Ceibo

by Carmen Ruggero


They were peaceful. They were called the Guaraní.
The Paraná delta of Argentina was their native home.
It was theirs, theirs to rule, and theirs alone.

They were peaceful, the natives called Guaraní.
Amongst them lived a princess; her name was Anahí.
Strong bronzed limbs, piercing eyes shiny as twilight,
a courageous young woman, who in name only survived,
on a night when the river was silent — not a sound, not a one
as the Spanish fleet lurked in phantom ships
with bows pointed to evil ends, and
in their sinister mission, the burglars crept
to shore that night without moon or stars
and in the name of Spain and its lesser god
they would rape the women and make men their slaves.

Without warning, their savage blast fell
upon the peaceful and unsuspecting Guaraní
when from the dark they appeared, flaring
torches, raising crosses and swords.
They bellowed orders to surrender. The Guaraní fought.

Anahí leaped to her tribe’s defense — strong,
determined, she fought as well as any man would.
From the shadows deep in the brush, she kept vigil
and waited, eyes on the predators, nostrils flaring,
muscles tensing — and she jumped!
Legs straddled his waist, taut arm — garrote,
and buried her knife in the Spaniard’s throat.

Torches flaring, weapons drawn, crosses waving,
they pursued, she fled, they called, she leaped
into shadows, lay low in the brush — hushhh....
Not a breath was heard, not a sound.
Sinister eyes abound and searching,
hers darting — alert, panting, sweating... she moved
and they found her!

She fought. She was strong; they were many.
She was captured and condemned to die.
Die, Indian, die by burning — die!

She endured in silence — no tears — no moans,
as she was set aflame — on a night such as that,
one without moon or stars — she burned and
as heroes and legends do, she bled upon
a page of history some have forgotten, somehow.


[Author’s note] The Guaraní lived in the Paraná delta of Argentina. The Spanish attacks on them are a historical fact.

Ceibo Men were enslaved and forced into labor. Women were captured and raped, the result of which gave birth to the Argentine Mestizo — half native, half white. The belief was that the combination of Natives’ physical strength and the Whites’ taller stature would create a stronger working class. These children were later abandoned by the Spaniards.

The legend goes on to say that on the morning following Anahí’s agonizing death, a tree possessing her qualities grew on the very spot she died. Its name in Spanish is Ceibo or Seibo — the coral tree. It has hardy brown limbs, a soft interior, and red blossoms.

On the 24th day of November of 1942, the Ceibo was declared the national flower of Argentina.


Copyright © 2006 by Carmen Ruggero

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