Princess Oyanka

Legend of Princess Oyanka

It was about the year 1550 in the Valley of Sebaco, in the Spanish province of Nicaragua, whose name in nahuatl “Cihuacuatl” means Serpent Woman, a nation of Matagalpa Indians under the leadership of the cacique Yamboa lived.

Among the animals they hunted for food were the turkey, quail, agouti, guardatinaja (a species of agouti particular to Nicaragua) and deer. Insofar as metals were concerned, they obtained and worked with gold, given its malleability and beauty. They had discovered deposits of this precious metal in a cave in the mountains north of their settlement. It is believed that this cave was connected one cave on the shore of Rio Grande with a cave near Esteli. They jealously guarded this secret, especially when they became aware that the Spaniards were looking for gold with unrestrained ambition.

When incursions of soldiers under the Spanish crown began arriving, the “Cacique” (chieftain) cordially received them. Meanwhile, the Spaniards discovered that some female relatives of the Cacique displayed necklaces containing gold nuggets the size of tamarind seeds. Soon, they obtained some small nuggets through flattery and others by trading flashy cloth and other objects, such as iron knives.

The Cacique offered gifts of gold nuggets to the Spanish king; the legend speaks of several leather bags of full of gold nuggets. For this reason, they are referred to as royal tamarinds. This gift only resulted in awakening the ambition of the conquistadores, who arrived more aggressively the next time and erected a protective shelter or garrison for the soldiers very near the Indian settlement. The Indians resented being forced to hand over the gold. This resulted in some skirmishes and deaths on both sides.

Meanwhile, in Cordoba, Spain, there lived a family whose father, Joseph Lopes de Cantarero, a lieutenant in the Spanish Armada, had been sent to a Nicaraguan province and had been reported killed in a region called Cihuacoatl in combat with the Indians living in that area. The news arrived several months later to the peninsula. When his widow, Mar’a Tinoco de Alburquerque, received the notification, their son, Jose, was a mere thirteen years old. She could not foresee a future for him with the loss of his father’s salary. She made the decision to take her son to a Franciscan monastery that was near their house. She spoke with Fray Domingo Caceres and succeeded in having Jose admitted to the monastery to study with hopes that he would eventual become a priest.

Jose was both congenial and smart. During these years, he learned Latin, Geography, History, Public Speaking, Holy Scripture and Theology. With only a few months left prior to his ordination, the anxious youth decided that the priesthood was not his vocation. He was ambitious. He wanted to go to the place where his father had died and seek out adventures in that mysterious land, known at that time as the West Indies.
He remembered that when he was little, his mother had taken him to the port of Cadiz to leave messages for his father there when he was serving the crown in America. Now that he was nineteen years old, he took advantage of an authorized visit to his mother to confess to her that he would not return to the monastery and that he wanted to do something of which he always dreamed. It would require several changes of direction and many years before there would be news of him being a successful man. His mother cried, but finally blessed him and sent him on his way.

He collected more information about his father and instead of returning to the monastery, he went to the port of Cadiz. There, he sought out a boat going to America. He found one traveling to Cartagena of the Indies and convinced the captain that he was a friar who could offer religious services to the crew, as well as the Lord’s protection during the voyage.

Jose embarked towards the New World. Arriving in Cartagena of the Indies, he waited two weeks before catching another boat to a small port called David. He crossed the Darien isthmus en route towards Panama. There, he took another boat going to the port of la Posesi-n de El Realejo, in the small province of Nicaragua. Arriving in Leon, he stayed there for a few months. There, he left behind the priesthood and celebrated his twentieth birthday.

He inquired about enlisting as a clerk for the garrison coming to Sebaco. He found one that was coming from Muimui and enlisted with them. He arrived in Sebaco and asked permission to remain since it was one of the most important ports [during the rainy season].

After having situated himself and investigating the history and local conditions, he found out that his father, Lieutenant Joseph Lopes de Cantarero, had died because a captain of the name of Alonso had snatched pieces of gold from some of the Indian women. The Indians retaliated by killing some of the soldiers that the captain had ordered to protect him. It was this ambitious captain that compromised his troops, resulting in the loss of the lieutenant and several soldiers. Jose investigated this captain’s fate and found that he had previously perished in attempting to forcefully discover the sources of the gold.

In the meantime, Jose tried to befriend those close to the Cacique. Being an astute and educated youth, he found a way to become acquainted with the Cacique’s daughter, Oyanka. He spent several months trying to establish this relationship, to learn the language of the Matagalpa Indians and to teach her Spanish.

As both were young and charming, they fell in love. She was seventeen, with bronze skin, amber eyes, fine-featured, sexy and had beautiful, long hair. He fell for her, the first woman in his life, but did not ignore his intention to get rich. Conversing with her, he succeeded under an oath of secrecy, to get her to take him to the place where her father extracted the tamarinds of gold.

Without letting anyone know, Jose and Oyanka walked two hours from the settlement at Sebaco towards the mountains in the vicinity of Esteli. Three leagues to the north of the community, there was a secret and hidden cave. Jose and Oyanka entered the forbidden cave with a lit ocote pine torch. Startled by the light, bats streamed out and abundant snakes slithered to safety.

Jose could see a vein of quartz before him in which were embedded big lumps of the precious metal. He could not believe it. They were within arm’s reach. With little effort, he dislodged what seemed to be big golden buttons he size of tamarind seeds. He placed seven of them in his sack and thanked his girlfriend. They admired the beautiful scenery of the valley and the setting of the sun in the western mountains and returned late to the village.

Meanwhile, Oyanka’s father inquired about his daughter’s whereabouts. Upon receiving the information about which direction they had taken, he figured that they had headed toward the secret cave. Sorrowful, he ordered the capture of the pair and imprisoned the young princess. He could not eliminate Jose for fear of the soldiers quartered in Metapa. Learning of an incursion of the Yarince Indians of the Caribe race, who tended to attack at night to carry off Spanish women and children, he sent a message to the Yarinces that if they would not attack his people, he would send them gold nuggets and a young Spanish man of high ranking whose ransom they could negotiate in the future with the Spanish crown in Cartagena of the Indies from whence arose the incursions of the Caribes. He sent out an advance party of Matagalpa Indians to meet with them near Mui Mui and made the treaty.

In this fashion, he was able to rid himself of his daughter’s boyfriend without the necessity of doing him in. Oyanka, deprived of liberty and learning that her beloved had been sent away, became depressed to the point where she no longer wanted to eat. Her distressed father tried to convince her, but the lovesick young woman told him that she could not live without Jose and that she would fall into a deep sleep which according to her, she would not awaken from until her father returned her beloved to her.

It could not be avoided. At first, a pensive Oyanka laid down with eyes opened. After a few weeks, she fell into a profound sleep that was not death itself, since her body did not undergo decay; a sleep from which only her lover could awaken her.

Four hundred years later, Oyanka has been transformed into stone and can be seen from her village of Sebaco, El Guayabal (San Isidro), La Trinidad, Chaguitillo, Carreta Quebrada and by generations that will come in the future, perennially…and perhaps for an eternity.


How to see Oyanka

Travelling on the asphalt highway from Sebaco to Matagalpa. A little bit before crossing the Sebaco bridge, or at the beginning of the highway to San Isidro, in the northwest horizon you can see the Oyanka hill. In the background to the right is the Mocuana hill. But if we continue to the right towards the highway to Matagalpa, in the profile of the hills to the north, you can see the silhouette of the princess laying down on her back, her beautiful head with long hair, bare breasted, a leg slightly raised, the other leg and her arms resting on the hill, and her young abdomen slightly pronounced. With child?

How to awaken her

Look for a young man with brown hair and honey-colored eyes, of some eight and a half spans in height, slim, but athletic. They say he escaped to the Caribes on the Antilles Coast and he wanders in search of his beloved, whose love endures more than gold.

Eddy Kühl
Selva Negra, Nicaragua

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