Venezuelan indigenous poetry
Hello, kind readers
Before moving on to the poems, I would like to tell you that according to some studies, it is believed that there are currently 26 different indigenous tribes in Venezuela: Akawayo, Añu, Arawak del Norte, Bari, Eñepa, Guajibo, Jodi, Kariña, Mapoyo, Pemon , Piaroa, Puinave, Pume, Saliva, Sape, Uruak, Warao, Wayuu, Yanomami, Yavarana, Yekuana, Yeral, Yurpa and South Arawak. There have also been many indigenous communities that have disappeared in the last two centuries, as many of them have adopted new customs and have moved to large cities. For example, the Cumanagoto community, of which my grandmother was, who adapted to the western social model and eventually lost not only their identity but also their territory.
Of course, it is worth mentioning that there are some elements that remain intact of their culture, such as some foods and drinks, ornaments and musical instruments. What many have lost, perhaps as a result of the lack of interest of the ethnic groups themselves and the governments of the day, is the language, the language they used to communicate. Hence, I believe that any action to rescue part of the oral and written heritage of the natives, I find very important and invaluable.
Reviewing some books and pages, I found a sample of Venezuelan indigenous poetry. Too bad they were all translated and as we all know, many things and feelings can be lost in the translations. However, I will risk leaving some of them here to enjoy them. Let's start:
Poem of the Timotes
This poem is made by the Timoto Cuica tribe, considered one of the most advanced tribes in Venezuela. They had their territory between the states of Merida, Trujillo and Táchira. They were excellent potters and brave warriors; from that last facet this poem:
CANTO GUERRERO DE LOS TIMOTES
The wind runs fast; the water runs fast;
The stone that falls from the mountain runs fast.
Run warriors, flown against the enemy;
like the wind
like the water
like the stone that runs off the mountain.
Strong is the tree that resists the wind
strong is the rock that resists the river;
strong is the snow of our páramos that resists the sun.
Fight, warriors, fight, Brave: show yourself Strong
Like the Trees,
o Like the snows of the Mountains.
In this poem we can observe how the lyrical voice makes the comparison of man with nature, how the warrior must possess the virtues of what surrounds him. Nature is an example of strength, agility, fierceness, that is why men have to be like her in order to succeed, to succeed in the great battles. In indigenous literature in general, not only in Venezuelan literature, the tradition and the native cosmogonic richness of each of the ethnic groups is evident. It lets us glimpse the awareness that there is communion between man and nature.
The Waraos are a town of indigenous venezuelans who live in the southern part of the country, specifically in the Orinoco delta. Just as there are poems for war, there are poems made to lull children to sleep. Let's see an example:
do not Cry.
If you keep crying
the tiger will come
and he will eat you
The tiger does not come.
If you come, do not cry
or he will eat you.
on the cut leaves
from the moriche,
Sleep, sleep now.
One of the most common types of indigenous poems, are those that can work as lullabies. If we review the indigenous bibliography, there are many examples of poems that are children's songs, or at least they have all the air of the game, of the children's round. In this poem we see that the lyrical voice speaks of sleeping a brother, common activity in any family. In this poem we observe that the brother is asked to sleep or else a tiger will come and eat it. When reading this poem, I remembered my grandmother and her eternal ghost stories. The use of fear to control, to get them to do the right thing.
The Piaroa is another indigenous town that lives on the banks of the famous Orinoco River. They are characterized by being peaceful and disciplined. From this tribe we rescued a love poem:
IF YOU LOOK AT ME
If you look at me
I am a red butterfly.
If you talk to me,
I am the dog that listens.
If you love me,
I am the flower that warms
in your hair
If you reject me,
I am an empty canoe,
dragged by the rivers
and that the stones destroy.
This poem, made from the enumeration and comparison, returns us the idea of communion between man and environment. The immediate reference of the indigenous man is nature, so it is her point of comparison, her image to metaphorize. The lyric voice speaks of how it feels when it is accepted by the beloved: beautiful natural images reflect the emotion, passion and joy that it feels; but in the end he also talks about how he feels when he is rejected: a boat empty and destroyed by nature.
This Venezuelan ethnic group has its territory in the Zulia state and are also called Guajiros. The Wayúu is the most numerous indigenous people of Venezuela and Colombia. From this town comes one of the most beautiful poems that I have read that speaks of life and death. I'll put some stanzas here:
THE DEATH GUAJIRA
A soul is united to each one of us.
She is like a small piece of white cotton,
But nobody can see it.
Our soul follows us to all the parts,
as our shadow
Our soul leaves us only during sleep,
or when we are sick
The man who dreams that he dies does not wake up anymore.
His soul has left him forever.
He is still alive
But his soul is already very hurt.
The disease is there.
The dead is close.
This beautiful poem expresses the idea that this ethnic group has of soul and death. The soul is something that we can not see, that always accompanies us, but there are moments when the soul leaves us: in the dream and when we get sick. When man dreams that he dies, one way or another, he has begun to die, according to the Wayúu. Dreaming of death is related to illness, as if, in dreaming, we decreed death, we desired it. It is as if we were aware of it, only when we have little time left to live. When we begin to think about death, the soul flees, it goes away from us.
When reading this type of text, we might think that they lack the poetic value of other poems we have read, that there is a certain simplicity and no creativity in their verses. However, I would like to rescue the value of the look proposed by these texts, a view so alien to ours; also its marked metaphorical sense affirming the own thing, the supernatural, magical, forces capable of explaining your universe.
It would be interesting for indigenous youth to be interested in collecting the voice of the elderly, with the intention of rescuing the memory of the communities. Propose perhaps the dissemination and knowledge, within their indigenous communities and outside of them, about the importance of writing as a fundamental element to safeguard their history and wisdom. Perhaps in this way we can appreciate more texts like the previous ones and there are less possibilities for them to disappear as people.
I hope you have been interested in this topic. Remember to vote for @adsactly as a witness and join our server in discord. Until a next smile. ;)
Written by: @nancybriti
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