Guanina was a Taino Indian princess in love with Don Cristobal de Sotomayor, a Spanish officer who had come to Boriquen to conquer and colonize. Her brother, Guaybana, was the principal chief of the Tainos who hated the Spaniards because of the way they had mistreated and betrayed the Tainos. He swore revenge against the Spaniards. Juan Gonzalez, Sotomayor’s aide, found out about the plan to kill his captain and tried to warn him. Sotomayor would not hear of the planned uprising. He sent for Guaybana and for some of his men to carry his baggage, since he was going to Caparra, the capital.
Guanina begged him not to go because she knew that he was going to die and that it would be her own brother who would kill him. Sotomayor did not change his plans, and the next morning set out with Guaybana and his men to the city. On the way, he and five other Spaniards were attacked by the Tainos, and Sotomayor was killed. When Guanina was given the news of her lover’s death, she tried to bring him back to life through her kisses and caresses.
The Taino elders considered Guanina a traitor, and decided to offer her as a sacrifice to the gods as a sign of their gratitude in succeeding in their attack. When they went to get Guanina, they found her dead with her head resting on Sotomayor’s bloody chest. The two were buried together near a giant
tree and on their tomb red hibiscus and white lilies appeared as if by magic. These flowers represent the true and passionate love these two souls felt for each other. The legend has it that on occasion, the huge ceiba tree casts a shadow over the land, a soft breeze gently moves the leaves and whispering sounds are heard, then Guanina and Sotomayor come out of the tomb to look at the evening star and kiss each other under the light of the moon.
Sotomayor’s actual death took place in the year 1511. The original retelling by Cayetano Coll y Toste was written in the style of the early nineteenth century with words which would be difficult to understand today by many adults and children. Jose Ramirez Rivera has translated twelve of these legends into English and rewritten the Spanish versions so that students may be able to read and understand these stories easier. His
Puerto Rican Tales
) are modern versions of tales from the colonial times.
In analyzing this tale, some research needs to be done in preparation for the actual reading. Information on the Tainos as recorded by the Spaniards; the reasons for further explorations by Colon; how the Tainos felt about the Spaniards when they first arrived on Boriquen; and, why the Indians rebelled against the invaders.