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Traditions and Legends
The Caribbean Sea was overrun by pirates who showed a special preference for the Cuban shores. They would attack huge ships and those used for coastal sailing. In addition, they would disembark in the island and loot towns, properties and estates. They would even attack the important villages of Havana and Santiago de Cuba, as well as other important towns.
That time and the island´s scarce defenses were ideal for such outrageousness. Despite the risks, to “work” as a pirate was very rewarding business. Spain did not have enough ships to run after the pirates and they had save shelters in the Caribbean isles and keys.
The port of Jagua was very visited by the pirates from Caiman. The port´s huge size - 56 squared miles- were ideal for such visits, which were not pleasant at all for those living in the area. The pirates would easily penetrate inside the bay and remain hidden in the numerous coves of the bay as long as they wanted. Then, convinced of their superiority in numbers they would attack nearby houses and estates, taking the local inhabitants as prisoners to ask for ransom money.
In order to prevent such attacks a castle was planned to be built in 1682 but it was not until 1742 when the Works began. So, in the west bank of the bay where the entrance channel creates a turn, the "Castillo de Nuestra Señora de los Angeles" or just "Castillo de Jagua" was built.
The construction of the castle was directed by the military engineer Don José Tantete and it was not finished until 1745. The castle was originally given ten cannons having different gauge, assuming that this was enough to frighten the pirates off. But this was not enough. The pirates had small ships and could penetrate into the bay by using another path: the Arimao river had two mouths, one lead directly to the sea and the other one to the Guanaroca lagoon and to the bay. The mouth connecting the river with the bay was known as "Derramadero de las Auras" and it was the one used by the pirates to penetrate into the bay.
And so, despite the castle and its cannons, the pirates continue to penetrate into the bay and acted up in the area. A paling had to be built in order to cut their way (there are still some remains of this construction). The paling would cover the "Derramadero de las auras", so the bay could be saved from the “visits” made by the pirates.
The castle gained a reputation as a very good fortress occupying the third position in Cuba after the main castles from Havana and Santiago de Cuba. Nowadays, these three castles have a historical value as national monuments.
Before we enter into the legend it is time tos ay that the castle´s first Commander was Don Juan Castilla Cabeza de Vaca. There is no evidence poiting that he was a descendant from that famous Cabeza de Vaca, a pioneer, explorer and conqueror. However there is evidence that his wife Doña Leonor de Cárdenas was buried at the castle´s chapel and ten years later was buried the castle´s first chaplain, Don Martín Olivera.
Castilla appart from being a military man was a business and a very enterpriser man. He supported the construction of the first sugar mill in Jagua, to be established at the "Caunao" estate, located just one league from the bay. The sugar mill was given the name "Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria", later the sugar mill was inherited by Doña Antonia Guerrero. This lady was later the wife of Don Agustín Santa Cruz, the man that donated the lands for building the city of Cienfuegos.
And following the legend, full of mirages but always pleasant and amusing we will discover more about the castle. This construction although recent has several stories and legends, which appeared during the night social gatherings of the locals and which were transmitted from one generation to the next.
According to those traditions, during the first years of the castle late at night when sentinels were nodding, when there was just silence in the lands surrounding the castle. When the town next to the castle -made by fishermen- was sleeping, when quietness would reign along with the most extreme solitude only perturbed by the monotonous rhythm of the waves and the moon in the highest point of the sky would lavishly shine, then, an unknown bird, a huge and bizarre bird covered with white feathers would fly towards to castle while emitting a terrible croak.
Like responding to the bird´s call a ghost with the shape of a woman would come out from the fortress´ chapel –or better to say, that it would come out from the walls- the ghost would leak out the walls. She was tall, elegant, dressed in blue and covered with emerald and pearls. She would wear a subtle veil, transparent, which would float in the air after stroll over the castle´s outer walls and merlons, then she would disappear like dissolved by the air.
This fantastic vision would repeat every night and produced a natural fear among the soldiers that watch the castle, although the were all veterans that had fought in several battles and that could not be considered to be cowards. However, those men would not dare to face the ghost and the fear to the blue lady was so huge that they refused to do their night watch.
There was a young second lieutenant, who had recently come and did not believed in ghosts. He was determined to erase all these beliefs, considering that they were just the product of the imagination. The second lieutenant laughed at the fear of the soldiers and one night he decided to do a watch. The soldiers went to their rooms and the second lieutenant remained alone at the castle´s walls with no other weapon than his sword
The night was beautiful. The stars would shine over the sky, and their lights would be diminished by the moon. The calmed sea whispered the eternal song of the waves. The sleeping land would remain quiet and silent. There was a huge calm. The reckless second lieutenant walked while thinking about his wife, who was in a faraway land. Suddenly he heard the penetrating croak by the strange bird. In that same moment the castle´s clock marked midnight.
The second lieutenant raised the head and watched the strange bird describing huge circles over the fortress. And from the chapel´s walls raised the ghost which the soldiers would call the Blue Lady, due to her dress. The second lieutenant felt that his heart would stopped, but he dominated his fear and walked straight to the ghost.
What happened between the Blue Lady and the second lieutenant? We do not know. The most important part of this story remains in the mystery. But we can say, in order to satisfy the reader´s curiosity that during the morning the soldiers found the second lieutenant unconscious, over the floor and next to his there was a skeleton, a blue dress and his sword cut into two pieces.
Don Gonzalo, the second lieutenant, finally woke up but he had driven mad so he had to be taken to an asylum. In his strange madness he would see a ghost and he would fight against it in vain. The ghost would vanish and then would appear again, so the cycle continued.
Regarding the ghost the legend remains in silence. We do not know if the ghost is a lady that was punished for the eternity to live in the walls of the castle or if it is just a story created by the tropical fantasies.
And there is still the believe that the Blue Lady appears in the castle and the nearby lands. Walking every night.
(Taken from the book: "Tradiciones y leyendas de Cienfuegos", by Adrián del Valle, 1919.)
Translated by: Osmany Ortiz González (Azurina)