?

 Virgilio:  If you said to me “lets trade the jeep for your stone”, I would say, NO take your jeep but leave my stone alone!

NMAI: What does the stone represent?

 Virgilio:  This stone is my life. I talk to it, it talks to me. However if I gave it to you, you would not be able to speak to it. Understand? Tomorrow I am off to San Juan de La Maguana. I will ask the stone if my trip will go well. If the stone tells me no, then I will not go. All the things that have happened to me have been for helping friends. 

I received this stone in a dream. The dream said “I will leave you this stone atop a hill. If you find it, none of your children will ever die young. If you do not, your children may die young.

I left home that day at 5 in the morning. I came to rest at around 2:00 pm. I was lucky enough the stone the dream told me about was laying by the tree I laid my hand on to rest, right there the stone was waiting for me.

Since the day I received this stone all my children have been healed and are healthy. Just as I would not sell a child I cannot sell this stone.

I had one that was more effective, but it went away. When my kids mother was alive, I had it in my altar. It looked a lot like a maco (native name for frog). It said “im leaving”, I said what do you mean you are leaving. It said, I will leave for 6 years, when I awoke I have not seen it since. This is true for people who believe in god.  This is why I cannot charge. My brother, charges, not to speak bad about him, but I do not.

NOTE: The stones are sacred and god given. Is this yet another example of modern Cemism?

NMAI: Do you work agriculture?

Virgilio: Yes I do, I dig holes all over and god gives me what I need. I may slaughter a goat or pig. I sell the meat and crops, but I do not sell alcohol. When a person is drunk, they think they know, even though they know nothing. It’s the drink speaking for them. It is evil. I do not use it. If I tell you something will happen, it will happen.

NMAI: Does the stone tell you this?

Virgilio: I do not know if it is the stone, but something talks to me….

NMAI: How do you care for the stone?

Virgilio: The stone requires water, lots of water. Note: Agua Dulce is detected in that stones and water are intrinsically connected. Where there is one, there is the other. The Classic Taino had similar beliefs (e.g. Pane)

NMAI: Where do you place the water? In these bowls (points to container under table)?

Virgilio: It must be a clean cup or bowl, the same one I drink from will do.

NMAI: can you drink the water after the stone is in it?

Virgilio:  Yes I can and do drink it. Or I can give it to certain people, not everyone. For example, if a woman who cheats on her husband, asks me for the water, I will not give it to her! Why? Because, if a person does bad really things, the water will make it worse. If you believe in Papa Liborio you will not be a bad person.

 I have traveled throughout the two republics……

 NMAI - HAITI and the DR?

 Virgilio: Yes both countries, from Maguana to Puerto Principe to Santo Domingo, both countries.

 NMAI: Do you work with the sun?

 Virgilio: Oh yes, the best in life is working with the sun! When you speak to the sun rays, you are speaking to God. God is the sun. Again, one cannot do bad things or charge for services: You see, If I go to a curandero because my child is sick, and I have 1000.00 pesos in my pocket. If he charges me 800.00 for any service, as I return home I have two problems now.  I still have a sick child and only 200.00 to buy my family food. This is bad! Note” Virgilio seems very concerned about not receiving money for his services.  We made note of that and gifted his wife instead.

 NMAI: Do you work with the moon?

 Virgilio:  Well, If I am going to help someone, Id like to help them before they are in need, but if there is an emergency then I ask the lord to intervene. Note: Virgilio does not seem to understand the question or is being coy.

But if there is an emergency then I ask god to put in my hands some plant or flower to help. Curanderos pat themselves on the chest and say YES I CAN HELP, but only god can do that!

 NMAI: What can you tell us specifically about the moon?

 Virgilio: Well the moon and I are old friends. You know why? Because the moon goes into everything, into in our food, did you know that. Want to hear how? The Moon like the Sun is LIFE. The moon is a secret. I cannot share with you the secrets of the moon.

 NMAI: Is the Earth a male or a female?

 Virgilio: See, I do not know much about the earth, if it is  a male or female……I cannot speak on things I do not know. As I told you earlier. All I know is that she is under my feet and she feeds us.

 NMAI: So do you ask the earth for things?

 Virgilio: OH but of course! If you work the land you must ask her for permission!

 NMAI: Ah but you keep referring to her as a woman!

 Virgilio: but of course, we are nothing but dust from the earth, and we return to her. Then yes she is a woman, we come from her and return to her. I call it her, because only women create. All men do is make a mess, women are creators. See if a man has millions of dollars, but no woman, he is not a real man. Man does not reproduce, only women. I love women, men only destroy things (Laughs). I do not condone violence to women. Men who rape women should be killed or give him some of the same! Women give, men waste!


When Balaguer (Ex President) was alive, he visited my brother in Maguana, he believed in Papa Liborio, unlike the current government….

NMAI: Returning to agriculture- when an animal is sick a cow or bull, have you heard on how it is cured. Have you heard of Rasto? For example when an animal has bichos? (native name for a type of bug) NOTE: At this point, Jose Barreiro describes the Cuban way of the Rastro, particularly found among the Indians of the Rojas-Ramirez family

Virgilio: I have not heard Rasto, but we do make some medicines for the animal.

NMAI: What about through prayer?

Virgilio: Well if it is gusano (another name for bug, probably Spanish) we do offer prayers.

NMAI: Who knows how to make those prayers

 Virgilio :There are many, I have never done that

 NMAI: And for curing beans/frijoles?

 Virgilio: Well if you have bicho eating them they make a prayer in 3 corners of the field and leave one corner open. We call that ENSALMA

 NMAI AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH that’s it, that is RASTO! Like in Cuba!

 NMAI Camera person, Ivel Cenac, recounts how a curandero helped her sisters by cutting off a tuft of hair, and then offered prayers, but he did not charge either.

 Virgilio: Well that’s not good, because although he did not charge, he did keep some of her hair. Im sure it is nothing, but one has to be careful with things like this….......


On the last day of interviews, we came across a woman in the City of Santiago de los Caballeros in the Central Cibao region, who not only follows the 21 Division, but also Agua Dulce proper.