Related Link Amerindian settlers
From a vast height the islands of the Lesser Antilles looked the same five hundred years ago as they do now: a delicate chain of islands binding the ponderous bulks of the Greater Antilles to the southern continent. To the east, the froth-capped midnight blue of the equatorial Atlantic, a nursery for generations of tropical storms. To the west, the placid sapphirine waters of the Caribbean Sea.
One island in this chain stands apart from the others, slightly out of line as if asserting its individuality. And as we come nearer we see that among the islands it is unique, not coarse and spiked like the shell of a conch, as the others are, but smoothly rounded with softly undulating hills that echo the gentle swells of the Caribbean. Indeed to say, as some have, that this island was born of the sea is as much fact as poetry, for the island is an enormous and ancient coral reef, lifted above the surface of the ocean by the tectonic forces that gave birth to its fiery neighbours.
Five hundred years ago, this island that stands apart was still covered with luxuriant primeval forests of bearded fig, whitewood and West Indian cedar. The Amerindian inhabitants, called Lacono, used conch axes to clear small areas for huts and fields of cassava, maize and sweet potato which they planted in happily disorganized clusters with no regard for geometry or organized rows. Our story begins here, in one of these clearings, where a young Lacono woman along with her two daughters was preparing bitter cassava just as her people had done on the island for over three thousand
years. Her name was Matamu.
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