Art & Culture

The Legend of the Prince and Nicté Ha

A love story marred by tragedy explains the existence of a beautiful white flower found in the the cenotes of the Yucatan

If you have visited the cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula, surely you will have noticed beautiful white flowers that seem to float in the water surrounded by lilies.

In the past, cultures used to develop myths and legends to explain events about which they had no knowledge, or alternatively to generate fear and control a society. They were also used to explain something beautiful, tragic and even poetic.

One legend of this kind has it that there was once a king who had a son named Chac Dzib Dzib, who intended to marry a girl of the same rank. However, the designs of destiny were very different from those of the king.

One day, the young and handsome prince met a beautiful young girl. Her name was Nicté Ha, “Water Flower” and the two young people soon fell in love. They used to see each other every night next to the cenote, being careful that no one saw them. Despite the relationship’s youthful charm, it was not seen well through the eyes of the great king, as Nicté Ha was only a commoner. Nicté Ha’s father was no less than the high priest of the Cenote Sagrado, but still a commoner in the end.

Upon finding out about the relationship, the priest devised a plan to separate them and thus not provoke the anger of the king. However, unable to find a way to put an end to the youngsters’ courtship, he made a fatal decision.

Meanwhile, the prince had decided to marry the girl in secret. However, one night prior to the ceremony, the prince had a bad feeling. He grabbed his red coat and went out to look for his beloved. Arriving at the cenote, he saw her sitting as she did every night and ran to hug her. This was when her father drove an arrow through the heart of his own daughter who fell into the cenote.

Horrified, the prince searched unsuccessfully in the dark waters of the cenote to find his beloved. He begged the gods to allow her to be with him forever. Showing their compassion, the gods transformed Nicté Ha into a beautiful white flower, and the prince into a red bird with a beautiful song: the cardinal.

Ever since, people have said that the white flower floating on the waters is actually Nicté Ha, waiting patiently every morning for her prince, her everlasting love.

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