Traditions and Legends

The Black Venus

Ten years after being founded by De Clouet ,the colony of "Fernandina de Jagua" and later, city of Cienfuegos, title given to it by Don Fernando VII by the grace of God, King of Castile, for being the most suitable suitable place of that population, and to perpetuate in the colony itself the name of the General Captain of the Island Don José Cienfuegos, author and protector of the so-called settlement, etc ".

That group of settlers chosen to encourage the population of the coast of the wide expanse and splendid Bay of Jagua once being established, built their huts and started to cultivate the land, began to travel though the bay, either as a way of recreation or by the natural desire to know how much they could find useful regarding fishing and hunting products by such huge bay which could be compared to that of Nipe, Cuba´s largest bay. They visited its capes, keys, and swamps and sailed up its rivers feeling admired for the placed they came to populate. They were certainly not the first settlers.

Before them, there were entire generations of Siboney aboriginals whom disappeared after the Spanish colonization that didn´t respect the culture and traditions of those simple people who were not used to hard labor. As a primitive race, its disappearance left no more trace than the memory of their customs, language and traditions.

One of the first keys to be visited by the new settlers, was called Cayo Loco, also called Cayo Güije, located within the port itself. It is assumed that the key was formed by land and plant sediments dragged by flooding and rivers, the sea and winds. Such is at least its formation explained by science. The explanation by the Siboney people was very different.

If the reader remembers the legend of Guanaroca. Hamoao, the first man, jealousy imprisoned his son Imo or Imao within a guiro, which he hung from a tree. When the mother, Guanaroca, the first woman discovered the guiro, it fell from her hands, and several fish and turtles came out of it. The fish turned into the rivers and the biggest turtle became the Majagua peninsula and the others became the rest of the keys. The sea turtle while fighting a great fish or marine monster lost a foot and became the “Cayo Loco” key. Between the geological and mythological explanation, the reader is free to choose the one that best suits his/her taste and preference.

A surprise was reserved for the settlers when they first visited Cayo Loco. They found a black woman there, still young, with no more dress than her body. She had perfect shape and was perfect for any artist to make an sculpture out of her.

Such was the aesthetic effect caused among those settlers who called her the “Black Venus” and “Ebony beauty” but the first was better known. The woman ran when she saw the new settlers, not because she was embarrassed for being naked but because she was afraid of them. They run after her and caught her, but she remained in silence saying no word to them. They immediately thought she didn´t understand their language, but later they realize she could not speak because she was mute.

Although she was the only inhabitant of this key, and had no need of pleasing no one, but herself, she adorned her splendid nudity – as any woman - with necklaces and bracelets made up of strings of seeds vines and trees and sea shells. We have said that she lived alone and this fact is not so precise thought because she lived with two birds, one white and another one white, domesticated, in such a way that they accompanied her everywhere, and the first was her opening bird. And it was a curious thing to see the graceful bird shaking its wings by stretching their and put their peak in the mouth of their mistress, with a silent stroke.

One of the settlers moved by compassion brought her to his house, gave her food and clothes. The man thought that as a reward for his compassionate act, the beautiful black woman would be willing to do the work he ordered; something very common in those who make favour waiting for a reward.

The Black Venus, who was born to live free and unhindered in nature, when she saw herself captive, and being unable to speak, made a protest with facts which is the clearest way. She would be huddled in every corner, hours and hours, passively denied to rise, work and eat.

The days passed, getting thinner alarmingly, and fearing to perish of hunger, the settler took her back to Cayo Loco, to continue living there in freedom, in the company of his faithful and winged companions, feeding on wild fruits, birds, crabs, oysters, clams and other seafood supplied by the beach.

No matter how many times people from the city tried to take her to civilized life, giving her shelter and clothes she would refuse eating and working, so they ended up by not bothering her, so she lived alone at the lonely key as its queen having two single subjects: a blue and a white bird.

The Black Venus is not one of those legendary characters, created by popular fantasy. The Black Venus was real, and her existence is certified by Don Pedro Modesto Hernandez, one of the settlers of the city and whom information and data have been of paramount importance for publishing this legend.

Don Pedro Modesto reminded that back in 1876, when he was a child, one afternoon while a large military convoy was evicting, an old black woman quietly entered into his house. Her hair looked like a huge cotton speck. She was completely naked, wearing only a necklace of blue, red and white beads.

The relatives of Don Fernando, dressed her although she refused and she had to be dressed by force. She was given food, although she refused seasoned food and preferred fruits and raw vegetables and roots like manioc or sweet potato. They gave her shelter, but the next day they just found the dress.

She only took a great beaded necklace, a garment she considered to be worthy of her body. The woman was the Black Venus, whom the years had stripped of her youthful beauty. It was the last time she was seen. She mysteriously disappeared and no one else had news of her anymore. Today the Black Venus has become a character of legend, who played the mute protest against the slavery of the black people.

It is also the affirmation of those who love freedom and does not fit the constraints of civilization. The popular fantasies, always poetic and creative said that the Black Venus, on moonless nights, and preferably in the rain which is safer for solitude and silence, leaves her unknown refuge and roams the abandoned streets and yards, bringing comfort to the helpless and sleep to those who suffer.

(Taken from the book: "Traditions and legends of Cienfuegos" by Adrian del Valle, 1919)