Thursday, April 11, 2013

30 Days: "The River God"

Back when the West was still a mystery, Hurakan had reigned supreme over the waters. He preferred the blue, warm waters that the Caribs rode in spite of Hurakan’s bad temper. The Caribs imitated their god, falling on the islands like a storm, taking the treasures they found in the way of their wave: food, metals, precious stones, and women. They never forgot an offering for their god, and Hurakan protected them.
But when the Caribs perished under the oppression of a new tribe of sailors of lighter skin and swifter shifts, Hurakan lost his worshippers, and his power dwindled. 
  He waited for the new sailors to acknowledge his power. He raged against their constructions. He sank their ships. He flooded their towns. He huffed and puffed, but they slammed their doors on his face. They hid in the darkness of their homes.
Once Hurakan’s temper was spent, the light skin sailors lost no time in rebuilding their towns and buildings. They’d rather lose their treasure in the sea than worship an angry god. 
Hurakan’s power dimmed with each passing generation, until one day he realized he was only the shade of the god he once had been. He missed his Caribs. Doing what he’d seen them do time after time, he set out to discover a new land. 
He thought of going East, but his cousin Typhoon was as bad tempered as he was. If he went all the way West, he’d find Typhoon too and that was out of the question. He looked North. The whiteness of eternal winter made him shudder. So he traveled South, snaking along the coast, taking shortcuts in the rivers that he found. The greatest river of all looked like the ideal home. The problem was, the river already had a god. Amazon came with the slaves, and he was settled in his home. Of course he recognized Hurakan of the legends. He didn’t fear the old god, but he respected him. 
“Keep going South,” he advised. “You’ll find a home there. I’ll spread the voice to the other winds and tell them you’ve claimed it for yourself.”
Hurakan followed the advise and kept on going South. When he reached the birth place of the river Amazon had told him about, he cried out in self-pity. The great Hurakan reduced to a colorless, babbling spring! What would the Caribs say? It would be better to vanish in the depths of the sea.
He followed the river, letting his tears fall freely on the clear water. The river swelled as it went downhill of the world. It dragged a little of everything it found on its way, until the water turned a dark, golden brown, just like the Caribs of Hurakan’s youth. When it reached the Pampas, the river looked like a brown ocean, so wide Hurakan didn’t see the other side of the riverbed.
Hurakan claimed it for himself. It wasn’t the warm, blue ocean he loved, but the sweet water nourished him, made him young again. Soon, the light skin sailors found the land by the river. Hurakan didn’t run from them this time. He fed the fish; he built islands of water hyacinth where the birds and snakes and strange animals took refuge like the god; he lured the newcomers and sometimes, he took them down in his whirlwinds. The new people, a milder sort of breed, called him Parana, and Hurakan loved the sound of his new name. 
Sometimes though, he remembered his lost Caribs, and he lashed out at the land in fury. But the people forgave him and sailed through his waters, exploring the islands he’d formed. 
Until one day, a ship carrying freedom seekers reached Parana’s waters, and seeing the hope in their eyes, he took pity on them. He pushed them to the land, and upon leaving the ship, a young man looked back at the river and said, “I owe you my future. I’ll pay you back one day, Parana.”
Parana’s heart swelled like in the old days. He waited for the man to repay his debt, but years passed, and he never returned to honor the river god. Parana had grown patient. He waited. And waited. And waited some more. He lost track of time. But one day, a young man with the same look of hope as that other one long ago, returned to the river and made his home on the river-hyacinth island. He didn’t know of his ancestor’s debt or his promise, but his blood, coursing like a river, remembered, and brought him to Parana. The boy became a fisherman. 
During the fisherman’s long night of work, Parana told him his story. The fisherman listened in fascination. He couldn’t get enough of the river’s voice. He never left the island, but he passed the story down to his children, and they passed it down to theirs. When the last fisherman only had a daughter, she didn’t care about the river god. 
She wasn’t happy on the island. She saw the lights of the city on the other side of the river and cried. Her tears mixed with the river. Parana remembered when he was an exiled Hurakan. But he couldn’t let her cross and leave him. He loved her. 
How dare she even think of running away, abandoning him like the Caribs? His fury thrashed the river and spilled into the city, like in the olden times. When Parana’s anger passed, he realized the girl was gone. He searched in his depths, at the top of the trees, in the water hyacinth traps he’d set. He couldn’t find her anywhere.
And that night, taking the Southern stars for guidance, Parana left the water and crossed to the city, searching for her. 

This is my beloved Rio Parana. I really think Hurakan haunts it. Maybe that's why since I was a little girl I wanted to live six months by the river and six months in the Caribbean. Maybe one day I will. 


Julie Daines said...

What a beautiful story! Told in the true fashion of the myths and legends of old. I loved it! And your personal bit at the end brought tears to my eyes. Well done, Yamile!

Verónica Luna said...

Pasional e intensa...también se llevó mis lágrimas...! Te quiero Yami.

Yamile said...

Thanks for the support, Julie!

Vero, te quiero hasta el cielo! A ver si pronto nos tomamos unos mates en la isla.

Scott said...

Wonderfully done!

Marion Steiger said...

What a lovely story. You won my heart before I saw the beautiful picture.