It is said that Kan-Si, daughter of a Mandarin lord, was present at a party where all the women wore masks as part of a cultural tradition. Kan-Si could no longer stand the suffocating heat and took off her mask and started to fan herself with it so fast that no one could see her face. Many women saw her and did likewise and the sound of makeshift fans could be heard in the night.
This Asian legend is one of many explaining the origins of the fan. Historians also include Mayans and Aztecans among the early civilizations that were known to have used basic versions of the fans Six fans, each with two thousand quetzal feathers, were among the presents delivered to conquistador Heman Cortes.
Centuries later, literature bears witness to the presence of this accessory among the ladies of the European aristocracy. The fan proved to be a useful item, not only to keep the user cool but for ladies in love who could hide their amorous gestures. This behaviour in the large dance halls gave the fan such playful names as the “Screen of Modesty,” the “Tool of Seduction,” and an “Accomplice of Feelings.”
Finally, our Cuban grandmothers knew that the fan had a code used to deliver messages between lovers. Many Cuban ladies used them during colonial times. This language was established in the early 19th Century and, today, in the age of E-mails and text messaging, they makes us laugh with their ingenuity, Without a doubt, this was a game of love that many women practiced at the time. While times may change, the fan will also preserve its value in the heat of the Caribbean.