When My Hair Was Woven with Duendes


by Taiko Maria Haessler

On the other side of Costa Rica, I discovered another restless forest spirit. On vacation from school, I traveled to Puerto Viejo, a beautiful, small village on the edge the sapphire–colored Caribbean sea. There I met Celia and her sisters living in a house on stilts, wedged between the rainforest and the shore. Between them, the three sisters have fifteen children who play and run freely in the yard, dashing in and out of the sea,squealing with delight while flailing wet arms and legs. Celia makes her living braiding hair, so I voluntarily subjected myself to the six–hour torture of getting my short hair braided with waist–length extensions. My secret motivation, of course, was to persuade Celia to tell me, in her soft, lilting voice, about the duendes. In a mixture of Spanish, Patois, Italian (her husband was a Milanese ex–patriot), and a few English words,Celia related stories about La Mica (the Monkey–Woman), another dangerous creature of the forest.