A short story dedicated to African women in the upcoming 8th of March
by María Suárez Toro, Ambassadors of the Sea and Ambassador of World Pulse
March 2, 2020 Let me introduce myself at this point in my recent life in Cahuita. I am the Tona Ina in Yoruba, the Marina Light in Crelole, the Boe Dejé in Bribri. I have lived in Costa Rica´s Southern Caribbean for the past 400 years when I left Äfrica in the belly of a whale because I needed to be here when my African would come, so that they could have a welcome.
But upon their arrival in two slave ships exactly 310 years ago on this date of March 2, 1710, 650 of them reached the coast in freedom although htey were being brought to be enslaved in the Americas. Many of them were re-captured and eslaved and the pain in me was so piercing that I lost my light.
Very recently, a gour of young divers found the remians of the two ships and decided, not only to research them with experts, but also recover the untold stories in archives and oral stories with a borad objective of linking the search to the direct and indirect descendants who came directly from África.
That is how I have come to begin to recover my sea light in all of its spendor.
So today, I come to tell you a story, not from the past, but of this anniversary of their arrival. I do not know if you guys remember a very famous song by Elton John, “Follow the Yellow Brick Road”.
This story today, is about the yellow brick road that these youth divers and the experts they have been inviting to train them in archaeological survey and photogrametry have found in the Cahuita National Park archaeological sites.
The “Brick Site” 300 meters north if Punta Cahuita in the Park is called that becaause it has thousands of yellow bricks dispersed throughout, but also concentrated in staced piles. Because the main archaeological hypothesis of expert archaeologists that have come to survey is that the wrecks might be the two Danish ships, Fredericus IV. and Chrisitanus V. that lost their wat y to their colony of St. Thomas in the Caribbean islands, endig up somewhere in the Southern Caribbean of Costa Ra where I saw them arrive, the youth and researchers set out to take some samples of bricks to be studied in Denmark for chemical analysis. My light has sparked these days because the three bricks seem to be identical to one given to us by a Danish archaeologist for a local Exchibition, but I shine today because if the results show that they are chemically Fensburg, the 5,000 mile yellow brick road between Denmark and Cahuita will be shortened and we will be closer, much closer, to unearthing another untold story that will enhance Afro Costa Rican history. That's why today I woke up in this amazing summer day, humming the metaphorical song of the "yellow brick road", as if reminding all that we study the objects and information of the past, but not to stay anchored in it, but to forge a rooted present.
Excerps I sing today: Goodbye yellow brick road, When are you coming, When are you going to land I should have stayed at my house, I should have listened to my elder, You know you can't have me forever I didn't sign with you I am not a present for your friends to open, This person is too young to be singing the blues. Well goodbye yellow brick road Where society dogs howl... Oh, I finally decided my future, Beyond the yellow brick road Sure, three samples among thousands of bricks, won't lend themselves for a scientific conclusion, but it does bring the long way of archaeological search for clues. Do you agree? Even my hair glitters, awaitng the preliminary resuts.
Because science does not know yet, but I, the Sea Light the Tona Ina know the results becasue my light sees though the mud. The Iller Strand coast at Flensbug Fjord southwest Copenhagen is the place where the Flensburg bricks have been manufactured for the past four centuries. Used to build in the colonies, as ballast to balance the cargo of ships and to make the kitchens of the basement of slave ships avoid burning the ships themselves, the Flensburg coincide with the official cargo list of the Danish West indies and Guinea, owner of the two ships in mention. And as if it the yellow bricks and their preliminary results are not enough, today I work eup sinving but also looking an the first photogrametery 3 D model of the Bricks Site in Cahuita National Park donde last december by ¨Poti”, which is the nickmane I gave a good Japanese photogrametrist who, instead of taking treasures from out sites, dedicates himself with his camera to traesure in captured images, what the simple yes might miss. The cules then become object of futher studies.
Well, I have to tell you that today, maybe because the ancestors in Africa are with me in this anniversary what appears in the brightness of my eyes has shed even more light that I ever saw before. To a critical eye, although not necessarily scientific yet, you see what appears to be the contour of the ship's hull undeneath the neatly stacked yellow bricks. As is drawn under the bricks, this would also suggest that the ship could have burned to where the ballast was along the bottom, sinking into place with no dispersion by blow or dismanteling. If it had been broken, not burned, it would be scattered and so would the bricks. But it's not so, everything is very orderly down in place. This revelation also claims that the other archaeological site approximately one km away. west of the Siege of Bricks, known as the Anchors and Canyons Site because it has more than 15 canns and 2 immense old anchors, would have to belong to another ship wrecked there. Although one of the archaeological hypotheses up to this point had been that the remains on both sites could be from a single ship, this woud be discarded today because there can be no ship base in one site that later drifted to the other place. You should know that the story of the way in which both ships wrecked together somewhere in the Southern Caribbean is colse to these clues. Heading to his St. Colony. Tomas in the Mayor Antilles near Puerto Rico, a thick fog in a stretch of the trip and a storm later took them out of route. Their biggest cargo was 650 Africans and thousands of Danish Flensberg bricks. Upon being lost and found without food and water, a riot of sailors on board resulted in Africans being released on the coast amid chaos on ships when the crew claimed their payment and being able to remain in the area in search of food earlier sailing for Portobello in Panama. Captains s' rejection of such demand caused the ships destroyed, one by fire (it is not known if accidentally or on purpose) and the other was left to sink into the reef when sailors cut the anchors loose. Thesailors had previously put the rest of the crew, the captains with 21 Africans in two English barges that took them safely to Poetobello in Panama. It is known that 21 Africanas of them were left in Portobello, probably enslaved, others were captured by Miskitos off the coast of Costa Rica, who undoubtedly took them as enslaved to the English protectorate on the Atlantic Coast of the then Province of Nicaragua, another 101 were captured in Matina and re-enslaved and others may have disappeared in the jungles of Talamanca where they may have mixed with the Bribri. Today, 310 years since I lost my light when they arrived and were enslaved; today, when little by little I have been recovering my sea light in every achevement by that community cultural archaeology project withall those who have supported them, I swear I no longer expect them to return light!
Today I join them in their quest. Beware, because the light they have returned to me will be from today, a new beacon of light that illuminates them in the path of yellow bricks and beyond.
Note: Author María Suárez Toro is a Puerto Rican/Costa Rican teacher, professor, journalist and suba diver. She is member of the Board of Ambssadors of the Sea, one of its founders and principal cultural researcher of the Community Archaeological Expeditions by Ambassadors since 2016. She has written 11 other Tona Ina stories that are curretny being published by the University of Costa Rica. She has been a Nat Geo Expeditoner, a Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS) 2 nd level student, PADI Master Diver trainee and Diving with a Puerpose (DWP) and student in coral monitoring and restoration and in archaseological adovocacy. She has been Principal Researcher for the Parks Services in Cahuita National Park in Expeditions between 2016 to present. Recently named World Pulse ambassador.