Cover

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Title page, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. v-viii

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Introduction

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pp. ix-x

“The Black Carib are the scourge of the Caribbean. You best stay away from them.” An Anglo oil prospector said that to me the first time I went to Belize City, Belize, in 1980. I didn’t tell the man what I had learned from library research about those “pagan cannibals...

List of People

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pp. xi-xvi

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Part 1. The Old Ways

Margaret and Cervantes Diego were the progenitors of the family in this story, and their courtship and traditional wedding are described. The “outrageous behavior” of Delores, Cervantes’s second wife, shows the customs and problems inherent in a polygynous marriage. After Cervantes’s funeral...

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A Garifuna Wedding

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pp. 1-3

Larube, British Honduras, 1926. Margaret Sabal gazed into the bedroom mirror for a final check. She wanted to look her best on this important day. Her scarf set straight over her brow. Amber eyes sparkled in her oval, caramel-colored face. Just five feet tall, the eighteen-year-old girl’s body...

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A Garifuna Marriage

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p. 4

Lidise, Honduras, 1928. Shortly after their first child was born, Cervantes took a second wife: her name was Delores, a young woman who lived in San Pedro. Margaret wept, because she knew that multiple wives and “partners” were accepted customs among the Garifuna (group of Garinagu...

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The Revolt

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pp. 4-7

Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 1933. Cervantes Diego held his breath as a fly walked across his nose. He dared not swat it. Since midnight he had been hiding under a mound of discarded baskets in the marketplace. In the early light of dawn vendors began arriving. Any movement might betray his...

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The Second Wife

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pp. 7-8

“It doesn’t look like a baby, Moma,” Terese complained as her mother slipped a small dress over a dried plantain stalk.
“We can paint a face after I sew the hem,” Delores said. “Your doll can have black hair, and we’ll draw a mouth and nose.”
“I want a real doll,” the child pouted...

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Cervantes’s Wake

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pp. 8-11

Margaret roused from sleep. What was that sound? she wondered. The children are quiet. It’s after midnight. Maybe some bush-spirit moving about.
“Miss Margaret!” The voice that had woken her came again.
That’s not a bush-spirit. They don’t call twice. Her small, muscular body...

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Cervantes’s Burial

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pp. 11-13

At dawn, Margaret went into the back room to nurse Santa. As she rocked the infant, Khandi entered, carrying a clothes basket. “What are those things?” Margaret asked.
“My gowns and a comb.” Khandi set the basket down and pointed to the roof. “Is that support pole strong enough for two hammocks? I’ll tie...

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Cervantes’s Spirit

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pp. 13-16

Margaret cleared a corner of their sleeping room and bent to sweep the floor with her thatch broom. She placed a calabash cup filled with water on the sand. “Here’s cool water for you, Cervantes.” She turned to her sons. “Innocente, fetch the white candle from the front room. We’ll light it so...

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Release from Mourning

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pp. 16-20

The year of mourning was over. Santa walked on strong, chubby legs, and once again the mangoes shimmered iridescent blue. Margaret put on her black, widow’s dress and folded the skirt to hide a spot rubbed thin with wear. The mantilla she settled on her head no longer slipped off her bare...

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A Stormy Journey

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pp. 20-27

A few months later, Khandi watched her sister counting coins. “What are they for?” she asked.
“To buy rum.” Margaret looked up. “I’m going to give Cervantes a bathing before we leave.”
“You think that’s necessary? Money is scarce for both of us...

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Homeward Bound

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pp. 27-31

At first light, the boys explored the island. Tas found three crabs, each wearing a different shell. “Let’s race them,” Skipper said, grabbing the largest from his brother. He toed a line in the sand. “That’s the start, Tas. Put yours down next to mine.”
Alvarez watched the boys, then walked...

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Old House

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pp. 31-35

Larube, British Honduras, 1935. Margaret pushed open the sagging door to her parents’ old house and swept spider webs from the threshold. “Skipper, you stay outside until I look around. There might be snakes in here.” She stepped gingerly across the sand floor and propped open a...

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Alvarez Visits

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pp. 35-41

Larube, 1936. Margaret handed Skipper a tump basket. “Now first off, before you drink tea this morning, you take this basket to the beach. Fill it with as much sand as you can carry. Then you back it to here, and dump it in that low spot at the corner.”
Skipper frowned, “But, Ma...

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Partners

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pp. 41-44

1936. During the night, Margaret went to Alvarez but returned to her own mat before morning. Alvarez left the house at dawn and brought back fresh fish for morning tea. He cleaned the catch and rubbed them with lime juice. Margaret fried them crisp in coconut oil. They ate in silence...

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School Clothes

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pp. 45-49

1940. Alvarez rested in his hammock and watched the setting sun burnish the western sky to a brassy orange. “Thanks to the cook, sweetheart. That was a fine meal.”
“I’m glad you had the chance to come in today. I wasn’t expecting you for another week.”
“I should have kept sailing, but it’s hard to go by and not come to see...

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New Farm

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pp. 49-53

1943. Three years later, Khandi looked after the children while Margaret, Alvarez, Agnes, and Robert cleared land they would jointly farm. Yard by yard they worked through the bush, pulling the tall grass forward with their hooked sticks and slashing it at the ground with their machetes. In...

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The Red Cock

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pp. 53-55

Next day, Tas split wood and stacked it near the fire stand. “Ma, did Santa tell you about the shoes?”
“What shoes?”
“Sister said next session we have to wear shoes. Said only pagans walk around barefoot.”
Margaret chuckled. “I’ve been barefoot all my life. Is that why I can’t...

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Skipper’s Holiday

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pp. 55-60

1943. One afternoon on the beach Santa said, “Look, Tas!” Two wild mares waded in the surf. The horses of Larube ran free along the coast. Although they were impossible to catch on land, the water slowed their movements. A careful Garif could ease up beside one and leap to its back for a brief...

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Santa’s School

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pp. 60-64

Larube, 1945. Tas eased a knife around the toe of his shoe, separating the top from the sole. The blade frayed the rotted canvas. “Damn you, shoes, don’t you give out on me. I kept you dry and clean best I could. You got to hold out four more months.” He slipped the shoe on his foot and saw his...

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Tas to Lidisi

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pp. 65-69

1947. Tas stared at the distant shore of Lidisi, squinting to distinguish the separate houses. He searched for any landmark that might link then with now. He longed for some sight that would remind him convincingly: Here you were with your father. Here are your roots. This is where you belong...

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Tas Meets Terese

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pp. 69-72

San Pedro, 1947. The afternoon sun scalloped patterns across the gray-brown palm logs, held in rows by wood pegs. The kind of house Ma would want. ’Cept we couldn’t afford it, Tas thought ruefully.
A young woman stood in the doorway. Hmm, a new man around. Very...

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New Shoes

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pp. 72-75

That afternoon, Terese asked, “Hey, Tas. Think you could stand a sail to Tela?”
“Sure, Reese. Why’re we going? Our ship stopped at Tela now and then.”
“Well then, you know Tela has shops where we can buy you some proper clothes.”
“Whoa, Reese. I don’t have any money to buy clothes. I’ll have to wear...

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Flowers of Delight

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pp. 75-77

Tas lay in his hammock considering his change of fortune. The sun was high, and he reflected. I should be out fishing, earning some money. He yawned. Ought to get up and shave before Reese gets back from market. He closed his eyes again. I’ll get up in another minute. I’m still wore out from last...

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News from Larube

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pp. 77-79

1950. Tas stowed empty baskets in the bottom of Casamerio’s dory. The heat was intense, and he had to sail from Tela to Lidisi before he could dive into the sea and let waves wash weariness from his muscles. He considered stopping at San Pedro. But he thought, Reese won’t be expecting...

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Return to Larube

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pp. 79-82

Three months later, while working together under the boat shed, Casamerio noticed that Tas was preoccupied. “What’s the matter, son? Where’s your soul-spirit?” Tas did not hear his uncle. Casamerio asked again, “What’s worrying you?”
“Oh! Uncle.” Tas came back to the present. “A seaman handed me a...

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Building a House

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pp. 82-84

This isn’t too bad at all, Tas thought at the end of his first week at home. Skipper’s a lot more fun to be with now that we can be drinking buddies. And all these new girls. We’re having a fine time. Ma never says a word, never fusses. Might be okay to stay on for a while
“Tas,” Margaret interrupted his thoughts....

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Tas and Lisa’s Stories

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pp. 84-86

1951. Years later, Tas recalled the first time he saw Lisa’s wavy hair spread loose on a pillow: “She fought it, tried not to give over to me. But we found the way. I was young and foolish. Slipping around so Alvina, my part-time squeeze, wouldn’t find out I was seeing Lisa. Alvina was some upstart...

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Birthing

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pp. 86-90

Margaret stood at the door of the little house where Lisa and Tas had lived since their return from the logging camp. “Lisa, you feeling all right? You didn’t drink tea this morning.”
Lisa struggled to sit up. “I’m all right, Aunt Margaret. Just not hungry.” She grimaced as the weight of the...

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Part 2. Living There

When I was not teaching at my university, I went to Africa or Mexico for ethnomedical research. Beyond the empirical recording of plants, dosage, and the like, this research includes the people’s beliefs about causes of illness. Very often the malady is attributed to a punishing ancestor, a malicious...

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Invitation Letter

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pp. 91-97

It was spring of 1980 when a letter came from a colleague who was working among the Maya in Belize. “A Black Carib came by. Said he was looking for someone to tell the true story about their religion. Seems that some man had been there years before and wrote a bunch of rot about...

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Monica’s Story

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pp. 97-99

One day I visited Helene’s sister, Monica, who was busy making “stretch-me- guts.” I asked her what she remembered about Helene’s call to be a buyei (traditional priest-healer).
Monica looked up from the cooling pot of cane syrup that she had boiled down to a thick, gooey, brown...

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Meeting Khandi

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pp. 99-102

A few days after meeting Tas, his aunt, Candalaria Sabal, called Khandi, took me in hand. About seventy years old at the time, she spoke broken English but was illiterate and only calculated years by past events. “I loss my sweetheart when de hurricane ’stroyed our village.” She never married...

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Tas and Home

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pp. 102-105

By the winter of 1980–1981, Khandi had decided that my “proper home” in Larube was to be with Tas and Lisa. Their two-story wood-framed house, set on brick columns in a white-sand yard, was larger than most homes in the village. A roofed porch fronted the upper level and caught breezes...

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Nutmeg Alley

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pp. 105-107

Summer 1981. I rented a one-room house on Nutmeg Alley. It was built by a missionary couple who had given up “trying to convert the heathens.” The exterior of my home was white clapboard with brown, louvered shutters. The interior walls were plasterboard. The floor was rough pine. I had...

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Margaret’s Bath

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pp. 107-111

Winter 1981–1982. I was tired after a twelve-hour trip from Tennessee. I scratched two mosquito bites on my ankle and twisted the band of my skirt against heat rash popping out around my waist. A child called, “Moma Mar is here. She’s come back!”
Behind me, Lisa spoke. “Moma Mar, go...

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Fishing Trip

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pp. 111-114

My friend, Marcia, was known as a hellraiser. Folks said, “When she’s on, you can’t stop her!” Less than five feet tall, stocky, and strong, Marcia refused to speak English, though she had lived in Larube for fifteen years. Each time I returned, her first greeting was to yell in Garifuna “Moma...

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Frog in a Jar

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pp. 114-115

To God, I don’t know what to say about this one. If it had happened in Africa, I would have made notes and moved on. But this is Tas and Lisa, and that blows my mind!!! And of course, I have to keep quiet about what I think.
I honestly can’t tell how much Tas...

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Persecution and Altar

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pp. 115-117

Part of my study of the Garifuna medical system involved talking with patients waiting for treatment at the dabuyaba (house of worship and healing). As in a doctor’s waiting room, there might be a half-dozen people asking for help. They came to their religious center because they believed...

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Cashew and Chickens

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pp. 117-121

When ripe, the cashew fruit looks very much like a yellow bell pepper, except that a single nut hangs from its base. Cashew season is a festive time of year. The children munch on the protein-rich nuts and devour the sweet, juicy fruit. Adults put down the pulp for wine to be served during...

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My Lidisi Visit

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pp. 121-123

We strolled along the beach where soft waves chased fiddler crabs into their holes, and terns dove for minnows in the blue waters. “I have to go to Tegucigalpa on business,” Tas announced. “Then I’m going on to Lidisi for a visit with my father’s people.” He paused, “You’re invited, all expenses...

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Love Magic

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pp. 123-125

While preparing an article for publication, I came across field notes on a conversation with Juan about love magic. This was his story.
“There was a girl here, long time passed. She loved a man so much she was near crazy. Wanted him bad, you see.” Juan shook his head. “But that...

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Snake Bite

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pp. 125-127

Lisa jumped up and yelled, “Moma Mar! Thank God you’ve come.” She hiccuped a sob. “I can’t do anything with Tas. You’ve got to help me.”
My heart bumped a jig in my chest. “Lisa, where is he? What’s happened?”
“It’s sustagua, Moma Mar. The night Rico died. Tas stumbled into the...

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The Feeding

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pp. 127-133

Voices were coming from Dorothy and Elizabeth’s room. Tas looked at Lisa and said, “Sounds like Dorothy’s dreaming.”
Lisa listened. “That’s not Dorothy. That’s Elizabeth. What’s she saying?”
Elizabeth staggered to her parents’ bedroom and stood in the doorway...

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Warin

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pp. 133-135

Among the Garinagu, the only reminder of Christmas was an occasional ornament dangling from a wilted, brown palm frond. However, the Garinagu celebrated the winter solstice as a major holiday. The coming of Warin, the mythical hunterman who visits villages during the winter holidays...

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Khandi’s Funeral

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pp. 135-137

Back in Tennessee, the anthropology department secretary interrupted my Monday-morning class for me to receive an overseas call. I picked up the phone in the office. “Hello.” Tas asked, “Moma Mar, you there?” “Yes. Where are you?” “I’m in our house. We just got a telephone last week...

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Coconut Lady

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pp. 137-138

Aunt Bea, Lisa’s distant relative, was our next-door neighbor. A pretty woman, she was agile at sixty-eight. I thought of her as “the coconut lady.” She said, “Nature provides it for us. You don’t have to plant coconuts. Leave them where they drop. Next year there is a small tree, and three...

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Butterfly

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p. 139

A year later, my Garifuna family was “honoring the ancestors,” and this was the first time Khandi was to be elevated to that position. I was there to perform my ritual duties as her daughter.
Although Khandi had adopted me, and I was treated as a part of a Garifuna family, I knew there...

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Joseph’s Wedding

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pp. 139-142

Joseph, Tas and Lisa’s elder son, invited me to attend his wedding. I remembered meeting Frances when she visited Larube and surmised that Tas and Lisa were less than pleased about their future daughter-in-law. She was a pretty girl, but in my opinion, Frances had the social skills of a...

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Lucas’s Sickness

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pp. 143-146

A year after Joseph’s wedding, I watched Lisa fret that Frances would not properly care for Lucas, the new grandson. For the customary “nine days of transition,” she hurried to Joseph’s house just after breakfast.
One afternoon I said to Lisa, “I understand that the baby and new...

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Frank’s Lesson

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pp. 146-150

Tas roused from sleep as Lisa spoke, “Tas, it’s after midnight and Frank’s not home.”
“Wonder where he is?”
“He’s supposed to go to a dance at the hall. But that’s been over since eleven.”
Tas slipped on a pair of trousers. “Go to sleep, Lisa. I’ll see to him...

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Part 3. The Ancestor Party

A postmortem ritual, the ancestor party is given to facilitate the honored spirits’ journey to the supreme supernatural. The hosts invite the parents and grandparents to join them to dance and share a last meal with the living. The ritual is usually a two- or three-day affair. I had visited other ancestor...

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The Santa Trance

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pp. 151-156

Winter 1988. I only knew Santa from watching trances. She died in the late 1950s during childbirth. The stories told about her suggest she was a hellion: got in fights and was expelled from school, rode wild horses in the sea, and was a ring leader in adolescent escapades. Apparently, she was...

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Consulting the Buyei

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pp. 156-159

The next morning while Lisa and I prepared breakfast in the cook shed, I said, “Heard them come in, late. What happened after that?”
“Santa seemed satisfied. She smiled sweet as honey and went to sleep.” Lisa shook her head. “Elizabeth’s sleeping it off. At least, I hope it’s Elizabeth...

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The Mali

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pp. 159-163

Dorothy poked a finger through the open weave of the basket that lay on the table in the cook shed. “Papa, what you going to do with that?”
“We’re going to hang it in the dabuyaba,” Tas explained.
“With those things in it?” Dorothy pointed to the chap of rum and the candle...

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The Pigs

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pp. 164-166

Six months after I sponsored the Mali, the most sacred dance in the worship services, I was again in Larube. There was a black hog tied to a tree in the backyard. He was making a mess in his pen, uprooting a big banana clump and digging deep wallows. I knew he was for the dugu (ancestor...

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John Canoe

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pp. 166-171

A year had passed since Santa’s visit, calling for the ancestor party. Winter holiday celebrations were at a peak. Lisa and I were baking vanilla cookies in the kitchen shed.
Dorothy ran down the back stairs, arms flapping with excitement. “Ma, I can hear the drums. I can hear the drums...

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Building the Gaiunari

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pp. 171-175

June 1, 1989. Only weeks before the dugu (ancestor party) would begin, Lisa and I wanted to see how things were going with the gaiunari (celebration structure), so Amigos offered to sail us to the south land. He threw two large burlap bags into the dory. “Those are gifts from Marcia and me...

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Terese Arrives

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pp. 175-178

One week before the dugu was to start, Tas pointed to the horizon and said to me, “That’s James Salivar’s dory. Recognize it?” I squinted. “No, I lack your seaman’s eyes.” “See there? He’s standing in the stern, and . . . wait a minute. There’s a woman sitting in front of him....

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Baking Day

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pp. 178-180

It’s Monday morning. Marcia, Virginia, Reese, and I sat under Lisa’s kitchen shed peeling cassava. Reese stood and said, “I’ll take the first turn.” She settled an oblong wooden container into the sand and placed a grater against one side of its trough. I tossed in a half-dozen peeled cassava, and...

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Moving Day

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pp. 180-185

Wednesday was moving day. We shut down the Diego house in Larube and transported supplies to the south land. James Salivar, Phillip Reston, and Tas sailed two round trips. Their cargos included three hogs, twelve baskets of cassava bread, one basket of ginger root, coffee beans, six baskets...

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To the Keys

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pp. 185-192

I dozed but did not sleep deeply, waiting for a fowl to signal the approach of Friday dawn. Rrup-a-rup-a-rooo. The first call, I thought. Another cock flapped his wings and crowed. Orrk-a-ork-ah-owrroo. Okay fellows, yell it out. Your party has started. Tas lit a lantern, and I crawled out of my hammock...

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Unwelcome Guests

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pp. 192-197

Saturday morning, I woke to an undertone of grumbles in the yard, and realized that I was already sweating, though it was still early. I looked out the south door. The leaves hung still above the shed.
“Ma, it itches, Ma,” I heard Dorothy whimper.
“It’s sand flies,” Lisa said...

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Clara Arrives

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pp. 197-200

The three drums hung from the rafters. Their beat would not call the ancestors again until Monday. This was to be a day of leisure. Skeptics might say that this was a concession to the Christians. But I remembered Khandi had said, “We tink Jesus Christ is one of de greetist hiuriha. Dats why we...

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The Adugahatia

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pp. 200-205

The storm passed during the night. At five, Celia woke those of us who were to wear red. “Time to dress, ladies and gentlemen. Go bathe at the beach, then I’ll have your clothes ready.”
By six, we were dressed in red. Cotton tops and drawstring skirts or pants dyed with...

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The Banquet

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pp. 205-210

On Tuesday morning I walked into the main hall and found Lisa, Elizabeth, and Dorothy looking at the mound of dead cocks.
“Moma Mar, good morning.” Dorothy yawned. “Is it time to drink tea? I’m hungry.”
“We have to clean the fowl before we eat,” Lisa said. “Then I’ll find you...

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Jubilation

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pp. 210-212

A few of the guests dozed, but most talked quietly, waiting for the first cock to crow. Helene searched the sky for signs of dawn, then called the drummers to begin the last cycle of dances.
I knew the hardest part was coming up. No one felt like dancing again and tempers were short. The...

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The Last Hours

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pp. 212-214

Tas and I were cleaning up the main hall when Miguel walked over to Skipper’s hammock. “Okay, Skipper, time to sail.”
“You leaving now, Miguel?” Skipper stood and patted Miguel’s arm. “Have a safe trip, it’s been good seeing you again.”
Miguel clasped Skipper’s shoulder...

Glossary

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pp. 215-216