CARIBBEAN

Mamajuana, the ‘Dominican Viagra’, Has Big Turtle Dick Energy

Also known as “The Baby Maker”, mamajuana is a rejuvenating tea traditionally made with herbs, tree bark, and the 12-inch penis of a green sea turtle.

by Kevin EG Perry
07 March 2019, 2:26pm

Pity the sea turtle, for it has been cursed with a surplus of big dick energy. It’s not unusual for green turtles to have 12-inch penises, and no less an authority than Scientific American once described the creatures as “horrifically well endowed.” Why is this not a blessing? Well, for one thing, wherever there’s an oversized phallic animal part you can be sure someone, somewhere, will decide to lop it off and sell it as a miracle cure to “make you strong.” Just look what happens to rhino horns.

Sure enough, in the Dominican Republic, there was a time when sea turtle penis was seen as a valuable ingredient in the country’s unique national drink, mamajuana. Also known as “The Baby Maker” or “El Para Palo” (translation: “Stand the Stick”), the tonic’s supposed aphrodisiac qualities made it a favourite of the legendary 1950s Dominican playboy Porfirio Rubirosa—a man who, according to Truman Capote, had at least one thing in common with the sea turtles.

The good news for Dominican turtles (and their lovers) is that these days, their penises are relatively safe. In the last decade, a series of strict laws have been passed in the Caribbean nation to forbid the hunting of river and sea turtles. Yet even without its most notorious ingredient, rumours about the “rejuvenating” potency of mamajuana persist.

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Puerto Plata on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. Photo by the author.

“Sometimes, they call it ‘Dominican Viagra,’” says Daylonis Rodriguez, a mamajuana expert and tour guide with Puerto Plata Urban Adventures. We’re in Vivonté Lounge, a bar a block from the seafront in Puerto Plata on the north coast of the Dominican Republic, and he’s grinning sheepishly while pouring out shots from a homemade bottle of mamajuana. “It’s a legend, but there may be some truth to it. It’s very good for your blood pressure, and obviously the penis uses blood pressure to get hard, so that’s where it gets the nickname. It’s not actually meant for that, though.”

In fact, the purported health benefits are wide and varied. A glass of mamajuana a day is said to give you an increase in vitality and energy, improve the circulation of your blood, relieve congestion and flu symptoms, and act as a tonic for your kidneys and liver. It’s also high in antioxidants. There’s a local saying: “Whatever tortures you, mamajuana takes care of it.”

“If you see a Dominican and ask their age, you’ll usually be surprised by the answer because they’ll be older than they look,” claims Rodriguez. “Drinking mamajuana keeps us in good condition. If a friend of mine is feeling sick, he’ll drink a few cups of it and then he’ll get some energy and feel better.”

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Mamajuana expert Daylonis Rodriguez. Photo by the author.

The history of mamajuana dates back to the Taíno people, the native inhabitants of the island of Hispaniola—now Haiti and the Dominican Republic. It was originally made by mixing together herbs and tree barks which were believed to have health-giving properties, then boiling them and serving it as a hot tea. There was just one problem.

“Like all medicines, it tasted bad,” says Rodriguez. A solution arrived onboard a ship with Christopher Columbus in 1492. “That’s when they started adding wine and rum to the drink, to make it alcoholic. That’s when mamajuana went from being purely medicinal to being what we know today.”

While it’s possible to buy pre-made mamajuana, most Dominicans prefer to make their own. Recipes vary, but Rodriguez recommends the following method. First, take an empty glass bottle and fill it with the following plants: princess vine, chew stick, cinnamon, whole clove, bay rum tree, West Indian milkberry, milk wort, chamomile, rosewood, and agave. Then, fill the bottle with red wine and leave it to age for two weeks. The liquid can then be decanted and mixed with more red wine and amber rum, roughly three parts wine to one part rum, plus a few spoonfuls of liquid honey, more cinnamon, and a vanilla stick to taste. Care should be taken to keep the herbs and bark in the original bottle, as once emptied of liquid, it can be refilled and used again to produce many more bottles of mamajuana. Dominican homes often have bottles of raw ingredients dating back 15 or 20 years, which will have produced hundreds of batches in their lifetime.

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Pouring the mamajuana shots.

Because it’s homemade, the taste of mamajuana varies from bottle to bottle. Bars and restaurants tend to serve a more alcoholic version as a digestif by upping the percentage of rum, while at home people generally drink a smoother version.

“People like to personalise it,” says Rodriguez. “You can choose which wine you use and how much rum.”

Although it’s little known away from these shores the drink is wildly popular here in the Dominican Republic, with many people drinking it every day.

“Of the eleven million Dominicans that we are,” says Rodriguez, “maybe just one would tell you they don’t like mamajuana.”

Eleven million Dominicans can’t be wrong. It’s time to try this elixir. Rodriguez serves it room temperature, with no ice. I touch shot glasses with him and knock it back. It tastes a lot like sangria, if a little sweeter. A couple more glasses and I’m ready to believe I can feel that promised burst of energy, my blood flowing a little more freely in my veins. Mamajuana may or may not be the universal panacea many Dominicans claim it to be, but frankly I’m just relieved I can’t taste any turtle penis.