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Jayuya, Puerto Rico

Cemi Museum

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

In a slightly meta move, the Cemi Museum in the mountains of central Puerto Rico takes the shape of a cemi, the very thing the structure is there to remember.   

To the pre-Columbian Taino Indians of Puerto Rico the cemi, a small fetish that usually had roughly three points, was a representation of their cosmology and was fashioned from stone and other materials. The central point represented a mountain peak on which sits Yaya, the Creator. The mouth-like point represents Coabey, the land of the dead. Finally the opposite point represents the land of the living. The Cemi Museum building takes the shape of one of these sacred symbols and viewing the structure against the backdrop of the surrounding mountains it is easy to see how this symbol evolved as a stylized mirror of the topography. 

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

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

Know Before You Go

Take Route 144 South from Jayuya. Museum is at 9km.