The Legend of Yacuruna
By Mike Collis

Here in Amazonia the local people believe many myths, legends and stories, one of them is the Yacuruna. In Quechua the word translates into Yacu meaning "water" and Runa meaning "man". So Yacuruna is a water man.

It is said that the Yacurunas live in beautiful underwater cities normally close to the confluence of two rivers. These cities are like the reflection of human cities. In the Yacuruna cities there are crystal palaces with beautiful coloured walls made of pearl and fish scales. The Yacuruna have a leasurely lifestyle and recline in hammocks made of feathers, their chairs are turtles and their canoes are alligators.

Descriptions of the Yacuruna vary but it is said they are hairy, have an alligators body, back to front heads and deformed feet. Yacuruna is always accompanied by a serpent and many say that he rides an alligator, always at night. He also has the capacity to transform himself into an attractive young man or a pink dolphin to charm his victims into going with him. When he locates a victim he also uses aphrodisiacs to help him take her back to his underwater palace. When local people disappear without trace it is always the Yacuruna that gets the blame. After a while the captives of the Yacuruna start to look like their capturers with their back to front heads and feet, transforming them into Yacurunas too. This process can never be reversed. After long nights riding alligators and abducting women and girls the Yacuruna return to their underwater palaces and sleep, always with one eye open.

One story tells of a young girl who was captured by the Yacuruna while she was swimming, the Yacuruna had actually transformed himself into a pink dolphin to lure her. She was then dragged under the water and disappeared. In this case she reappeared a year later but in the form of a mermaid. While she was held captive she married a Yacuruna and learned to become a healer. Yacuruna are said to be able to heal sick people. When someone is sick the village shaman often calls to the Yacuruna for his assistance in the healing process.

Julio Cesar Lopez (pictured above) is a man from the jungle and belongs to the San Juan Artesians Association. Julio gave life to this legend and often dresses up as Yacuruna. He goes around Iquitos scaring everyone! He wants to remind everyone not to forget the history of the Amazon and to keep the traditions, myths and legends of the Amazon Jungle alive.

So if you happen to bump into Yacuruna, just say, "Hola!", it just might be good old Julio.
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