Sirena

The legend of Sirena as told by Daddoo:

“Back when the Spanish were still all over the island, there was a girl who lived near where the Hagåtña River meets the ocean.  This girl loved the water more than anything else, more than food, more than her family, more than anything, and she would swim whenever she could, often avoiding her chores and her parents so she could go down to the river and swim.

“One day, the girl’s mother told her to go out and fetch coconut shells.  It was a beautiful day and the waters were very calm, so instead of doing as her mother asked, the girl ran down to the river and swam the entire day away.  It grew late, and her mother took a friend – who happened to be the girl’s godmother – with her to go and look for the girl; the two women walked up and down, calling the child’s name, but the girl was enjoying herself too much, dipping and diving in and out of the water, to hear or respond.  The mother, knowing what must have happened, said in anger, ‘That child should become a fish, she loves the water so much!’ but the godmother, fearing the power of such a curse, quickly added, ‘But leave untouched the part of her that belongs to me!’

“After these words were spoken, the girl – still swimming around in the river – immediately found that her entire bottom half had transformed into a fish’s tail!  Once her mother found her out by the beach, she regretted what she had said, the curse she had laid on her own daughter, but it could not be undone.  So, the girl said goodbye to her family and friends and swam out to the deep ocean.”

Behind the Legend…

Well, there’s not a whole lot of contemporary documentation about who this specific girl might have been – nor is there a lot of likelihood that some poor Guamanian child actually turned into a mermaid.  But the name given to her – La Sirena – is indeed Spanish, translating as “mermaid” (or, more accurately “siren”), so the story probably did originate during the Spanish occupation of Guam.

The modern Minondo (Hagåtña River) is quite a bit different from the river that existed during the occupation of the Spanish; the current river and surrounding land is the result of hundreds of years of diking, ditches, and debris from the American bombardment in WWII.  The channel has been artificially lengthened (and about a mile of it has been turned to run parallel to the coastline).  The Hagåtña River that spawned the above legend had two mouths rather than one, and across from the original channel, between the beach and the river itself, was an island-like area which was actually used by San Vitores for his original settlement.  The primary outflow of the original river was near the modern-day Hagåtña Boat Basin, while the secondary outflow was further west, in Anigua.

As an added aside, coconut shells were quite commonly used in place of coals or wood when cooking and heating water or rooms.  They are less expensive, sustainable, and more environmentally friendly than either wood or coal, not to mention that they burn longer than both.  In fact, I believe Cambodia either has phased out or is in the processing of phasing out the use of coal entirely and replacing it with coconut shells.  Delicious, nutritious, and handy-dandy down to the tufts of their little shelly-shells-shells.


All sources of historical information are listed here:  Chamorrknow.  The above legend was recorded as it was told to me by my Daddoo.

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