Mothers of the Plaza of August (2) / Ángel Santiesteban

Photo: Karel Poort

THE FAMILIES, after several days of walking along the beach, assured the mothers there was nothing more they could do to find their children, the sea would not give them back, and they managed to convince them to leave the coast and return home, but not before carrying out the final ritual: with their swollen feet and their hair disheveled by their restless hands because they had no other way to vent their anger, they knelt to watch the sea with resentment for having stolen their children.

While they prayed, the flowers thrown by the families were carried away by the waves. The godparents, for the protection of their godchildren, were gathering snails and throwing them in the sand, sprinkling them with tobacco smoke, honey and brandy; then they deciphered the writing and in full communication with the gods, broke a coconut hoping that this act would melt away the curses and frighten the bad spirits that might surround them. Then they cast into the sea the white mass that, contrasting with the blue of the water, attracted the fish who rushed to probe it. All to the desperate prayers and promises of the mourners.

The padrino said that in return for his care the saints asked for food to take with the blood of rooster and goat. Finally, they ended the ceremony, offering Yemayá a live duck which, frightened, rose over the waves, beating its wings in a desperate attempt to escape or to celebrate its freedom. The children, meanwhile, crouched in the water until the families were out of sight, to trap it and hide it in a sack along with the others, with the intention of re-selling it or taking it home for the family meal.

In the sand, meanwhile, the footprints of the children before they climbed aboard the rafts, still remained.

October 4, 2010