Question: My Cuban parents refer to the horseshoe crab as a levisa. My friend says that the translation of horseshoe crab is cangrejo herradura. Can you tell me who is right?
Answer: In consulting with a number of elder Cubans, none of them had ever heard the word levisa used when referring to a horseshoe crab, and most of them had never even heard of a horseshoe crab by any of its names in Spanish: cangrejo herradura, cangrejo bayoneta or cangrejo de las Moluscas.
One fisherman, however, who knew that cangrejo herradura refers to what is known as a horseshoe crab in English, said that the word levisa refers to a fish.
In a phone consultation with Hotel Cayo Levisa, located in Pinar del Rio, they said that the name comes from a small-to medium-sized fish known as the levisa, which is common in the waters surrounding Cayo Levisa as well as in other parts of Cuba. The fish is not eaten.
It would be interesting to know where your parents grew up in Cuba, as perhaps the term levisa is used locally for the horseshoe crab.
The horseshoe crab – also known as the King Crab (not to be confused with the Alaskan King Crab, which is a large true crab) – is actually a crablike marine arthropod. More closely related to spiders than to crabs, the horseshoe crab goes back some 500 million years.