Her face full of wrinkles could not mask the sadness they carried in their heart, a pain so immense that with every breath taken, she preferred to stay asleep forever and to stop feeling the tightness of their chest at every heartbeat.
The entire community had arrived to the wake and funeral of the great cacique Millaguir. No credit was given to what had happened to him, a man full of life, a kind peñi, capable of giving it all up for his people; he was there, silent in his departure.
Lankos and Mocetones from lands 5,000 leagues away came to the wake and funeral. Lots of horses surrounded the tomb; a great trunk of axed roble beech guarded his body and next to him laid his horse. Jewels and garments proper to a Toki decorated his eternal rest.
The previous day, the women had harvested the golden wheat from the Pampas, chanting the üll of creation and enjoying being part of the ñuke mapu. The forest and its creaking slowly awoke into the sunshine. The dismal song of a pitio caught Antonia’s attention; the old lady looked up in between the branches to listen with more focus, to find out what the little bird wanted to tell her. She unsuccessfully attempted to decipher the call, but she understood that the message being transmitted was something more than a simple tweet.
The trees began to have a new inner force, a permanent movement that waved the tops of the coihues and raulíes. Antonia became aware that they looked at her with sadness, they talked about her amongst themselves: they whispered a secret that became an echo with every animal in the forest. The woman carefully observed, she took soft breaths to prevent any interruption of the talking between beings from a sacred world that had agreed to visit her. Not a single noise was made, her breath was so slow that her concentration with her ancestors seemed infinite.
The woman who accompanied her did not perceive the communication between Antonia and the Gnen, and continued the harvesting routine, singing joyfully.
As her hair shined among the rays from the sun, and her green eyes looked all around her, wanting to soak forever into that instant, she thought:
“The day has come!”
At that moment, her chest was impaled by a spear; the warm blood ran between her breasts, her heart sped up as if it wanted to leave its place. The blood marked the territory where she had stood. She felt it, she lived it, it was real. Antonia was there, distressed, ignoring what was happening. Everything was undeniable, she could smell the blood, touch it, she could feel her open chest, but nothing happened; it was only her imagination that made up strange exclamations for help.
Soon, she was blinded by a shining light between the trees. The women at her side dropped to the ground covering their faces to prevent being blinded, they yelled dementedly, they did not know what was happening, the pain they felt before that light was unbearable.
The Orb started to approach her, Antonia remained firm, as if a supernatural force subdued her feet, she simply could not move. Her silver earrings melted in contact with the Orb of Fire that quickly evaporated from her sight, and then, without notice, appeared in the sky and disappeared beyond the mountain.
Antonia recognized the Cherrufe as a sign of a tragedy, Her mother told her the story of the great cacique Catriel who protected her family after his death.
At that exact moment the sky took on a dark color, and the clouds surrounded the sun and blocked every ray of sunshine.
The women ran frantically to Antonia, who was passing out. They did not know where the blood on her chest came from; it was as if a great wound pulsated below her trapelakucha. She felt that the whole world overcame her, she could not walk, she could not talk, only her thoughts lingered unbothered by the Cherrufe, but the rest of her being was possessed by the news she had received.
That Orb of Fire was the last and definitive signal to know that her love, Millaguir, had followed his ancestors to the place of the spirits, to the wenumpu: the land above.
Overcome by longing and fear, she ran desperately through the pampas, not caring for the roots that encrusted her bare feet; she only wanted to see her viejito, every step she took she felt as if life were being left behind.
The other women wanted to follow her, to give her a hand, but they did not understand anything. Antonia smudged between the trees, almost seemed to imitate them. She could not be seen, she was invisible, only the movement of the branches indicated to the rest of the ñañitas that the woman had passed through, with the strength of a lion, crushing everything she set her foot on.
Millaguir slept in the ruka, lying on the floor, with a string of blood running from his head. Antonia entered violently, she held him in her arms, caressed his gray hair; her tresses flowed over her lover’s puddle of blood, her eyes contemplated the scene where death had left its fingerprint.
“Where are you, Millaguir?” she yelled in desperation.
A Kulkul was heard between her cry, then an unceasing Trutuka that gave no room to cry. The painful melody revealed that Millaguir was dead because of betrayal. The warning was immediate for the rest of those present. Everyone needed to know. The great cacique Millaguir had died at the hands of a traitor.
Antonia stood up and left the ruka with her head held high, no more tears ran down her face. Since she was the Mayora, the Matriarch, she could not show her defeat, her embarrassment, her pain, her grief of being alone.
Strong and firm, she summoned her counselors and werquen and sent them to spread the word about the death of the love of her life; fifty-eight wondrous years together. They were born destined to give life to a lineage worthy of all eternity.
Millaguir was a man with a deep voice, small hands, self-confidence, admired and loved everywhere. Wherever he went he received honors as a great leader, an owner of thousands of hectares of land; he fought day after day so as not to lose his property.
The sun had just come out, and he was visited by Ismael Jaramillo, who had the intention of convincing him to sell his land and animals. The winka talked to him about all the things he could do with the money he was offering. Millaguir, nonetheless, pretended he heard nothing, as if he did not want to understand the language that the pale-skinned man was speaking. He did not want to hear his proposals.
He walked around the campfire, smutting the fire and moving the steel pan that hung in the center, fixed his attire, and told the man in perfect Spanish:
“These, what you see here, are the oldest mountains, this is the largest lake, and everything you can smell was of my father. For that reason, this is my village. And listen to me carefully, it is not for sale!”
Insulted by the words of that cholo, as he called them, Jaramillo got up surprised, and with a glare of hatred and a few bad words he drew his weapon on the Mapuche, shooting him in the head.
The spent bullet scared the animals and the doves, the dog jumped out of fear and started howling. Jaramillo sheathed his weapon, took his money, and fled.
The sensation of reality was incredible. I smelled the scent of ruka, of blood. My senses were so alert that I would close my eyes and envision Millaguir spread out on the floor.
I did not know what time it was. The nighttime would at least allow me to imagine how much time I had slept. A knot in my throat tortured me. I wanted to cry. I was sure that I knew Millaguir and Antonia, but from where? I did not know. They were simply a part of me.
“Antonia, who are you?”
II. Premonition, looking beyond the thing
I could not get the name out of my mind, just like the Mapuche who is now dead, resting in the hollow tree. I tried to stay still, to calm down and be able to organize my mind. Grandpa? He had arrived? My grandfather came to mind like an arrow, where could he be at this time of night?
Millaguir!… Millaguir!, painted with rays and bloodstains, some feathers honed above his ears, how ancient he looked.
A desperate yell left my throat. Thinking of what I had dreamt, I bitterly cried in the loneliness of the room.
I quietly scaled down the ladder, so as to not wake anyone up. I got to my grandma’s room. I felt her hair in between the sheets and shrunk beside her as if I were a baby looking for a mother’s bosom. I felt a complete sense of safety as I was loved by my grandma, protected in her arms.
“What is happening, Charito?” said grandma.
“I had a very weird dream, grandma, and I am scared.”
“Tell me, tell me what happened.”
“I do not remember well, grandma, I saw rukas, a crying woman, a dead man, a great Orb of Fire.”
“What did you say? An Orb of Fire?!”
“Yes, grandma, everything was very strange, I am very scared.”
A knock on the kitchen door made us jump up out of bed. I got very nervous, the fear invaded my young self, it looked like a figureless human, my body rocked from side-to-side.
In the gloom I was able to see my grandfather, my dear grandpa Queche, but it could not be him. His face was covered in blood, his garments were rags hanging like spider webs, his boots were spattered with blood and mud, giving off a strong odor. It was a horrendous scene. I hugged him and started to cry, while grandma cleaned him and asked herself what had happened to him.
“Lopez, woman, Armando Lopez, he hit me and scratched my face. Because he wanted me to grant him part of the fields and the animals.”
“What did you say? The animals, did you find them?”
“Yes, woman, he had them. And he had them marked with fire. To give them back to me, he wanted me to sign a paper giving him the whole northern field, with the hillside.”
My eyes could not bear the sight of another tragedy, I could not believe what they had done to my grandfather, he was such a nice person. They beat him and branded his face so he would give up his field. And there I was remembering Millaguir, Antonia, the Orb of Fire. Could it be a pelón? Might I have the ability of the Peumas2 just like my mother?
Grandpa Queche was left with a branded face for the rest of his life. We did not sleep that night. Grandpa spoke to us of everything he was going through with the arrival of Lopez, a simple tenant who had left grandfather Federico as the gatekeeper on part of his field and now wanted to own the whole field.
I could not stop thinking that they almost killed my grandfather because of me. If I had not dreamed of him, nothing would have happened to him. I never told him about my dream. I jealously kept it a secret between me and grandmother.
Translated by Eloy Cruz
1 Vision of a Mapuche spiritual leader that can envisage the future.
2 Name for dreams in Mapuche culture.