Siera lay motionless inside the dark hut. Even in the faint light, I could see how she burned with fever. Her mother tried to cool her with morning spring water, but it didn't help.
"Has she eaten anything?" I asked.
"Nothing, not even the papaya, her favorite. Today she does not drink," her mother said wiping a tear from her eye.
"Is she awake?"
"I think so," she replied.
I crouched down close to Siera. "Hello little one, how is today?"
She did not speak, she held my hand and then her fingers signed "Goodbye."
"Goodbye?" I whispered. "To where do you travel now?"
I noticed her cracked lips begin to move. I leaned down very close to her, my ear nearly touching her face.
"Co . . . Co . . . Coyoba," she mumbled.
"She longs for heaven," her mother said.
"Coyoba, yes Coyoba," I chanted, "no more sickness, no hurricanes, no drought . . ."
" . . . and no more Espaniards." She added.
"No more Spaniards," I repeated. I stood up to leave, "Please call me if she gets worse." I knew if she got any worse she would die.
The Spaniards, the Spaniards! They came and left as they willed. I walked to the lagoon where great Columbus sank his boats. I could barely see them from the shore, just dark spots in the clear water. He said they were too weak, too weak for his long voyage to the Majesties, the King and Queen. He sank the boats and we served him while he waited for the other boats.
I remember his first arrival. Our people ran to the shore as the great boats arrived, but as the men came onto the beach we ran and hid, fearing them. They carried strange bows that shot arrows at great speed. They killed two of our people and demanded presents. We brought them cassava, fruit and fish. We bowed before them.
Then the great Columbus came. I heard him speak, I later learned the words he spoke: "Have we found the land of blessed gold? This must be the place the other Indians spoke of, it looks like the fairest island that eyes have beheld."
After his first visit, after he received our gifts, he sailed away. We prayed he would not return. We were Arawaks, our island we called Xaymaca, "the land of wood and water." We shared the abundance of the island, of the Earth Mother and we grew. Columbus stayed away for many years, but not long after Siera was born, he returned. Again he demanded gifts, and we served him. But this time he stayed much longer, this was the time he sank his boats.
He took our people and demanded they work. He called them slaves. Our people worked for him until they fell sick, then he took others. Our people died of the sickness, more and more each day. Our medicines couldn't save them, they burned in fevers, and they turned red and died.
Now, great Columbus was leaving. A large boat came for him and his men. The boat brought others though, men who would stay. Others who demanded gifts and more slaves. Columbus even took some of the Arawaks on the boat, took them to the Majesties. I watched them sail, but I knew more boats would come, more men would come and I knew the Arawak would die.
I walked back to our village. The smoke hung low and the air stank. I smelled the death around me and I heard the crying. Palm leaves blocked the doors of the wood thatch huts. In the smoke the wood huts seemed black, and our water ran foul. I walked to Siera and her mother's hut. On the door hung a fresh green palm leaf: Siera had died!
Siera, Siera, after the Spaniards took her father I helped her and her mother. I brought them food and helped them grow the cotton. Siera's mother taught her to spin and weave, I taught Siera to hunt and fish. She made me a prayer shirt just before she got sick. Now she was gone!
I walked away, into the forest. I followed the narrow pathways, deep into the dark shade. I walked away from the village, from the death, from the Spaniards and searched for the clear waters, the uncut wood, the land of Xaymaca. I searched for the abundance, the opulence and found nothing. The Arawak were dying and I knew the Earth Mother wept. She wept for the Island, she wept for the People, and she wept for Siera. I wept for her too.