Thu | Aug 17, 2017

The Chiefdom of Majagua

Published:Sunday | April 17, 2016 | 4:00 AMPaul H Williams

The following is the first of a four-part summary of Fred W. Kennedy's historical novel, Huareo, Story of a Jamaican Cacique, published by Ian Randle Publishers. This 2015 fiction is based on the life of the Taino chief, Cacique Huareo, who lived in what is now called Port Maria in St Mary, and who resisted the Europeans who disturbed the idyllic life they led.

Cacique Majagua, paramount chief of the island of Yamaye (Jamaica), was worried as his chiefdom was going through a severe drought, and the yuca (cassava) had withered.

In the midst of the drought, Majagua had taken his sister's eldest son, Huareo, the noble one, to prepare him to inherit the cacicazgo (chiefdom). At first, Huareo was frightened, but he eventually understood his uncle's decision.

Upon consulting Macu, the unsightly bejigue (traditional doctor and spiritual advisor), Cacique Majagua was told that the Yocaju, the spirit of the yuca, land and sea, was angry. Someone in the village had done a terrible wrong. That was the reason for the drought.

Cacique Majagua was also told that the happy life that they led would be interrupted by strangers. But Cacique Majagua resented Macu for talking in riddles.

His son, Guaboba confided in Huareo that he had a secret. It turned out that Guaboba was the one who had removed the fertility cemi (sculpture inhabited by deity or spirit) from where it was buried in the fields, thus the drought upon the land.

the curse

Guaboba was disgraced and exiled to Haiti when it was revealed that he was the one who brought the curse upon the village. Yet, more trouble was to come.

A delegation, led by Gauma, en route from the big island of Caobana arrived to say that arijuana (strangers) who arrived from the sea had taken them from their home in Lucayos to Caobana in pursuit of gold. From Caobana the strangers went to Haiti. Majagua scoffed at him too, saying he was mad, and sent him on his way.

Life in the village was good again and the people were happy. But a Taino named Hatuey returned from Haiti to say the strangers were in fact in Haiti. Some people resented them, others embraced then. Hatuey said they were planning to visit Yamaye to find gold, but they should be resisted.

Huareo's cousin, the lovely Caona, daughter of Majagua, did not resist Huareo's affection for her. They married in an elaborate ceremony to signal their coming of age.

the strangers on the horizon

"Five moons after his marriage to Caona", Huareo sighted the strangers on the horizon. An alarm was raised, and the Taino descended on the shore to ward off the strangers.

They were initially successful, but the strangers eventually landed. In the fight that ensued, the Taino were overwhelmed by the superior weapons of the strangers and several of them were killed. After declaring victory in the name of "Santiago" the strangers planted a red and yellow flag in the sands and left.

Soon after, Cacique Majagua got ill suddenly. He officially passed on his chiefdom to Huareo, after which he died regretting not heeding the warning about the arrival of the strangers. His last words to Cacique Huareo were, "Beware the arijuana, they are full of mischief and danger."