(an excerpt from my book Indigena: A Novel Celebrating the Spirit Of Cinco De Mayo by Cynthia Dawn)
“I thought of a story Aguíla told me when I was little girl when we walked hand in hand through the forest at sunrise with twigs crackling willingly beneath our feet.
“On another land, there are children of the earth, just like you and me, Little Flower,” he would say in his intoned storytelling voice that was like wings that wrapped me, lifted me up, and carried me far away.
“They are our hermanos, brothers, and hermanas, sisters. Their ancestors are our ancestors. And these people of the earth love children. It is their way. When a woman in their tribe becomes pregnant, she goes out deep into the belly of the forest and takes with her only her closest and most trusted friends. Together they pray and they pray until they hear the special song of the child who is to be born.
They know that every soul has a purpose and that purpose is revealed to them in song. When the women hear the unique song fully, they sing it out loud and soon they are all singing it together. Then they return to the village and sing the child’s song to the others.
When that beautiful child is born, the village gathers and they sing the child’s song to him or her. Later, when the child begins to talk and ask questions, the villagers gather and chant the child’s song. When the child comes of age, the villagers again come together and sing. At the time of marriage, they sing the song again. Finally when the soul is about to pass from this world, the friends and family gather at the person’s bed, just as they did at their birth and they sing that soul into the next life.
“The only other time the song is sung is if at any time in the child’s life, should the child commit a crime against another, the villagers come and make a circle around the child and sing the song. For they recognize that the correction for such behavior is love and remembrance of identity, not separation. When one recognizes his own song, he has no desire or need to do anything that would hurt another.
“And, Little Flower, you will learn that friends—I mean true, genuine friends and family—never let you forget your song. For they are not fooled by mistakes one has made or the dark images one holds about oneself. They remember your beauty when your soul feels ugly and the wholeness when you are broken; they remember your innocence when you feel guilty; and they remember your soul’s purpose when you are confused.
“Unconditional love is so sacred, Little Flower. You may not have grown up in a tribe where this tradition is celebrated, but the villagers know you have a most discernable and beautiful song. And so do you know this.
You may not hear it as clearly as you would like, but life will always remind you when you are in tune with yourself and when you are not. You may have the experience of physical disparity, emotional or spiritual crisis, or perhaps just a relentless gnawing irritability. This is the body’s divine communication. You can feel it down deep within yourself when your life matches your song. There is an emphatic and unwavering joy.
But remember, Little Flower, no matter how sad, lonely, frustrated, or scared you may feel when you are not in tune, never give up and never stop singing. Your song will bring home back into your heart. It takes a lot of practice, but in the end, we shall all recognize our songs and sing them well.”