March 27, 2021 • CULTURE

La Luz de Yara

Luz de Yara (“Light of Yara”) is perhaps one of the oldest and most popular legends that lives on throughout the eastern end of Cuba. It is a tale that every Cuban child grows up learning. This mysterious legend evokes Cuba's aboriginal past and centers around the life of the Taíno Cacique, Hatuey. Hatuey was originally from Hispaniola, where he led a sizable following in rebellion against Spanish oppression in the 16th Century. Hatuey and his followers were later forced to flee, heading to the Greater Antilles -- Cuba. They settled at the mouth of the Toa River in Baracoa -- a beautiful town on the Bay that was Cuba's first established city. In Cuba, Hatuey continued to rebel against the Spanish, staging several ambushes. Despite his valiant efforts, he was later captured and burnt at the stake in Yara on February 2, 1512. Legend has it that since Hatuey's death, a mysterious light can be seen wandering the fields of Yara. Locals say this is the soul of Hatuey. According to this ancient Cuban tale, his soul became light and he continues to wander through the fields to this day.

The story of Hatuey and La Luz de Yara has been passed down from generation to generation and is a permanent fixture in Cuban culture. Like most legends, the stories vary. Some describe Luz de Yara as a reflection resting on the ocean that later shatters into a thousand pieces. Others refer to it as a red lantern with an intensity that looks like the earth is burning. One fable says that if you grate a gold ring on the reefs, the light will appear to you. And the farmers from the many fishing villages of Baracoa have their own tales about their encounters. They will most likely tell you that when the light appears, the fish won't bite you.