A View from the Mangrove by Antonio Benitez-Rojo, James Maraniss

By Antonio Benitez-Rojo, James Maraniss

During this masterful number of brief tales, a celebrated Cuban author keeps his inventive exploration of the genesis of the fashionable Caribbean global.

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When the now dying fires on the Spanish encampment appeared floating in the mist, Barrett would take them for spirits of the forest. Then, avid and impulsive, Drake would shout the order to attack. The men, howling like wolves to exorcise their fear, would fall upon the sleepy sentinels, upon the tents, upon the hammocks, upon the sacks, chests, and coffers of money hidden beneath mountains of sheets. Barrett would react too late to turn crime into moderation, and Don Miguel's head would already be fixed on the end of a pike.

Now a child starts to howl; the woman stops singing, turns her body toward the darkest corner of the hut, and stretches out her arms in a gathering, maternal way. The scene, or rather the imagined picture formed in memory, begins to tremble, to fold over at the edges like a leaf fallen into the fire. The shapes and colors quickly fade, turn to smoke, and two tears well up in the man's eyes. In the dream of the tameme, or perhaps in a memory he understands to be not entirely his own, there is, first, darkness.

Diego? Pedro? Whatever his name, he was one of a kind. Fitzwilliam had said that before Don Miguel bought him he had belonged to the butcher Lope de Aguirre, and before that to one of his victim Ms, a captain named Ursúa, a rich and learned man who had caught him in Panama. Barrett said that he spoke Spanish pretty well and that he even knew some English and French, which was unusual, since the Spaniards did not bother to learn other languages. Yes, he was a singular Negro, a Negro with secrets, one who understood whites.

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