Still to this day, I can’t ever remember a day in my teenage years that I didn’t wake up screaming. Nightmares plagued my mind with events that had happened and could have happened, but it wasn’t always like this. Until my thirteenth birthday, I remember playing on the sandy beaches of Jamaica with my older brother and my younger sister, our parents not too far away watching over us. I remember the nighttime tribe bonfires where we shared our traditional songs and dances while the spirits of our ancestors watched over us. This happiness only lasted for a while though, just until the white men came. They were not great in number, but they were able to turn my life upside down in a mere few days. These foreign men left destruction in their wake, making the waters and spirits restless with their lack of respect. They saw us as monsters for our culture and the way we adapted to our life on this tropical island. Thinking back now, I still do not understand why they acted in such a closed off manner when we also saw their culture as strange.
They slowly assimilated into our society but with much dispute. Their leader, the man in the hat called Christopher often talked with our Great Chief and he in return told us that we must welcome them as the spirits do not wish to send them out into the vast sea, killing them in one of many storms to come. This was the only time I ever despised the spirits, but now I know that they were right, that none of us had the heart to send innocent people however foreign to their deaths. The island was very tense for many weeks to come and I remember feeling like we lost the fun in our lives. This fun was forever lost when finally the spirits predicted safe travel from the storms. As the white men began to leave, they preached to us about the goods and riches of their so called Europe. I was strong enough to turn a blind eye to all of this. I was happy with just my family and my tribe, but my brother was tempted by the devil. Along with several other young men, my brother left with the white men on their great ship who promised their safe return. I dwelled in grief for my faraway brother, but also for my tribe which was once a strong community, now shattered by the influences of the white men. They left many physical traces such as this sickness that marks your skin like the devil or the endless garbage left lying around, but more than that, they affected all of us mentally. They twisted our culture and left something called Catechism that many of my friends and family began to believe. Back then, I hoped I was right to believe that this so called religion was too good to be true.
While our tribe kept changing, one day the white men returned. They didn’t stay long, for the Great Chief and the spirits refused their stay, but they came back to offer more men a chance to change their lives. The man in the hat remembered me and told me stories of my brother’s heroic adventures and how I may be able to meet him soon. Looking back, I was still a very foolish boy at the age of sixteen when I finally decided to leave my tribe to find my brother once and for all. I left my younger sister and my mom and dad as I boarded the great ship that I once despised. I had to constantly remind myself of my brother and the happy times we had to stop myself from drowning in guilt and hate.
After many treacherous months of travel on the sea we finally reached land. At a first glance it was nothing like the paradise that the white men told me about. It was a lot more like endless empty space with some mountains and rivers in the background. I asked them where my brother was on this vast land, but without an answer, I was shoved into a small, dark building along with the rest of my friends. Every day I was greeted in the morning by the white men who falsely promised me hope, and they sent us all out into the blazing sun to look for this shiny stuff called gold in the rivers. We rarely found any and they were only small flecks of gold at that, so I remember being beaten and starved every night I came back to that dreary building with no gold. This is when the nightmares started to come. It wasn’t only the physical abuse that I had to face, it was also the mental abuse from missing my family and tribe, and having this religion called catechism beaten into me. I only pretended to believe it at first, but I remember being scared of the fact that I actually began to listen and accept some of the teachings of these white men because it was so promising compared to the life I now led.
Years later after endless amounts of suffering, I decided I had dealt with enough. I knew that I would never be able to reach heaven if I died this way, but I had even given up of the meager hope their religion promised me. I ran out into the sea, running until my feet could run no more and then I swam until I would be away from the sights of the white men. After so many years, they never bothered to keep watch in the mornings anymore, but I still made sure to be careful. After escaping the island, I let myself drift off into nowhere, preparing myself for my final stage of life.
As I felt myself lose consciousness from fatigue, I was picked up another great ship, by a man I came to worship forever under the name Bartolome de la Casas. I could sense from the moment I met him even in such a horrid state that he had a deep kindness to him. I rested on his ship for many weeks, fading in and out of consciousness until one day I was led outside of my bunk to a land I saw to be familiar. It was my home, Jamaica. After eight long years in slavery I remembered the joy of facing my home once more. I was led to shore by Bartolome’s crew and they left silently as if they didn’t wish to disturb the native peace on the island. I told the men to come for a feast, until I realized that even with my return, the coast was silent. Among the many damaged houses, my younger sister who was not so young anymore stepped out of what used to be my home. I remember being told that the white men and the man in the hat came back many more times, and once there were no more volunteers for their mission they began to inflict pain upon those innocent. I heard of my parents’ horrid and slow death and my sister told me of her days of torture, now missing an ear and many fingers.
I lie now on my death bed, plagued with a sickness with no cure. I realize now as a wise old man that the true pain that the white men inflicted on us was the collapse of our tribe and our nation. Our population has dwindled down to a small few and there are even less that remember and still respect the old ways. I can understand why they would rely on the promising thoughts of Catechism as I once did in the desperate times of my life, but still to this day I wish for the fun times of my past to return. Scars will be left on this land forever, but I can only hope for the best of my people regardless of what kind of change will come their way, hoping that together we can survive the next obstacle.