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Juracán is the phonetic name given by the Spanish colonizers to the zemi or deity of chaos and disorder which the Taíno natives in Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, Jamaica, and Cuba, as well as the Island Caribs and Arawak natives elsewhere in the Caribbean, believed controlled the weather, particularly hurricanes (the latter word derives from the deity's name). Actually, the word "juracán" merely represented the storms per se, which according to Taíno mythology were spawned and controlled by the goddess Guabancex, also known as the "one whose fury destroys everything". The Taínos were aware of the spiraling wind pattern of hurricanes, a knowledge that they used when depicting the deity. Her zemi idol was said to depict a woman, but the most common depiction of Guabancex presents a furious face with her arms extended in a "~" pattern.[ citation needed ]

Zemi designated objects made ​​of wood, stone or shells

A zemi or cemi was a deity or ancestral spirit, and a sculptural object housing the spirit, among the Taíno people of the Caribbean. They were also created by indigenous South American cultures.

Puerto Rico Unincorporated territory of the United States

Puerto Rico, officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and briefly called Porto Rico, is an unincorporated territory of the United States located in the northeast Caribbean Sea, approximately 1,000 miles (1,600 km) southeast of Miami, Florida.

Hispaniola island in the Caribbean

Hispaniola is an island in the Caribbean island group known as the Greater Antilles. It is the second largest island in the Caribbean after Cuba, and the most populous island in the Caribbean; it is also the eleventh most populous island in the world.



From Juracán we derive the Spanish word huracán and eventually the English word hurricane. As the pronunciation varied across indigenous groups, many of the alternative names, as mentioned in the OED, included furacan, furican, haurachan, herycano, hurachano, hurricano, and so on.[ citation needed ]

The term made an early appearance in William Shakespeare's King Lear (Act 3, Scene 2) and in Troilus and Cressida (Act 5, Scene 2), in which Shakespeare gives the following definition:

William Shakespeare English playwright and poet

William Shakespeare was an English poet, playwright and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's greatest dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon". His extant works, including collaborations, consist of approximately 39 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses, some of uncertain authorship. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.

<i>King Lear</i> play by William Shakespeare

King Lear is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare. It depicts the gradual descent into madness of the title character, after he disposes of his kingdom by giving bequests to two of his three daughters egged on by their continual flattery, bringing tragic consequences for all. Derived from the legend of Leir of Britain, a mythological pre-Roman Celtic king, the play has been widely adapted for the stage and motion pictures, with the title role coveted by many of the world's most accomplished actors.

<i>Troilus and Cressida</i> play by Shakespeare

Troilus and Cressida is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1602. It was described by Frederick S. Boas as one of Shakespeare's problem plays. The play ends on a very bleak note with the death of the noble Trojan Hector and destruction of the love between Troilus and Cressida. The work has in recent years "stimulated exceptionally lively critical debate".

the dreadful spout Which shipmen do the hurricano call, Constringed [i.e., compressed] in mass by the almighty sun.[ citation needed ]


A fierce deity, Guabancex was the personification of destruction. A trait that the Taino associated with the catastrophic nature of Atlantic hurricanes. Hurricane Isabel from ISS.jpg
A fierce deity, Guabancex was the personification of destruction. A trait that the Taíno associated with the catastrophic nature of Atlantic hurricanes.

According to Taíno mythology, the zemi of Guabancex was entrusted to the ruler of a mystical land, Aumatex. This granted her the title of "Cacique of the Wind", but it also imposed the responsibility of repeatedly appeasing the goddess throughout his long reign. Furthermore, due to the importance of the wind for travel between island and the need of good weather imperative for a successful crop, other caciques would offer her part of their food during the Chohoba ceremony. However, given Guabancex's volatile temper, these efforts often failed. When they did, she would leave his domain enraged and with the intent of bringing destruction to all in her path, unleashing the juracánes. She began by interrupting the balance established by Boinayel and Marohu, the deities of rain and drought. By rotating her arms in a spiral, Guabancex would pick the water of the ocean and land, placing it under the command of Coatrisquie who violently forced it back over the Taíno settlements destroying their bohios and crops. She would threaten the other deities in an attempt to have them join the chaos. She was always preceded by Guataubá, who heralded her eventual arrival with clouds, lightning and thunder. The easternmost of the Greater Antilles, Puerto Rico is often in the path of the North Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes which tend to come ashore on the east coast. The Taíno believed that upon reaching the rainforest peak of El Yunque, the goddess and her cohorts would clash with their supreme deity, Yúcahu, who was believed to live there. Guabancex has an unspecified connection to Caorao, a deity that was also associated with storms and that was said to bring them forth by playing the cobo, a musical instrument made from a marine sea shell.[ citation needed ]

Greater Antilles Region of the Caribbean

The Greater Antilles is a grouping of the larger islands in the Caribbean Sea: Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and the Cayman Islands.

Rainforest type of forest with high rainfall

Rainforests are forests characterized by high rainfall, with annual rainfall in the case of tropical rainforests between 250 and 450 centimetres, and definitions varying by region for temperate rainforests. The monsoon trough, alternatively known as the intertropical convergence zone, plays a significant role in creating the climatic conditions necessary for the Earth's tropical rainforests.


Yúcahu —also written as Yukajú, Yocajú, Yokahu or Yukiyú— was the masculine spirit of fertility in Taíno mythology. He was one of the supreme deities or zemís of the Pre-Columbian Taíno peoples along with his mother Atabey who was his feminine counterpart. Dominant in the Caribbean region at the time of Columbus’ First voyages of Discovery, the peoples associated with Taíno culture inhabited the islands of the Bahamas, the Greater Antilles, and the Lesser Antilles.

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