Tuesday 4 October 2011

Warahoon's Return

The placid Gulf of Paria appeared to possess no horizon as the sky and the sea were both a seamless lighter shade of blue. The canoes, strictly speaking the corials, seemed to appear quite suddenly from the morning air. Three of them, on quite large, fifty feet or more in length and ten or twelve wide, the keel crafted from a giant tree, the sides built of boards and held together by the seats. Silent as a breeze they sliced the still water, the paddlers making no sound in their endeavour, as they took their craft into the mangrove forest that framed the stone embankment and shipway.
The Roman Catholic Church at Moruga has a sense of grandeur well beyong the rural character of the town. Morning mass had just ended and the congregation, made up of planters from the nearby coconut estates and their slightly overdecorated wives, were mingling in a jovial style with the local shopkeepers and more self-possessed pleasantry, when quite suddenly a large group of completely naked Guarahoon Indians were passing, moving throught their midst quietly, purposefully, almost as if they were really not there at all. And, in a sense, certainly in the context of their reality, those well-dressed, sweetly scented folks may not have truly existed at all.
For time out of mind, the Indians had travelled annually out of the primeval forest and grasslands of what we call Venezuela and the swamplands of the Orinoco delta to this island. Streaming through the shocked, amused and startled congregation, they crossed the main street, skirted the small common playing field and headed into the wooded countryside, following an invisible course that took them through people’s yards, across cocoa estates and coutnry roads. Handsome, well-formed men, old women, pretty girls, some with babies at their breast, boys running - all they wore was a sort of belt around their waist. Their hair was black and straight, their features were sharp cut, fair and slightly asiatic looking, their limbs were well-rounded, strong and healthy. They carried hammocks, parrots, coats, pigs, bows, very long arrows, stylishly tipped.  The Guarahoons would trade these things for tobacco or glass beads, mirrors, axes, fishhooks and three-inch nails.
Centuries ago, they had faded from this island, apalled at the depredations of the Spaniards and the unceasing attempts of the priests to dissuade them from their nakedness, their free love and their devotion to the wind, the water, the earth and the flame that was born from teh crack of thunder and the bolts of lightning. They had thunderstones which they had kept for hundreds of years.
They had returned to this island, their ancient home, year after year, century after century. They came ashore at Erin, Moruga or Icacos, following the same paths as their people always had. Heading towards where San Fernando is now, they were passing naked through the busy streets and pausing for a time in holy Naparima hill in memory of long lost times. Then, on to the holiest hill of all, Mount Tamana, a flat-topped mass in the centre of the island, covered in gigantic trees.
They did this in commemoration of their ancient genesis myth, for it is believed that there was a time when the great god Jacahuna was displeased, created a great devastation and all the people perished. Two, a man and a woman, had made their escape to the lonely mountaintop of Mount Tamana and survived. The two were able to create anew a human race from the fruits of the Mauritius palm.
For a long, timeless period, the Guarahoons stayed and played like children of the forest, maintaining the memory of an antique origin when the world was newly made.
After a while, they retraced their steps back to their corials and quietly slipped away into the golden sunset. 

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