Ciguapas are mythical creatures, typically represented as naked, comely females with uniquely backward feet. Such anatomy renders their path virtually untraceable. Legends suggest they inhabit remote mountains and forests in the Dominican Republic, preying on men. This essay steps away from the predatory archetype, formulating a theory of women’s loss and mourning through the motif of “forward backwardness” epitomized by the ciguapa’s feet. Using selections from the work of Dominican American poet Rhina P. Espaillat (b. 1932), the author outlines the feminist paradigm of ciguapismo, a fundamentally paradoxical mode for understanding how women endure in times of personal grief, awareness of aging, and under the shadow of sexual violence. It is also a form of environmental reckoning centered on collective care. Whether set in the Caribbean or the U.S. Dominican diaspora, ciguapismo in Espaillat’s poetry offers a critical resource, an imaginative faculty, and a liminal ontology for mapping transformative feminist intimacies against a backdrop of ever-encroaching human and environmental losses.

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