Place Where the Gods Pee

About six miles out of Moyogalpa, one can find a tranquil emerald-green pond called Charco Verde.  The lagoon is an extinct parasite crater of Concepcion Volcano. Steeped in legends and mystery, Charco Verde was a sacred spot for the Nahuatl ancestors, where the indigenous population practiced rituals such as sacrifices, reincarnations, and supplications to the gods. The algae infested lagoon was called Xistletoet by the Nahuatls, which means “Place Where the Gods Pee.” They did have a sense of humor!

Today, Charco Verde is a protected nature reserve where many varieties of local and migratory birds congregate, as well as Howler monkeys, armadillos, rabbits, and deer. Walking the well-maintained trails through the dry tropical forest that surrounds the reserve, we encountered herons, monkeys, cormorants, egrets, woodpeckers, magpies, and a variety of tropical plants and trees.

Fishermen cast their nets daily.

IMG_5597Gardens display duendes, sort of like mischievous little gnomes or leprechauns hidden among the foliage.

IMG_4453Map of the 1.7 kilometer trails through the reserve.

IMG_1807Majestic Concepcion volcano casts its enormous shadow into the green lagoon.

IMG_1801Herons and Egrets wait patiently for breakfast.

IMG_1792Zapolotes or buzzards circle the lagoon, always picking the ripest morsels of flesh.

IMG_5600This tranquil lagoon has a history of magic and witchcraft. Read the Legend of Chico Largo here.

IMG_1805The Howler monkeys take daily siestas in the tree tops. This little one says, “Who’s there?”

IMG_1788Cowboys herd their stray cattle back home. Who knows? This cow may be the cowboy’s father who made a pact with the devil. Legend has it that one can call forth the devil in Charco Verde, trade one’s soul for riches, and when the devil recalls the soul, he turns the deceased into a cow. Our local butcher says he found several cows with gold teeth.

IMG_1796No need to be petrified about these legends. Life in Charco Verde is abundant and full of vitality. Next time you are wandering around the lagoon, watch out for the cows. It could be a deceased relative.


The Legend of El Chupacabra

El Cupacabra and El Duende

Legends of bloodsucking creatures are present all over the world and throughout history. Seven years ago, I read in La Prensa that a young man was lost on Vulcan Concepcion. He had attempted to climb the volcano without a guide and was ill-prepared for the dangerous trek. Those foolish enough to scale the 1610 meter slopes without assistance are usually seriously wounded, lost, or as in the case of the 24-year-old Salvadoran, eaten by El Cupacabra.

My English students told me that the guides found his body a week later.  His head was wedged between two rocks, his leg was broken, and an arm was missing.  Luvis pounded her fist on my plastic table when she heard the news and emphatically stated, “It was the Chupacabra.”  “What in the world is a Chupacabra?”  I asked curiously.  They all looked at me astounded because I had never heard of the creature.

“The Chupa Cabra is all over the world,” Francisco informed me. They began arguing when I asked for a description of the monster.  One of my students said he was half goat, half man.  The other said he could fly and was probably an alien.  Luvis described him with fierce, pointy teeth and an amazing ability to jump from volcano to volcano.  Francisco said he only sucked the blood from goats.  Luvis said, “No, he eats many people on the volcano because that’s where he lives.”  They all agreed that the monster was dangerous and called him “The goat sucker.”

What I did learn to be fact throughout this strange conversation is that the islanders are very superstitious people.  They attribute any unexplained death or illness to creatures such as duendes, women that turn into monkeys, monsters that leave the dark lake bed at night in search of blood, and the famous Chupacabra.

Halloween is coming.  The children don’t celebrate Halloween in La Paloma.  Seven years ago, it was different.  We taught Luvis and Julio how to say “trick or treat” and helped them make masks.

Luvis was a duende and Julio was the Chupacabra.  We taught them to knock on our door on Halloween and say, “trick or treat.”  We were undecided whether to treat them or trick them, so we did both.  We stocked up on cajeta de leche (sort of like fudge) and Ron made no bake chocolate cookies with oatmeal. I dressed up like a fairy ( I even made a tin foil wand) and Ron dressed up as a monkey with a machete.

I asked Ron if we should teach all of the little ones that came to our house for English lessons, about 20 of them, about Halloween and invite them to our house for trick or treating.  But, thanks to Julio and Luvis, we had a better understanding of the superstitions surrounding our community,and we decided it wasn’t a good idea.  Our house was the good luck house in the neighborhood.  Who knew what the parents might think if we told them to wear scary masks and come to our house for candy.  We may have ruined our good reputation in La Paloma.  So, it was only Luvis and Julio that came.

Now that Halloween is approaching again, we decided to forgo the annual pagan tradition. After all, our house is still considered the good luck house in the neighborhood. We have a reputation to keep up. But, I do miss all the fun surrounding Halloween, so I’m thinking of making a poster to hang on our front door:

Wanted: El Chupacabra

Name:         El Chupacabra
Nickname:  The goat sucker
Height:        4.5 to 5.5 feet
Weight:       Unknown
Eyes:          Very large, very red
Build:          half goat-half man, very agile, can hop from one volcano to  another, fierce pointy teeth
Likes:         goats, blood, people, chickens, pigs, dogs, cats, travel
Favorite hangouts:  The volcanoes on Ometepe Island
Reward:     Come to our house on October 31st and receive a piece of candy for any sightings or known whereabouts of El Chupacabra.