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Mitos y Leyendas: The Mermaid of the Uruguay River

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  • Genny de Bernardo shares with you the legend of the mermaid of the Uruguay River.
  • It is a being believed to be different from the one that drags people to drown them.
  • Many people claim to have seen her in certain locations.

The myth of the mermaid in the Uruguay River is one of those classic legends that has captured the imagination of the inhabitants of the western region of the country, and even those living further south in the Republic, since ancient times.

It is clear that the famous mermaid of the Río de la Plata, to whom some fishermen from Montevideo mysteriously refer, is actually the same freshwater nymph during one of her farthest excursions.

However, nowhere else like in Salto does this legend seem to be so full of stories and testimonies supporting its existence.

Despite the obvious name of this creature, the mermaid of the Uruguay River barely resembles her counterpart from classical mythology.

Differences between mermaids

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A notable difference lies in the physical characteristics of both species.

The mermaids of ancient Greece were beings with a hybrid appearance, having the upper part similar to beautiful women with long hair and voluptuous forms, but the lower part was that of a giant fish.

In contrast, the mermaid of the Uruguay River is not simply a combination of the human and the animal, but rather an indeterminate hybrid of both.

She has limbs, but these are not the soft arms of a naiad, but tentacles equipped with long claws and fins.

The Mermaid of the Uruguay River

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It is also said that she has abundant hair, but instead of being fine and delicate, it is of a greenish and pointed tone, like a group of surubí whiskers.

Her eyes are yellow and prominent, similar to those of a toad, and do not tolerate light. Overall, this monster resembles a huge axolotl, but with vague human features.

Her skin, plagued with eruptions, has a stone gray color that allows her to blend perfectly in the dark waters of the river.

Another important difference is that while the mermaids of antiquity used to move in groups, like seductive sea creatures in a fantastic harem, the mermaid of the Uruguay River is an apparently solitary being.

The Greek Species

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It is possible that she is the last of her species. The poor creature wanders aimlessly, with no other company than the river current and, occasionally, the proximity of other fish that chance circumstances bring into her path.

But perhaps the most notable difference between the Greek species and the mermaid of the Uruguay River, despite considering them distant relatives, is the marked difference in their behaviors towards humans.

The mermaids of classical antiquity enjoyed causing misfortune and death to men.

Their beautiful melodies and hypnotic songs attracted sailors, who, distracted by the music, neglected the course of their ships and crashed them against the reefs, resulting in the death of the entire crew.


Sea creature. View from above, Sea, Creature, Sea, MundoNow, Mother

In contrast, the mermaid of the Uruguay River is a completely peaceful, almost innocent being, who has never caused harm and is unlikely to do so in the future.

Being extremely solitary, she is very curious. However, her character is so shy and withdrawn that every time she approaches a human being and is noticed, the mermaid quickly dives into the waters.

She flees frightened, as if the mere idea of being seen by people causes her greater fear than her desire to show herself.

Followers of the Afro-Umbanda religion installed a beautiful sculpture of Ie-Manjá on Las Cavas beach.

The Mother of the Waters

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Since then, the most frequent sightings of the mermaid in the city of Salto have occurred precisely in that area of the Uruguay River.

Many devotees of this goddess, who often visit the river’s coast to perform rituals and offer flowers, candles, and animals, claim to have seen the «Mother of the Waters» leaping in the distance or even strolling in a boat.

According to them, dressed in her characteristic white and turquoise attire, her silhouette outlined in the silver mirror of the moon.

These visions have also been confirmed by some of the lifeguards of the Intendancy who guard the beaches of Salto during the summer.

What the Sailors Tell

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Occasionally, when they collect the safety buoys at sunset, they are surprised to see the sudden whirlpool of water caused by the mermaid as she clumsily moves beneath the flatboat.

Moreover, the sailors of the Prefecture, who constantly patrol the coast of Salto with binoculars, claim to witness her brief appearances.

Aside from these recent sightings, there was a time when the most frequent observations of the mermaid of the Uruguay River occurred at the city’s port.

Therefore, the regular fishermen who come night after night to cast their hooks seem to be the most qualified to provide reliable information about the existence of this peaceful aquatic creature.

Being Friendly

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The fishermen who operate in the river and clean the port area with their boats and nets are also surprised by the visit of this curious being.

Sometimes, people returning home from Concordia in a boat in the afternoon have observed how the mermaid amicably accompanied the white wake of water left by the motor in the river.

Other areas where the mermaid of the Uruguay River is frequently sighted in Salto are the rocks of Ayuí, the caves of San Antonio, and the gates of the Salto Grande Dam, where it is not uncommon to see this fantastic being joyfully leaping alongside the dorados in the water swirls.

Mitos y Leyendas thanks you for your attention and hopes you enjoyed the legend of the Mermaid of the Uruguay River. Until next time!

Mitos y Leyendas
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