Santa Elena Myths & Legends

As promised, I translated a few popular legends and myths from Santa Elena Peninsula, Ecuador. I interviewed my grandmother who lived in la comuna when she was a little girl. I also interviewed my mother who partially lived in la comuna and visited her relatives in from time to time. These stories, along with a few more I found on the internet, reflect the culture and tradition of the Wankavilka people in 90+ comunas throughout Santa Elena Peninsula. Happy Halloween!

How We Buried the Dead

In 1940, in La Hueca (Libertad), the dead used to be buried the way our ancestors taught us. When a person died, the comuneros cried and sang the songs the deceased used to listen to in his or her waking life. Before burying the dead, the comuneros would tie the body on a wooden board and take the deceased for a last walk around the village. One of the relatives was in charge of taking his/her hand and wave it goodbye to all the places the deceased visited in his or her waking life. When that was done, they would bury the deceased with his or her belongings in the cemetery. The tradition stopped as soon as the State assigned an Inspector who observed the event and considered it savage and unhygienic.


Tin-Tin, the Enchanted Dwarf

Tin-Tin is an enchanted dwarf that comuneros and montubios fear throughout the Ecuadorian coast. It is said that Tin-Tin is the son of Wankavilka God Puna. Tin-Tin is as small as two feet, his feet face backwards, he wears a large red hat, and his reproductive organs are supernaturally huge for his disposition. At midnight, he walks in the forest in search of beautiful married women. Tin-Tin carries a huge magnet and puts it under the victim’s house to make everyone fall asleep. Then, he hypnotizes his prey, takes her out in the countryside, and seduces her. When she wakes up, she has bruises all over her body. If her husband sees Tin-Tin seducing his wife, he cannot interrupt the enchanted act for he could kill his own wife with a simple wake-up call.

She gets pregnant and bears a child of Tin-Tin. But the baby almost never survives because it is born without bones in the body. The comuneros pray together, take the body to the nearest tree, and hang it as a sign of good fortune for the year to come.

Sometimes, the baby lives and they become like their father Tin-Tin: a seducer, an enchanter, and a surreal mystical being in the community. My grandmother said she heard him whistle in her comuna when she was a little girl.


La Dama Tapada

She is dressed in black and wears a veil over her face. She is on the main road at midnight looking for someone to take her home. The drivers feel bad for her. So they offer her a ride. When she’s in the car, the driver talks nonstop about his life. Then, he gets curious and wants to see her face. La Dama Tapada unveils her face and he sees a skull. The great fear causes a car accident where the drivers dies on impact and she goes back to the main road to repeat it all over again.


El Buque Fantasma

In Playas, many people say that when you stare in the sea, sometimes you see a ship that travels far in the distance. As soon as you see it, the ship glows with bright lights and in that second, it disappears as if it were never there in the first place.


Mermaid on Good Friday

On Good Friday, Wankavilka Comuneros pray from dawn to dusk. They go to the nearest church to attend mass and pray the rosary in groups all day long. No one is allowed to set foot on the beach. No one is allowed to step in the sea because the first person who did it became a mermaid and swam away.

La Llorona

Her husband was a military officer who traveled in the sea from time to time. In his absence, she would visit her lover and make love. One day, she found out she was pregnant. As soon as her baby was born, she threw it in the ocean and her husband never found out. When she died, her soul went to the other world. The gods forbade her to enter unless she found her baby’s body on Earth. Ever since, she has been searching for her baby near the shores every day and night. Sometimes, she snatches the wrong kid who gets too close to the shore and drowns him or her by accident. To this day, she has not found her baby.


El Cerro de Muertos

It is said that there is a hill near El Morro where all of our ancestors are buried with their jewelry, and treasure. This hill resembles like a dead person lying on its back. In the night, Wankavilka comuneros hear a band of musicians play sad songs and sing sad words. Sometimes, if they get too close to you, a lightning would flash in front of your face and would implode your body from the shock. Wankavilka comuneros warn that if you see a donkey and if you ride on it, you will never find your way back to this world. This is the reason no one gets close to the sacred hill.


Posorja, The Wankavilka Princess

Before the Spanish Conquest, Wankavilka Indians  found a basket with a baby inside near present day Data de Villamil/Data de Posorja. The baby grew to be a beautiful woman with light skin, long black hair, and pencil thin. But she was known for her gift of foresight. With her gift, she guided her people in the right direction and gave the Wankavilka chiefs good medicine and advice. The Inca Emperor Huayna Capac heard of this beautiful woman andwanted to marry her. He visited her three times and she refused his offers. In the last visit, he asked, “What do you see of my people? What is stored for them in the future?” She said, “Your people will suffer a great deal in the coming centuries. I see a different people, lighter than us with hair on their face and armor on their body. They will arrive on our coast and conquer all the tribes in our continent. I see suffering, darkness, and destruction. I have told my last prophecy. Now it’s time for me to go.” She walked in the sea and a large wave took her in the depths of the ocean.


The Lovers of Sumpa

The first civilization in Santa Elena Peninsula was the Valdivia people. Back then, there was a princess who fell in love with a commoner. They loved each other, gave each other gifts, and shared beautiful times together. However, the chief did not find this appropriate. He said that a commoner could never be romantically involved with a princess in Valdivia society. He sent the commoner to work in the sea in hopes of ending the romance between them. However, this did no good to his daughter. She cried every night, lost her appetite, and hardly did anything productive in the day. One day, she ran away to the hills where no one could find her. By then, the commoner arrived back to his village and heard of the bad news. He went to the hills and found her on their love spot. She was weak, her mouth was dry, and she got to see him one last time before she died in his arms.

The chief ordered the village to attend the burial ceremony of his daughter. The commoner made a simple request in front of his brothers and sisters. He said he cannot live without her. He wanted to be buried with her. They were both buried with gifts, treasures, jewelry, and a coin in their hands for the toll to cross to the next life. The chief made a new rule: When there is love between two people, no one, including him, should interfere in spite of their class or social difference.

10,000 years later, archeologist found this burial site in Santa Elena Peninsula. These are  the Lovers of Sumpa.


The Devil’s Pact

A man named Emilio Estrada made a pact with the devil. At midnight, he met the devil near his house. His daughter saw him and they said he was white, blonde, and a handsome fellow. Emilio needed money to launch his business. The devil wanted his daughters for the exchange, but Emilio offered his soul. Throughout his life Emilio was a rich man. His business brought many goods to the family and fortune to the community. On his deathbed, the comuneros prayed for his soul in a local church. Then, all of a sudden, the lights went out during a storm. When the lights came right back in a second, all they found in the casket were pebbles. The devil took his soul as Emilio Estrada promised to offer in the first place.


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