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  • Keri was tired. The church was an encomienda. What they never spoke of was that they were there too; women and children.

    She knew of the events to unfold as the pace of work slowed and glances exchanged. Today was the day and the Tamanaque would take back what was usurped. Enough of the labour, enough of the rape and enough of the children in servitude. This is not how it was. She worked hard from young but it was rewarded. Although the women were the sowers, raised the children, prepared the food and made clothing, she was highly revered; it was not like this.

    As the priests approached, the tribe revolted and bashed their heads in with clubs. There was a carpenter there also and he too would perish. As he lay whimpering on the sodden earth, Keri threw her net made with cotton and palm around his neck and pulled until he stopped struggling. It was an easy kill for the Caribs. Once a fight was chosen, you either killed or be killed. There was no negotiating.

    The forest turned red and the Tamanaque lay in ambush for the governor's men who were shortly due to visit to report on the progress of the construction of the church. There was more blood spilt that day but for escaped and as he raced back to San Jose to alert of the massacre, Keri grabbed her bow and arrows and with the rest of her tribe began her flight.

    Some headed toward Nariva but she headed for the east coast, as the crow flies, the coast they knew so well but many would not make it. The Spaniards caught up at the cocal and Keri watched as brother after brother and sister were mercilessly slaughtered; a few taken alive. There was no justice on these grounds and if she were caught, she would be raped and dragged between the coconut trees.

    She headed north along the coast and alas was cornered, a wounded animal, feral she was, but so frightened. Some held hands as the Spaniards neared. They were no match to the gun and whilst the men fought to the end, Keri screamed in horror as her mother pushed her younger siblings off the cliffs at Galera Point. Her face resolute with defiance, Keri's mother's eyes pierced her soul as she jumped to her death after her children.

    They would rather die than be taken.

    Keri was quick and as the plumes of smoke grew and visibility obscured, she escaped into the rainforest. She did not want to die; not by the Spaniards, nor by her own hand.

    Here would begin a trek that a young Amerindian woman would make; her feet bleeding, her chest afire from running, her heart in pieces at the loss, so much loss. She never once stopped to cry and she ran and walked and ran through the brambles, across rocks and rivers, through waterfalls. The terrain seemed relentless but she had to make it. She only stopped when the darkness set in and she prayed to Nuno who was her only companion. She felt alone as she made a hammock of the vines and palm fronds. She drifted off and dreams came to her of playing guamajico with her brothers and sisters.

    The sound of dawn awakened her. Her eyes scoured the trees and her ears listened to the river, her nose filled with the pink Angel Trumpet, her senses on full alert before she dared to stir. She gave thanks to Weju for another day and she washed her cut feet with bois canot, the brown slime cleaning her wounds. Then she rubbed aloe vera on them and fanned it dry.

    She collected the fruit from the Mauritia palm and threw them over her head. Her ancestors told the story of the great flood where they too had to flee to the top of Tamanacu and only one man and one woman had survived. A voice had told them to throw the fruits over their heads and from the kernels sprung new life. Keri did this and it was only then that she wept. She slumped to the ground and curled into herself on the river bank, sobbing.

    This was her land. These were her rainforests and rivers and waterfalls and cassava and fish and ocelot and these men on ships and their religion brought disease and rape and labour and beatings and control.

    No more.

    Keri resumed her walk. She knew where any survivors would head to.

    El Tucuche

    The Spaniards won't make it as high up, on her sacred mountain.

    She found a clearing in the trees and looked beyond, to the west. She still had some distance to go....
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