Hispanic literature Indigenous literature Literatura Hispana


A short story by Juan Manuel Gómez Cotes.


Juan Manuel Gómez Cotes

Cardinalis phoeniceus

A boy was selling it on the street very early in the morning and I bought it from him. It has been a long time since I had last seen this bird. Its trade was illegal and I didn’t want to cage it. As it was a young bird, I intended to feed it with seeds until it grew up and I could set it free in the bush. Scientists called it Cardinalis Phoenicus, Guajiro Cardinal in Spanish, and “Iisho” in our native wayuunaiki language.
It got its red color from bathing in the blood of “Wolunka”, the first Wayuu woman, when the sons of “Juya”, Father of the Rain, pulled out the teeth of her vagina with an arrow so that mankind could reproduce.
Its topknot attracted the attention of friends and strangers, who wanted to have it singing in their homes. Unfortunately, it was normal for this bird to die in captivity.
Because of its bright red, the specimen I bought was a male, the females were pale red. Their varied whistles or songs emitted from the top of the trees announced the arrival of our father Juya to bless us after the drought period.
As a child, I used to listen to its natural melodies when I walked through the dry forests of the Wayuu Territory. Those sounds, which relaxed us and fed us positive energy during the day, can no longer be heard because of the invasion of its environment and the illicit sale that extinguishes it.
At noon I decided to take him to my mom’s house so she could take better care of him, she loved having birds in her home. I thought I was doing the right thing.
In the afternoon I returned to see the animal, but I only found some red feathers in the yard. Mom told me that her grandchildren had taken it out of the cage it was in to play with it. I knew my nephews were naughty, but I had forgotten that several cats were prowling around the place.

Translated by: Nidia Cavadía Martínez.

Juan Manuel Gómez Cotes

Juan Manuel Gómez Cotes (Colombia)-Wayuu indigenous from the ei’ruku Epinayu. He graduated in Basic Education with an emphasis in Social Sciences and now works as a teacher. He is the author of several stories. He won the 2020 Call for Incentives “Arte en Aislamiento” with the story “Limbo”.

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