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Without a Heart
They were marching up the hills Pedro and the Puebla’s . It seemed like the war, the violence ,the pain would go on forever. Its been over 70 years and the struggle still isn’t over . “Will it ever be?” BUT YOU MUST NEVER LOOSE FAITH, NEVER GIVE UP! Because I know that someday victory will rain on my brothers, sisters and my people! Behind every victory there is a struggle now here’s the story of my struggle.
I woke up screaming leika…..! I was so confuse. Confuse but filled with anger. My head was hurting and I felt dry blood on it. That man, that man of a color I had never seen. He had disrupted our peace, he…..he took my leika. We tried to make peace, we tried. We greeted them with the riches of our island, BRAND, but his eyes his eyes his dark blue eyes, were so…….so cold it made me shiver with fear. They attacked. They took them my people, my family, my brother and……and my Laika.
It was so dark and so hot, that’s when I realize the whispers. There were people all around me. There was also a really, really reek stench. The stench of what you get when you mix rotten eggs and meat together. I was so scared. At home Notsirt my big brother was always there when I was in trouble. He was next in line for the throne. He would know what to do if he was here.
I started screaming “help…help…helppppppppppppp. “ Then I heard him “shut your mouth boy you’re gonna get us all in trouble and trus me we don’t need no trouble. “ WHO ARE YOU! I am Gaspar from the tribe of tribe of the Bran people and home of the royal family of Gabon.” I told him whoever brought me to this living hell will be sorry and be given the ultimate punishment. He chuckled “only one who gonna get di ultimate punishment is us if you don’t shut your hole.” He told me his name was Jari. He was from some tribe called Louisiana. I told him about the blue eyed man and my family, my people.” So you some royal prince huh.” Well from now on you gonna be getting a whole new treatment.” I asked him what he meant. He said I would soon find out and for now I should just try to rest and regain some strength.
How could I sleep with all this on my mind, especially Laika. She was the only one who understood me where I was from. My mother and father exasperated me about taking control and getting ready for the throne. My brother Notsirt, always said “tuff up and be a man Yanga” which they sometimes called me, but Laika she understood me. Probably because she was also a princess from a nearby tribe and her parents bugged her about becoming a queen. She was also the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen. I tried not to focus on her, and get some sleep like Jari said and get ready for what the next day holds.
I was awoken by screams and sounds of whips. I didn’t have a comfortable sleep because there wasn’t any space where I was and it was excessively hot.
However, right now it wasn’t about how I felt, it was what I was seeing and what I was hearing. It was those men; those men who had took my family and people. The men with the color skin of how the sky looks on a cloudy day before it rains, the creamy color of fresh milk. The WHITE men.
I couldn’t believe my eyes they opened the door and when the light of the bright circle shone on my face my eyes burned. I hadn’t seen light in a while. They shouted crudely “get up n*****s the deck needs cleaning” then they whipped the men and harassed the women.
The children, the poor children cried as there mamas and pa`s were taken away from them.
Then they took the man who was wounded and bleeding badly and they studied him. They studied him has how a man would study a piece of meat before eating it. They stripped him. He was real skinny, so much you could see his bones and he could hardly stand. The white men then threw him down and kicked him in his chest. They whispered something about him being no good and a waste of space. They then took him up and push him harshly to the deck. I heard screams and sounds of struggle, then a splash.
I couldn’t believe it. They couldn’t have possible thrown him over deck. I ran pass them to the deck. He wasn’t there; only sign of him was a drop of blood. I was furiously angry. I bald up my fist and ran up to one of them getting ready to throw a punch. Then I felt something run swiftly past my back. It didn’t hurt at first, but I soon felt like I was badly burned. I cried out in pain then I felt someone rip open the shirt on my back and this electrifying feeling came over and over again as the whip struck down on my back. Just when I was about to lose all my strength I heard Jari run up and spoke in a pleading voice “wait boss he aint really mean no harm he came her jus yestarday and he don’t know much bout the rules.” It was no use he showed no sympathy he just kept on doing it and told Jari to get back in line before he gets worse than this. When he was done he crouched down and spoke in a voice that made me shiver “listen n***** , you are a sorry excuse for a man and if you ever think about putting your hands on one of us again you might just get worse than the n***** I threw over board. Get back in line!” I gathered my strength and scurried back in line.
I watched this happen over and over again as the bright circle went down over the mountains. People getting whip, people getting thrown overboard and much, much worse. We were branded bound and shackled by two- right wrist. I didn’t understand, weren’t we all men, weren’t we all equal. I could have sat there and hold a grudge against the white men and watch them do this to us the colored people, but I knew that my people and my family where probably out there getting the same treatment. I knew I had to escape.
We were in that room whose conditions were wretched. Men, women and children crammed into every available space, denied adequate room, food or breathing space. The stench was appalling - the atmosphere inhumane to say the least. It was really dark but I and Jari communicated across the room I told him about my plan to take the wooden boat and flee this god forsaking ship and anyone was welcome to come with us.
We had to stay for a few days to convince the white men we weren’t up to anything, but on the seventh night we quietly ran out of the dark room with 4 other men Inuken, Hibenor, Mishide, donken and a 3 year old boy Iran came with us. We lifted the wooden boat and gently lowered it down in the water with a rope then we each got in and rowed and rowed and as I left the ship I saw large red letters marked on the side West Africa Squadron. I didn’t know what would happen to the people who stayed on the ship, but I knew that I had a better chance of saving my family and people.
We rowed and rowed until our arms became cramp. I didn’t know how long we had been rowing, but I knew we were no longer near the West Africa Squadron. Luckily we had saved our bread which we were given once each day. You might be surprise how good stale bread tastes when you are almost starving. After the seventh night when the bright circle rose. I woke up hearing sounds of rejoice, and I knew what this meant. We had reached land.
When we reached to shore we all started rejoicing and screaming “we free, we free”. However although I was saying these words I had a feeling inside me that I was wrong. We had no idea where we were or where we were going.
Then I heard it. The sounds of someone crying, the sounds of whips and the sound of pain. I wasn’t going to let this happen to me again. I had to save my family and my people. I wanted to run. To run and never look back, but I knew it was time for me to stop running and be a man. I look around to try to find a weapon. I picked up a broken piece of driftwood with a sharp end and got ready to fight.
I close my eyes and listened as the sounds got louder. Then I open them it was a white man with a whip. He was calling a woman a useless n*****. She was crying and screaming. Jari and the other guys ran to save her. They started bashing and slamming the white man’s chest with the driftwood. I ran to the woman and lifted up her head, it was…Laika. I look at her she look shock and afraid. I was extensively angry. I felt like smoke was coming out my ears and my face was red and without even thinking I bald up my fist and ran over to the white man. I started throwing punches. I didn’t know where this feeling, this temper was coming from. When I was finally done I looked at him, he was dead. I look at Jari, Inuken, Hibenor, Mishide, and donken they had a shocking look on their faces. Laika was crying and held Iran in her hand rocking him. I went over to her and hug her. I told her I would never leave her again and I would find our families and people.
We decided not to stay on that part of the land because wherever that white man came from the others would soon come looking after him and for Laika. We gather the food which the white man had in a bag and headed back out to the sea. We rowed until we reached another island. I wasn’t scared anymore, I had strength now, I felt like it was my duty to at least try and stop this madness, try to stop slavery, but there is only so much one man could do.
On the shore of the other island we met a group of slaves who had told us they had escaped from a plantation and secretly hid on a boat and came here. Unbelievably it was about 27 people. I asked no questions I just told them they could come with us. I told them we were heading to the highlands.
While traveling we stayed out of sight and hid in anything we could find. It wasn’t easy but we managed to keep everyone alive along the way. Laika and I became closer in this journey and Iran certainly grew up. I had also found out that the island we were on was México, Veracruz. Mexico was also taking part in slavery because The Cortes and the Conquistadors had invaded México. The Aztecs tried to protect them but were soon defeated and the Spaniards and Indians were both enslaved. They mostly worked in the sugar cane fields and factories. During my time in Veracruz I soon discovered it was extremely beautiful, but filled with hatred for color people.
After years months we had finally reached the part of the highlands that I thought was safe enough for us to stay for awhile. I had made a new family, many other runaway slaves joined us along the way and although I never did find my family and people I had taken these people for my own.
However this happiness didn’t last for long. Word soon got out and we were attacked . We all fled and scattered to get away. The mountains where two difficult for the soldiers they couldn’t find us. All but one Iran. I couldn’t let them take him…no! He was just 16 now and I didn’t want him to have the experience I went through on the West African squadron. I had to save him.
I heard they had taken him to a sugar plantation near hear. I gather all the men I had age 20 and over and quietly sneak into the plantation. It was pitch black and the master was sleeping. We managed to get the slaves out of their chains and talk to them about why I was here and why they shouldn’t be here…be slaves. They told me that Iran was a house slave and if I tried to get him I would awake the master. That was a risk I was willing to take. At first we quietly sneaked in the house but once the master was awake hell broke loose. There was blood everywhere, so much pain. I told them to fall back and run to the mountains and scatter. The mountains were too difficult for them to find us. We met back later and rejoiced because now we were closer to our goal of being free.
We found a local sufficiently inaccessible to settle and create our own small town of over 500 runaway slaves. We secured food and provisions by raids upon the Spanish caravans bringing goods from the highlands to Veracruz. Relations were established with neighboring runaway slaves and Indians. For more than thirty years we lived free while we grew in size.
This didn’t last forever. The Puebla’s soon saw us as a threat and a place for slaves to runaway to. With that in mind a Royal war party left the city of Puebla in January of 1609. I was in no condition to fight. Almost 90 years old. My maroon troops were lead by Francisco de la Matosa an Angelo who had escaped at the age of 14 and I would give them superior knowledge of the in and outs of the terrain. I had become very close with him after Jari died in one of our raids with the Spanish caravans and my lovely Laika died of old age. Now here they were marching up the hill lead by the soldier Pedro González de Herrera. We had only about 100 firearm weapons that we had taken from the caravans. The rest of us arm ourselves with anything we could find, stones, machetes, bows, arrows and knifes made out of wood.
When they first reached the hills my first resolution was peace. I asked for a treaty to those that had settled hostilities between Indians and Spaniards and in return we would support them in any wars if the Spanish was attacked. I also suggested that we would return any slaves that would try to escape here, which was the main worry of many slave owners.
Pedro chuckled then spoke in a harsh voice that reminded me of the voice of the white man that made me shiver on the West African squadron. However I wasn’t scared I was an old man and I had learned a lot in my time in Mexico. The battle had begun. Seeing my people and the Puebla’s fight reminded me of the bloody fight in the sugar fields. The Puebla’s and I were both being baldly attacked and lost many men. They advanced into our maroon colony and burned it. However my people knew the mountains inside and out, so we fled to the more difficult part of the terrain.
The battle was over but this war lasted for years. Getting tired of fighting the Spanish finally agreed to the treaty my 3 sons Malakia, Kinjari, Khacariah and my daughter spirit was granted the right of rule. The town of San Lorenzo de los Negros de Cerralvo was established.
I lived a plentiful life with some horrible experiences, but some transcendent experiences. Now I will rest in peace in a better place with my friend Jari, my parents, brother Notsirt and my beautiful angel Laika. I knew that my time on this earth was almost over because god had sent me to this earth on a quest for freedom and that was what I fought for and died for, but remember the struggle is never over.