Flor de Aire - The Sleeping Princess

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Nestled deep in the mountains of Cocle Province, some 76 miles west of Panama City, lies a lovely Eden-like valley where the natives still cherish their legends and are swayed by the enchantment of superstition. Found here are strange trees with square trunks and the rare golden colored frogs, much sought after by universities and scientific institutes. According to archaelogists, this beautiful valley was the hunting ground and haven of Indians in pre-Columbian times. Mysterious inscriptions, which to this day have not been deciphered, are found on huge boulders throughout the area, remaining muted testimony of the early inhabitants. Thermal springs, unseen by most visitors to the valley, produce waters of near boiling temperatures. El Valle de Anton, approximately  4 miles long and 3 1/2 miles wide, is completely surrounded by mountains, leading some to believe this valley might have been the crater of a large volcano.

From the main road of the town and facing northwest, one can see a silhouetted mountain known as La India Dormida, the Sleeping Princess, which has inspired one of the most beautiful legends of Panama:

Flor de Aire, as the Indian princess was called, was the daughter of Urraca, the most fierce of chieftains who fought against the Spanish conquistadores on the Isthmus. Flor de Aire fell in love with one of the handsome conquistadores who was trying to conquer her people and because of this impossible dilemma, rejected the love of Yaravi, the bravest warrior of her tribe. In his despair, Yaravi leaped to his death from the top of the mountain before the eyes of the horrified maiden. Flor de Aire, not wanting to betray her tribe, never saw the Spaniard again. She wandered aimlessly through the mountains and valleys crying her mis-fortune until she died on the beach, looking toward the beloved mountains where she was born. The mountains, to perpetuate this sad love story, copied the image. The legend was embellished by the great Panamanian author, Julio B. Sosa.

On the El Valle River's course, which meanders through dense forests west of town, there is a picturesque waterfall known as the Maiden's Waterfall. This is a favorite picknicking place for visitors from the capital. Natives from the mountains say with all sincerity:

"There, on a clear day when the sun comes up, Flor de Aire comes down from the mountain peaks to the edge of the river ... there, with other Indian maidens, she tells the crystal waters of her eternal grief. One can hear her mournful weeping as she tells her tale of woe. Remembering her two lovers, she weeps sorrowfully before returning to her sleeping position high up on the mountain that bears her name."

Photograph by Hilda Harrold - 1975 Union Church Calendar
Contributed by Dino Barkema

October 17, 1999

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