Taino by Jose Barreiro Read Free Book Online

Book: Taino by Jose Barreiro Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jose Barreiro
hummingbird tremor.
    Cacique Bayamo was truly of the elder men of our people, of the ones that spoke to the earth directly, keen with the certainty of our Taíno love and common spirit with the living world.
    It is true that the Castilians have reduced us, have just about destroyed us. I admit that our fighting skills could not match their furious thrust. Truly were they decisive and resolute when we, in our trance, in our habitual and cyclical understandings, took forever to decide anything but what our culture dictated, responses so slow that they still hurt. But I know this: the superb among our people, those most steeped in our traditions, were men and women who could spark response in wind and cloud, could converse with plants and trees, could hear the animals speak, could even be heard by snake and caimán , turtle and manatí .
    For generations on generations were our Taíno guided by those conversations, held by our elders with the dream-time leaders of the reptile and bird nations, with the leaders of trees, the ceiba and the guásima , with the discernible snake motion of the long fish runs, the passing of the flocks, with the very swell of the sea.
    Bayamo himself was of the snake. His neck and sloping shoulders on a thin body, his flattened forehead, carefully manipulated from his birth by grandmothers of his line, a practice for precisely such babies in whose reptile eyes could the great mothers feel the cold, penetrating, never-forgetting, never-ignoring justice of the snake, who can snatch time from the quickest prey.
    Such men and women among our people were extraordinarily powerful. And I can state with certainty that there never was and never will be even one such as those among the covered people, whose very best can forge wide roads out of forest and cross worlds of water and command huge quantities of death and mayhem, but cannot ever hear the adjoining voices, the surrounding and constant conversation from our living world.
    Cacique Bayamo began the shaking in Columbus’s Christian heart. I saw it, and I was glad to see it and, now, to remember it. It was in his look, how he transferred to the admiral’s eyes his own body’s terrifying inner shaking. Yes, at that very meeting it was that the hummingbird medicine grasped the admiral’s heart.
    â€œWe have guided you in our world,” the cacique talked on. “So you would not be lost. And now you know us. We are a people that stay to our islands, fishing and visiting, mindful of the present business of our foods, our bohíos , our conucos , and our ceremonies. We have been here for a long time, drink the same water, eat the same food. Always, in our gatherings, amongst us, we love the children. And our children, in turn, love and respect us. Even our dead, our opías who come through the treetops from the Coaybay, House of the Dead, and have no belly button, sometimes they stay around us and dance with us. We are good, Guamíquina. We don’t raid. We never raided, always build and fish and plant, do for ourselves. In our way, we feed everyone. If a man comes from other islands and he accepts our peace, we take him in, marry him into our people, exchange names with him. In this way, we extend our houses, our bohíos , and give roof to everyone. Our ni-Taíno circles and the outlier guaxeris listen to each other. That way we have grown strong and are growing still on these islands.” (I translated islands as simply lands this time).
    â€œThe bad men, Kwaib, thigh-eaters, heart-eaters, from the south and some raiders from the north, are mean-spirited,” Bayamo continued. “They raid for women, raid for our young ones. Among them even, some are very, very bad, caniba warrior bands that leave their women on their own islands—the Matininós—and raid for the joy of killing, bent on tasting human flesh. My old people said, ‘Watch out when you see those uglies coming!’”

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