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Cemi Museum
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  • States:
    Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico's odd little museum devoted to ancient religious artifacts is shaped like the very thing it displays.

The Cemi Museum in the mountains of central Puerto Rico gets right to the point: It’s both named for and shaped like its subject.

The pre-Columbian Taíno Indians of Puerto Rico fashioned the cemi, a three-pointed cosmological symbol, from stone and other materials. The central point represents a mountain peak—home to Yaya, the Creator. The mouth-like point represents Coabey, the land of the dead. The final point represents the land of the living. The Cemi Museum’s building takes the shape of one of these sacred symbols; when viewing the structure against the backdrop of the surrounding mountains, it’s easy to see how this symbol evolved as a stylized mirror of the topography.

Inside the small museum there are cemis and other Taíno artifacts on display, including a carved, pointed wooden tongue depressor used in ritual vomiting ceremonies. There is also a mural depicting a series of petroglyphs that the Taíno are believed to have created.

To see the Taíno petroglyphs in situ, go back down Route 144 to La Piedra Escrita, a boulder in the middle of the Río Saliente, that has the beautiful spirals and cartoonish faces of Taíno stone carvings.

Know Before You Go

Take Route 144 South from Jayuya. The museum is at 9km.

Content originally created for Atlas Obscura.

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