La India Dormida – A Panamanian Legend

“The youngest daughter of the chief of the native Guaymies tribe was a warrior girl. She was a simple girl who fought against the Spanish invaders. And then, she fell in love with one of the Spanish guys. So she left the tribe to visit him one day and one of the warriors of her tribe who loved her, knowing that his love was not going to be returned, killed himself by throwing himself from the top of a mountain. And then, the daughter of the chief tried not to betray her tribe, so she said no to the love of the Spanish soldier, and while crying, she got lost in the forest and laid down and died. Where she laid down and died became the mountain we know today. It is named after her and looks like her as well.”

According to the informant, the La India Dormida (translates to The Sleeping Native Woman) story is meant to explain how a famous mountain received its shape and name. It is intended to be a tragedy, as the young woman in the story was forced to abandon her true love and eventually ended up dying alone. The mountain is nearby an important highway in Panama, so many Panamanians see it often and are quite familiar with it.

The informant, Jonathan Castro, is a 21-year-old student from Panama. Because until recently, he had spent his entrie life in Panama, he believes that he is well informed in Panamanian folklore. Jonathan explains that because he drove by the mountain so many times as a child, his curiousity about it eventually compelled him to ask his mother about it during a car ride. It is then that she told him the story of the mountain and the tragedy behind it. To Jonathan, the story is a peek into what life was like for the native Panamanians during the Spanish invasion. It was clearly a difficult period for them, and this story only reflects their hardship.

In the United States, it is uncommon for the general public to hear tradtional creation stories about how our nation’s natural formations were made. This contrasts drastically from Panama, where stories like this are much more common. Although it is difficult to say why this difference exists, a likely explanation concerns the American emphasis on science and the reasoning derived from it. The average American would probably look at the mountain and try to find a scientific reason for why the mountain is shaped in such an interesting way. This doesn’t appear to be the case in Panama, however, as people seem to have the need to have an explanation for the shape that comes in narrative form.