JOHAN PADAN AND THE DISCOVERY OF AMERICA
A dramatic monologue by Dario Fo
translated by Ed Emery
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Original text copyright © Dario Fo
Translation copyright © Ed Emery
Letís go! Letís go! Let go the moorings!* Hoist the mainsail*. Haul up the anchor! Heave away! Heave! Four sails to the wind! Heave! Let go the foresail! Weíre on our way! On our way! Leaving Giudecca! Leaving the Lagoon! Leaving Venice... Letís go! Go with the wind!*
There was a lady in the audience. She said: "Oh God, I hope itís not all going to be like this [in dialect]?!" The problem is, this is the language used by the sailors in the port of Venice in the sixteenth century. Youn want to understand...? I donít understand it and Iíve been performing it for two yours now, and you want to understand it just like that...?*
Oh, the wind blows and fills the sails... Weíre on our way... On our waaaaay...! Out! Weíre out! Out on the high seas. Iím safe! Safe!
"Safe from what?"
"From the Inquisition. From the gallows. From being burned at the stake! The Holy Inquisition, they got it into their heads that I was an accomplice of* this witch... "
Iím talking about this witch that the guards hauled off in chains... Yes, one of those who says she can tell the future. Who has forks,* who sticks pins into dummies... who strangles cats and then looks at their entrails to divine the future, who speaks with the devil, who speaks even with the dead... with the spirits... Thatís going a bit far! Ha, ha, ha! Talking with the dead, indeed...! With the devil... once in a while maybe... so to speak.
Itís not true that I was her accomplice... I was with her only because I was in love. Yes, alright, I was her assistant a bit, but only as a pretext, to spend time with her.
If you know how she made me melt* with jealousy, because she, this beautiful witch always had amorous admirers hanging round her petticoats. All of them paying her compliments and bringing her gifts. Even princes! Monsignors! Senators of the Venetian Republic. There were the members of the Serenissima who were courting her...! Not all ten of them...! Two or three of the ten... But she wasnít a whore! But when she was with me, she had eyes only for me... She spoke to me with those words that melt you,* the words you invent when youíre making love.
But what love!
She taught me all the tricks for knowing what is going to happen by reading the stars... the moon!
I remember, we were stretched out on the sand on the island of Paranello... it was night... it was summer... we were naked, making love... Suddenly she tells me: "Stop!!" "Whatís the matter?" "Look at the moon!" "Why...? Whatís the matter...? Are you ashamed in front of the moon?"
"No... donít you see, the moon is big and clear, with all those little clouds round it?" "So what?" "Itís a terrible sign that thereís going to be a storm in a while! Thereíll be a wind which will tear up everything right up to Piazza San Marco!"
"Donít be silly, girl, come on...! Thereís not even a sign... not a cloud in sight, the sea is calm... the lagoon is as flat as a pool of piss. Not even a bird in the sky."
"Precisely... no birds... thatís another sign that a storm is coming! Come on! Get in the boat! And off we went, rowing like mad.
"But where are we going?" "Row! Roooow! Weíre going to San Marco!"
We just made it to San Marco. We moored the boat in a hurry, we ran, we crossed the whole square, nd just managed to get round a corner... when we were under shelter we heard a hurricane that came roaring in: Braaam...! An upheaval! The waves, coming into the lagoon, roaring up the lagoon, tearing the boats off their moorings, pulling them up mooring posts and all... Then came two massive breakers, huge and slow, which tore up a whole ship and carried it into Piazza San Marco and placed it down right in from of the church... Then another breaker, which pushed it right inside the church... The navy in the nave!
The ship n the nave moved forward... And there was the priest in the transept: "STOOOP!" he shouts [He makes the gesture of a blessing] BUAMM...! It carried him off hanging onto the prow!
She was a phenomenon, this witch. She could foretell everything!
Shame she didnít foretell what happened the day the guards arrived and put her in chains on the order of the Holy Inquisition.
They carried her away to the Inquisition court... I was there as she passed by... And at that point I was a coward! Suppose the oficial had pointed at me, saying: "Werenít you a member of this womanís coven?" "Her? [A pause] Never seen her berfore in my life!"
I was shitting myself. The thought of being hauled up before the court of the Inqusition, with the judge pointing his finger at me, saying: "Now, you, tell me about the intrigues that you were all having with the devils, with the goats* of the Antichrist." Made me feel ill. "But I know nothing!" "Put him on the wheel at once!" Me, the idea of being put on the wheel, with all those little spikes... which are distinctly painful! And then for sure Iíd end up getting my arse burned!
So off I went, with the flames coming out of my backside, running down to where the big quay was... there was a brigantine weighing anchor.. I said: "Do you need a sailmaker...?* Somebody to stitch up* your sails? Ready for duty, here I am!" And I went straight aboard.
I went and hid below decks, hiding away* like a rat... Then, when we were out on the high seas I stuck my head out and thought, theyíre probably going just round the corner... at most to Chioggia. " Where are you going?" I ask. To Seville. Really just round the corner!! "Excuse me, will you be stopping anywhere en route, for a breather?" "Yes." "Where?" "Tunisia!!"
Me, cast adrift on the sea, twenty-five days on board a ship!!
Me, who was born on land... I saw the light of day between Brescia and Bergamo, me, and when I see water it makes me nervous even looking at it... I remember, the first and only time they ever got me into water, I was two days old... for my baptism... I still have nightmares!!
We arrived in Tunisia, and from Tunisia we went to Malage, and from Malaga we went to Seville. But Seville isnít on the sea!!! I always thought it was on the sea... No! Seville is in a huge plain, with a canal dug in the time of the Arabs, which reaches right down to the sea. You arrive with your ship, you wait, horses arrive, mules arrive, they hitch you up like a cart and they haul you along like a barge... And so you slip along, travelling along this river, till you reach the cityís port.
Seville... A marvellous city, you ought to see it! There are all these red and gold domes, and the tall bell-towers climbing to the skies... There are all these houses with funtains everywhere, you go through the streets with these sprays keeping you cool.*
I was enchanted as I looked at this city... And as I disembark I find myself standing in front of a big pile of wood, a bonfire, and on top of it are four heretics, sitting there... quietly blazing away.
"Whoís that that theyíre burning? "Heretics!" "And who sentenced them?" "The court of the Inquisition...!!"
Oh for heavenís sake! I escape from Venice with the flames up my backside... and now I find this same fire in front of my balls!!
These fanatics were burning people one after the other: heretics who refused to recant, wizards who werenít willing to condemn witchcraft, Moors who were not willing to convert to Christianity... and Jews... for any reason whatever!
They werenít doing it because they were nasty people, they were burning them to free their souls... Their bodies turned to charcoal* and their souls happy and going up to heaven!
A stink of burning flesh!
But these Seville folk werenít surly and gloomy by nature Ė not a bit of it... As soon as theyíd finished this collective pot-roast*... they threw away all the black garments* that they were wearing and threw themselves all, men and women alike, into great merriment, with dancing and singing... And I remember that they had some "castanets" Ė thatís what they call them, Arab kind of stuff, made of wood, which they click together, and they got music out of them,,, TRATATATATA [He mimes dancing and using the castanets):
"Ah, ah... sweet girl
Because of the great heat
We dived into the fountain
And for you to dry yourself...
I lent you my shirt
And you didnít even notice
That in it
There was hidden my heart!"
And whee-boom-boom-boom, they had fireworks... And the sky was all lit up! They finished all their things with fireworks. And precisely there, with the fireworks, I immediately found myself a job, because Iím the best artificer in the whole world... I made brilliant fireworks, to make them drunk. I took a large tube, I filled it with saltpetre, I put in sulphur and then carbon, then I added eight canes tied* together, then another twelve canes, then all the fuses Ė one long, another a bit longer, another a bit shorter... then I put a match to it all: PIAMM... BAAM...
I was a first-rate artificer, me!
Just for the record, might I remind you that precisely at that time a certain person had just returned from the Indies Ė Christopher Columbus, from Genoa, who was nobodyís fool... heíd done the whole crossing in less than a month, but not going directly, but getting to the Indies from round the back!
What a brain! Heíd got there round the other way...!
Because in those days, when people took the stright route to the Indies, going via the Mediterranean, you arrived in Tunisia, in Tunisia there was the desert, you took a camel: [He makes dance movements suggesting the lopsided walk of the camel] camel, camel, camel, camel, camel. Then you get to the mountains with mule or a donkey: donkey, donkey, donkey, donkey. You get off, thereís a river, a boat, you go over, and then thereís the desert: desert, desert, desert, camel, camel, camel, camel, then there were the mountains again, a mule, a horse, a mule gain... Then you get to the sea... At least, the sea! Boat, ship... Uh-uh... camel, camel, cam5el again...
It was a bit long...!!
You had people setting off as children, and coming back as old men...
The terrible thing was, you could imemdiately recognise people whoíd been to the Indies... for the way they walked... Look how they walked... [He does a walk which is all wonky and rolling*] Remember the camel...?
So, what a brain that Christopher Columbus! He went by sea in thirty-five days, taking the world by its backside...!
But one should say, if anyone was taken by the backside, it was him, because nobody gave a damn about his great discovery.
Heíd say: "I got there via the Canaries in thirty-five days!" "Yes, sure, relax, relax..."
He was of no interest to anyone because heíd not brought back anything! Gold, heíd brought none. Shiny precious stones, none. Corals, none... Just a few manky pearls, ten natives, all [...]* with their feathers all awry... a few parrots, scared, terrified... with their feathers all upright... and with their eyes all round, as if they were saying: "Help...!"
The monkeys were nice, though... With hairy backsides... bright red... and masturbating from morning to night.
"But Christopher Columbus, what kind of rubbish have you brought us?" "I took what I could find."
I knew this man, and he told me: "Johan Padan, trust me... I know for sure, that in this new world thereís gold by the bucketful... If you come with me, Iíll cover you with gold, Iíll make you rich!"
You get it? He was leaning on me* for me to join his crew. Good idea. Iím a phenomenon! I know how to read the Astrolabe... Iím a sribe, I have a neat hand, Iím a marvellous hieroglyphist. Iím a sail mender. I sew up sails... I can handle cannons. I know the winds. I know languages, thereís no language in this world that I donít speak. I converse in all languages, all dialect, in dead languages, living languages, those that are just so-so...
And then iím a person who, when I hear a foreign language thatís spoken all intricately, soís you donít undestand... I listen to it for a week... TAC! By the end I speak it as well as he does!
I donít understand what Iím saying, but I can speak it!
Once again he asks me if Iíd fancy joining him for his third voyage... and I tell them: "My dear discoverer, if you find a way of getting to these Indies on foot... Iíll come along behind you riding on a pig."
Never speak vainly in jest,* because the next thing you might really find yourself riding on a pig. But weíll come to that in a bit.
To start with, it happened that there began a terrible persecution against the Jews. A huge trap invented by that fine Catholic, the Holy Queen Isabella and her beloved husband Ferdinand, to chase the Jews out of Spain and take away all their goods, their money and their houses.
In Seville there were Italians from Florence and Genoa. Shrewd operators. Bankers, and they were making the most of a good opportunity, doing good business. They went round getting the houses off the Jews, secretly, before they were confiscated from them... and in exchange they promised to give them another house, in Livorno or Naples, to the same value... On oath...! Written on a letter of credit.
It was a swindle, and I knew how it worked, by the simple fact that for a while I had been engaged in the service of one of these bankers. Doing what? Doing the writing. As I told you, I was a fully fledged scribe.* So first of all Iíd write these "letters of credit". What a hand... Ha! Then they, these Jews, would arrive in Tuscany and Lombardy, and theyíd get back what they had left to the bank. It was an ingenious gimmick!!
The trouble was, the Queen got the idea that there was some kind of swindle here... Her crown went into a spiral dive.* She picks up ten of these Jews, gives them a bit of a burning, they spilled the beans, then they caught the Genoves and the Florentine bankers, and they gave them another burning. And then the Judge of the Inquisition got his hands on the letters of credit... the ones that I had written... Just my bad luck! He reads them and he says: "Nice work...! Iíd like to meet the person who wrote them!" And what do I do? Wait till they catch me? Iím off!
With the flames at my backside again, in a flash I shot off to the port, and with one great leap like a kangaroo,* I get myself on board one of the ships of the Genovese Columbusís fleet, which happens to be setting sail on its fourth voyage... It had already pulled away from the quayside.
I walked on water!
Not even time to ask: "Do you still need me...?" Off we go, and devil take the hindmost!
When we got out on the high seas, I made myself known. "I can do all trades. Iím an artificer, I can sew, I can read the Astrolabe, I can do cannons..." "No! We donít need any of those trades, theyíre all covered! The only job we have is looking after the pigs, cows, donkeys and horses that are down in the hold!"
The hold was stuffed full with these creatures, for the reason that in that world across the seas there were none of the breeds that we were used to. Horses, mules, donkeys, cows and pigs had never been seen there! So all the shios that went down there were full of these animals, to settle the place! So I found myself having to do the voyage below decks, in among all thse animals, that were shitting form morning to night! They werenít used to the rolling* of the waves... Every time there was a roll* [He gestures to suggest the animals shitting]: PARAPUM One, PARAPUN, two, PAA!
Then I understood why it is that the French, when they want to wish you good luck, they say: "Plenty of Shite!"
I was in luck right up to my neck!
There wasnít one night when there wasnít a terrible storm, there were these huge breakers that crashed onto* the ship, and tossed it about here and there... these animals down below banging about... There were the horses kisking out, the cows sticking their horns* into the donkeys, the donkeys kicking out at the pigs, and the pigs in the middle shouting: "STOOOOP IT!" By the end they were all gashed* and bleeding.
They called meL "Sewer. Hereís your needle... Sew!"
I sewed up the cows, the pigs, all their wounds... I saved all those animals... who loved me so much as a result!
In the end we arrived at the island of San Domingo!
What a splendid place!
Never in my life had I seen waters so clear! You could see the bottom, the corals, the coloured fishes, there were these plants climbing way up in the sky, monkeys flying about, birds singing.
No sooner had we dropped anchor than these Indian natives came out to meet us... in these little boats that they call canoes.
They came out singing, laughing... they were all coloured, naked... with one feather, and thatís it!
And the [...]* that they had!
They rowed with short oars, paddles,* which they moved rapidly on one side then the other.
Nice people... Good looking... Clean... Because whenever they had a chance theyíd be diving into the water and washing with great pleasure, and they swim about like fishes, even in the depths of the sea!
Theyíd find pearls and coral, and then theyíd put them into their mouths... like this: "You want a pearl? Take!" [He mimes the action of spitting] "Thank you!"
Really nice people!
Particularly the girls... naked as the day they were born... without shame... and without shyness: breasts to the wind... bellies to the wind... buttocks to the wind... everything to the wind...! Go, what a wind!
They were so kind, these natives! Going really far! Particularly the women.
There was no nead for chat-up lines... no! All you had to do was a bit of pantomime to indicate that you liked one of them, and she would embrace you straight away... These girls had a magnificent ritual: theyíd come over, smile, lower their eyes, theyíd take you by the hand, and take you off into the forest! They fell on your neck: you, laid out, and her stretched out on top of you, and there would break out an enchated love-making, of sighs and laughter! But not on the ground! On leaves... large leaves which they call "leaves of love"... single leaves... double leaves... one-and-a-half sized leaves...
And when the love-making began, there was a singing, and a counter-singing of the birds, and the butterflies singing... there wre monkeys flying from tree to tree... "UHUUUHHH... AHAAAA.. Go to it!" they called out. "Go to it!"
And as for eating, theyíd take the food out of their own mouths to give to you!
But us, the Christian Cathoics... fine people... First weíd go through all the ceremonials... offering them little bells, useless glass trinkets... and then we started ransacking everything they had: carrying off their women and children, on our ships, transporting them as slaves to our holy Christian world.
Anyway, at a certain point they decided theyíd had enough.* They turned up from all sides in thousands and thousands, armed with bows and arrows, absolutely furious, and they shouted: "Give us back our people, or weíll attack you."*
And our captains were all amazed: "Why are you getting all worked up AND ANGRY... You surely werenít thinking that we were taking these relations of yours off as slaves, were you...? We just wanted to take them for a bit of a trip... introduce them to a few nice people... fine cities... teach them the doctrine of God the Holy Trinity who lives in heaven... And then introduce them to the king and to our Catholic queen, who is as sweet and good as bread!"
And they replied: "No thank you Ė weíve had enough of your little trips... because out of all those that you took away on your first and your second voyages... nobody has ever come back. Come on, give us back the ones youíve got here... right now! If not, weíll start firing arrows and spears against you!"
No sooner had they said "arrows and spears" than from on board the ships a load of cannons poked out and began firing broadsides: TA-TA-A-BOOM! And you could see all these people flying up in the air, slaughtered... At this point, the horses came leaping out, ridden by horsemen... And they sewed great terror... because those people didnít know about horses, theyíd never seen them before, and they thought that the horse and rider were one single thing... a horrible betwixery* of nature: "A monster," they shouted. "A monster!" And they turned pale with fear and ran away. And they, the horsemen, shouted, laughed, speared, spiked, cut them in two... heads flying about. A slaughter5 realy carried out by imbeciles!
Not that Iím a namby-pamby. Iím no child at heart, already at the age of eighteen I was in the infantry of the Lanzichenecchi... and Iíve done my share of slaughter in battle... and afterwards too. But I was killing people who were trying to kill me! But this was blind and senseless butchery. Killing for killingís sake.
These Christians were grabbing children and banging them against trees: splattered!* Cutting women in two, in four, enough to make you throw up!
The chaplain told me: "Johan Padan, come out of this gloominess.* What are they doing, when allís said and done? Are they killing Christians? No, they are killing people who have no souls, no hearts, no religion... They have neither soul nor god... When they kill one of these, itís like killing a dog. Donít go making a big scene out of it!"
Iím not making a big scene. I just donít like it!
My stomach had shut up, so much so that I wanted to go home. I kept a look-out all the time to see if there were any ships going back... But they werenít going back, they were only going down! There wre ships arriving every week, four or five at a time, offloading the animals that they had in the hold, then refurnishing themselves with water and vegetables, and setting off to the West: "Where are you going?" "Looking for Eldorado," they would answer, and, with curses,* they would raise all their sails and off theyíd go.
I really didnít like it, staying with these shipmates of mine, who were good only for getting drunk, playng at cards and dice, carving each other up in brawls, and then, into the bargain,* seeing them all aroused and lauching themselves against the women. What kind of life was this? The only thng that I really enjoyed was trying to talk with the people. As youíll have realised, Iíve got this thing about languages... knowing how people speak... what they think, what theyíre saying... putting together weird words and discovering a whole means of expression. But it was hard to get close to them... They got frightened, they were always terrified that, afterwards, all of a sudden, a horse-monster would come leaping out. Me, in order to put them at ease, used to play the clown. When I met them I pretended that I was afraid at the sight of them: "Oh! A savage... a monster!" And they would laugh...
So I would ask: "Indians, how do you say Ďsuní?" And they would say: "Aleghť". "And the word for sea?" "Criaba." And how do you say Ďmaní?" "Opplaca." And how do you say woman?" "Feila." And how do you say baby?" "Icme." "And how do you say Ďa woman making loveí?" "There are so many ways of saying it, because there are so many ways of doing it."
I asked them about everything, I stole their words... And they taught me... and one day I turned up... and there were five or six natives having an argument... They came over to me, and I said: "Able esset alterť prialŪ ti io masticů... [He improvises a patter in grammelot: with gestures he suggests interrupting an argument between two groups of people, listening, arguing, laughing, and then doing a mocking dance] ...they look at me in amazement: "A white Indian!" I was speaking Indian!
I was almost sorry when they gave the order: "Weíre returning home!"
But I was so happy to be going back, that I loaded up double what the others were loading: I loaded the water, I loaded the vegetables... I also loaded five big fat pigs which we were supposed to offload at Santo Domingo. Meanwhile others were herding onto the ship a load of Indians, prisoners, slaves... a hundred and twenty five imprisoned in the hold, down in the bottom,* in place of ballast... And so as not to let them scream and shout they had put stuff* into their mouths, almost hrottling* them.
We leave. Very hot... Little to eat... Not much to drink. These poor devils of Indians start dying. We take their bodies and throw them into the sea.
For a few days, at our stern, in our wake, we see a shoal of big fishes following us, waiting for their Indian food.
They liked the Indians!
So the sailors said: "Why donít we fish with these savages?" They took freshly dead Indians started using the Indians stuck hooks through them, thre them into the sea and fished with them
They caught big fishes, and they were happy.
Except that every once in a while the Good Lord gets upset about this kind of thing, and he sent a storm, with such a wind that you could see the sea coming in great rollers* and scooping up the waves. We fond ourselves with all our sails torn to shreds, and we were dancing about like drunkards.
Then we hear a tremendous "crash" Ė weíve hit a rock! "Sinking! Weíre sinking! Lower the boats!" There were three of them.
I ask the captain: "Where do I put myself?" "No, thereís no room for you five, the animal keepers... You sink with the Indians and with the pigs!"
I donít know how I hit on the idea Ė maybe it was out of anger... maybe out of pity, but I threw open the hold hatches, and all the Indians came running out, climbing all over me... trampling me underfoot and diving into the sea!
Luckily I had my other four companions there, the animal keepers, and they picked me up.
"Quick! Get a move on, because the shipís sinking!"
The pigs were still locked down in the hold, and they were squealing and scratching about frantically.
"Letís save the pigs!" "Why?" "You never go to sea without pigs!" Because these animals have an unrivalled sense of direction, they can find their way in the sea, even when thereís a storm. You dive into the water, and they: TAK! They immediately point their snouts at the nearest coast... When they make this noise four times: UHO, UHO, UHO! it means that the coastís there, and theyíre never wrong.
And thatís also the reason why the Genoese have a saying: Every ship should always carry with it a pig, a real pig, in addition to the captain Ė whoís a pig anyway.
I and my companions go below and each grab a pig, and each of us tied to our own pigs, "To the sea... OHOHHH... BOOM!"
Now that weíd developed some sudden Christian passion for pigs.
I remembered it from an account in Homer, the poet... when he talks about shipwrecked Greek sailors who saved themselves by hanging onto pigs, because the pig is so fat and round that it never sinks! It goes down a bit, and then: BLO, BLO, BLO... PLUF! [He mimes the pig bobbing up again] It bobs up again! Itís a lifebelt of fat! It has that curly little tail, made specially, so that you can hold on and you donít slip off, you hang on to that tail, and off he goes... [He mimes the rapid swimming of the pig] wheesh... tritri tri... a lifebelt with little legs! We were hanging onto those pigs so tightly that when the waves came: "Hey no, weíre not going under!" [Coming up again he mimes kissing the pig] SMACK... A big kiss! Another wave and... "Whoooo..." SMACK! Another big kiss... And the pigs started enjoying this... so theyíd dive under without there being waves!
Anyway, there we were, the five of us, each hanging onto his life-belt animal, kissing it..., and we arrived, through the rolling waves, which carried off* our trousers and shirts, to the coast. If the Court of the Inquistion had discovered us there, theyíd have burned us alive.
We reached the coast! The pigs had carried us to safety... and now there we were, on the sand of the beach, naked, hanging onto our pigs, who were of course naked too.
God, it was absolutely freezing...! I look at my skin... it was a kind of bluey colour... and my companions were blueish too, and the pigs too....
The only one who was alright was the Catalan, who was so fat that we called him Thirty-tripes. With a belly like that he didnít even need a pig... in fact it had been him who saved his pig! Then there was another one, who was a red-head, so we called him Red. And a black man, a Muslim from Tripoli, we called him Blacky. A skinny man, whom we called Skinny... We seafaring folk have a terrific imagination when it comes to nicknames!
And I said: "Whatís the point of that... Weíve been saved, but in a little while, with this cold, weíre going to freeze to death!
But then, talk about a miracle!
I look at the coastline, the hill... Thereís people there! There are natives coming down, running. But a hundred, two hundred, all armed with bows and arrows. "God," I said, "if these natives have met any Christians, weíre done for, theyíll tear us limb from limb!
I pluck up courage... and I set about shouting words in their language, which I had learned: "Aghiudu, en lž salŗ... chiomť saridde aabasjia Jaspania..." They understood everything! "Mujacia coccecajo mobaputio cristean!" "Eheeee?" The only word which they had not understood was "Christians", we were saved! [He begins a dialogue in grammelot, nd then he translates what he has just said for the benefit of his companions] "Give us something to cover ourselves with, because itís so cold here that weíll all turn to ice and die like stiffs!" "But what are we supposd to give you, snce weíre even more naked than you are?!"
But look at the intelligence of these natives: they took some brushwood and set light to it, they made a bonfire, and then they stood round us in a circle to protect us from the wind...
Then, since the village was a long way off, they made so many bonfires... every hundred paces there was a bonfire, nd then they carried us bodily, because there were two hundred of them, and they took us on to the next bonfire... a bit of a singeing, and then off a gain... another singeing... and another for the pigs, a little singeing, a singeing... Ouch, ouch!
Because they didnít know about pigs, and thought they were just another breed of Christians... a bit on the fat side.
We arrive at the village, which has well-built huts, and they put us up in a big hut like this, with a brazier in the middle. Thereís stuff to eat and drink.
"If you ask me," says Red, "this over-hospitable treatment, both for us and for the pigs, promises no good at all. I hope theyíre not going to turn out to be cannibals, and theyíre treating us well just soís they can eat us."
"Donít talk rubbish!" says Thirty-tripes. "This is my third voyage to the Indies, and Iíve never met Indians who had bits of bits of peopleís arms and legs hanging up in their huts to dry, or pickled in brine, as was the story put about by those bullshitters Amerigo Vespucci and Alfonso Gamberan. They just tell those stories to give themselves a good pretext for treating the natives like animals. Theyíre cannibals, so we can make slaves of them."
Anyway, leaving all that aside, I have to say that these natives were certainly the kindest and most polite Indians that I had ever met.
To put us to bed... they didnít make us lie on some old pagliasse, maybe with fleas in, no! Hnging in the air, in hammocks... you donít know what a hammock is! Itís a net jhanging between two beams of wood, with strings holding it tut here and there. Then thereís a little stove underneath, to keep you warm when you go to bed. But itís difficult to get into! If youíre not used to it, you sit on it with your bum and [He mimes the hammock turning turtle, and himself ending up on the floor] PATAPUM! A sore bum! No! You have to climb up with one knee [He mimes getting up into the hammock, with one leg folded] ... Then you spread this out [He mimes spreading out the fabric of the hammock], then you stretch this one out [He mimes straightening up his other leg], and then... PATAPUNFETE...! [He mimes falling to the ground]. Because itís not even a question of getting a knee up... itís a question of balance, of equilibrium, a questions of dynamics, so that when you get up, you have to arrange you knee like this, but then give a good push! [He mimes making the hammock move like a swing] Then you turn this one, and that one, then you go YOM, you stand back,* you wait, one, two, three... One that pulls you,*, one that goes down, knee second, turn this way, turn that way!! [He mimes making the hammock move like a swing]
The force of dynamics!
I was so good at it that in no time at all I was stretched out. My stove down below, giving off heat, and I slept like a baby. One night I felt a tender sweetness here, right by my face, then two wonderful round things... I go down with my hands, I feel two other round bits... It was a girl... a naked girl who had come into my hammock in order to embrace me, to do tendernesses* with me. And all my companions had a girl in their hammocks too, embracing them. You canít imagine how tender they were! But it was already hard enough staying in the hammock on yourn own, imagine the problems when you were two!! I try to reach out an arm to put it round her waist, and I try to get my legs round her... OHHHH AH... PAA...! Everything goes topsy-turvy! I end up with my arse in the brazier! AAAH! [He mimes springing back like a spring] PAAA! and I was already back on the hammock...! The force of dynamics!
But I wanted to make love with this girl. Just as well that she taught me: "Pay attention... First thing: the trick is to make a little fork of your big toe and the toe next to it... Then you spread you legs so that the hammock is well spread out... Spread out, but then you pass your arm under mywaist... TACCHTA... You slip onto me, changing the position of the legs and holding on with the toes and... PAA!!
I went down, head-first, onto the ground... No, I didnít reach the ground. My balls were caught in the net: "Ouuch!" And thereís her, this girl, relaxing in the hammock, swinging and laughing her head off. But Iím a terribly determined person...! While my companions were flat out under the plants at siesta time, I would creep off into the hut with the hammock, and I would do balancing exercises... Iíd let go with one hand, let go with one foot, Iíve go head over heels with my head down... I became a hammock-dancer, better than any in the world...! I made love, I hung on with everythng, with my nails, my toes, my ears, my teeth... my buttocks! And when I got carried away,* one, two, [He mimes looping the loop in the hammock] IHHEHHOHHAHH! Looping the loop!!
It was wonderful being in that place. The only thing that I really didnít like... Was the way they treated their animals. They have these creatures that you donít know about, which they called "dandon", a kind of scruffy chicken... but which eblieves itself to be a peacock! It has a neck that looks like an ostrich with leprosy, and two eyes with cataracts...! The only real thing they have is their feathers, lovely blue-black feathers... and when he fancies himself, he goes BRUUUM... and opens out this fan [He spreads his arms and mimes the majestic walk of the turkey] and walks all boldly*, as if to say: "Look at the feathers coming out of my bum!"
Anyway, at that moment, these natives jump on him, pull out his feathers... while heís still alive! [He mimes the Indians pulling out the birdís feathers] NYAK-NYAK! "Ouuuuuch!" What a squawking! NYAK-NYAK... And the turkey running round here and there, and them: NYAK-NYAK-NYAK...!
"Weíre not cruel," they tell me. "Itís because weíre preparing a meal... If you take the turkey and kill it, and then you pluck its feathers, the feathers come away with skin attached, and with the skin bits of meat too! And all the flesh underneath* is woody, stuffy, tastes of nothing! But if, instead, you catch the turkey live: SNYAK-SNYAKSNYAK, you pluck all its feathers, you make a whole bit of movement, the blood circulates, all the nerves ar eon edge, itís like giving it a massage... The flesh becomes soft, and when you eat it, itís really tender, like butter...! And they did the same thing with the wild pigs that they had, which were full of bristles. They would pull out their hair in handfuls: PYOW PYOW PYOW TRALLA...! But theyíre not doing it out of cruelty, they have this religion which says: "Eating is life!" Making food to eat was like a religion for those natives.
Weíre just crude, weíre country folk, us... a bit of meat... a bit of a roasting* on the fire, and then off you go. Granzeola... boil it up, and away you go! When they do their cooking, they do it with all the emotion of a ritual.
For example, when they cook an iguana...
What is an iguana? It is an animal, a tremendous lizard, which you folks donít know about. Itís revolting... itís a dwarf dragon...! It has these crests precisely like a dwarf dragon, it has a mouth which, if it bites you...! Itís got teeth sticking out which tear you apart... eyes out here... and at the end of its tail it has a sting which, if it gets, you, NYAK... youíre done for! It moves on legs that have huge claws at the end. You canít catch it anywhere... the only way is to catch it by the crest on its back, the big crest, the last of the crests, a big bone... TAC, you catch it [He mimes lifting up the big crest, and the iguana wriggling around, struggling* with its legs, tail and head] and he: NYA, NYA! Keep still, you! [He stretches out his arm, to avoid being scratched by the animal] Keep still, I said! Then you take a cooking pot, a big pot of boiling water, you put salt in... and him, the iguana, you toss him in, all nice and juicy* as he is, with the lid on top... which is the way he likes it! Boom-boom! Inside heís making a racket: PATAPAPAA! His mouth goes: TAPATAPAA! His eyes go: TROPETITOTOO. The whole crest: TOM PIM TOM. The bones: TOM, TOM. The legs: PEM PEM... The tail: PAA! [He mimes taking it out of the po and showing it to the audience, amazed] A chicken!
You eat this iguana... The first times I ate one, I swear, VLAAM, I vomited at once! Because I wasní used to the taste, which is important there. You have to get a taste for it... And itís true, once I got a taste for it... after a week... I vomted all the same!
These people were happy people, joyous, and every opportunity was an occasion for a party.
One time, some natives arrived from the other coast... They were marvellous giants! Narrow at the waist... solid buttocks like Saint Sebasian,* long legs like acrobats, long hands, sparkling eyes... And the women they had with them: youíve never seen the like! They had long necks, round faces, and what eyes! Hair that came down to their knees, breasts that stood out... They showed buttocks like a balcony...* If you took a vasefull of water to the brim and placed it on their buttocks, they would walk, but not a drop would be spilled.
All together they made a terrific shindig! Dancing, and singing, laughing, and eating, and getting drunk with the beer, which they have a terrific taste for... Happy natives, in short.
Except that, at the end of the celebration, without so much as a by-your-leave,* they jump on us fice Christians, tie up all five of us like pigs, and bang us into their boats as slaves!
Our generous saviours had sold us, for heavenís sake.
Iíd been sold cut-price. Given away! They were all laughing like crazy.* The only one who werenít laughing wer ethe girls who had been embraced with us in the hammocks. They had great big tears rolling down their cheeks... they cried without making a sound.
Our new owners began rowing, and singing and dancing: they wre having a party, these natives! And there we were, tossed into the bottom of the boats.
Two days later we reached their coast. It was a wonder... a coast the likes of which youíve never seen! The wate was clear, limpid, deep, you could see all the fishes as if they were swimming in the air, it was so clear that you couldnít even see the water, you couldnít tell where the sea ended and the sky began... There were fished with little wings, which jumped out of the sea and flew in the air... and in the sky there were birds which dived to the bottom of the sea and swam under water. Such a confusion!
And there were these wonderful trees full of flowers... but how many flowers! This land was full of flowers... It was, precisely, Florida!
It was paradise for these natives... But for us it was hell. We had to work from morning to night, in the wate collecting granzeole, breaking* them, grating manioc, mangoes, burning, cutting... and by the evening we were wiped out, dead from tiredness, and we went into our hammocks: on our own!
There was nobody to embrace us... not one girl.
My companions were overcome with a melancholy that you canít imagine. And I told them: "Donít let yourselves get down in the dumps. Donít look like youíre miserable, because they wonít like that. These bosses of ours donít like their slaves to be miserable.
Slaves, but happy! To such an extent that when I met these employers, I would play the buffooon: "Hey, I like being a slave! Lovely life! God help anyone who sets me free... Iíll kill them!" I would shout.
Then came the day of the change of the moon... when it becomes full... because Iíve always paid attention to the moon, every since my witch taught me. I look at it, and I see that it is round and completely clear... Without a halo! And suddenly I told myself "This is a signal! At this point my whole life changes!"
That same night I was sprawled in my hammock, two girls came, they took me, they tok me to another hut, with [...] and skins: fit for a prince! They laid me on a big hammock decorate with [...] of cotton, all clean and perfumed, and then both these girls stretched out in an embrace with me, and they began kissing* me, and caressing me... things that I canít begin to tell you... The next morning they put me under the jet of water from a waterfall [...], they washed me, they covered me all over with perfumed oil, a marvellous oil! I had very long hair, they began to plait it for me, putting in corals; I also had a long beard... they began plaiting that for me as well...! In addition they put flowers round my neck, and two big flowers, one behind each ear...! [He pauses] A [...]!
To finish, they put me up on a tree stump*... and all around they began to paint me. They painted symbols on me with a paintbrush, a circle on my back, yellow... then another woman arrived and drew a big line right round my buttocks, sort of greenish... then another woman drew an orange circle on my belly...
And my willy blue!
Ha, ha, my little feathered friend!
My companions looked at me, amazed and taken aback:* "What kind of game is this? What are they doing to you?"
I too was unable to find a reason for this strange* ritual. I told myself it must be because they liked me.
But hey, all of a sudden they started treating me in a way that gave me the shivers: women, children, and the men too, started pulling my hair out, all over me... from my stomach... from my legs... the hairs of my beard, and my armpits... and down below... below the navel... which hurts!
"Stop that, you wretches! What do you take me for, a turkey?"
"Yes!" "You want to eat me?" "Yes!"
As soon as I woke up, I realised the meaning of all that rigmaole with drawing cloured circles on my buttocks, chest, legs... They were ordering their favourite cuts of meat!!
I felt my spirits draining awy, and I fell to the ground like a rag, for the fright. But they got frightened too... they were terrified that I was going to die there. Because them... they donít eat meat that has died of its own accord. They have to kill you themselves... Fresh on the day. If not, it makes them vomit!
Filled with terror, they pIn a feeble voice I asked the Shaman, the head of the witch doctors... a nice chap... he had big horns: In a feeble voice I asked the Shaman, the witch doctor: "Tell me why, among all us Christian slaves, you have picked me as the one to eat? Youíd have done better to take one of my companions... theyíre a lot plumper and fatter than me. If youíd chosen Thirty-tripes youíd have had food for a week!"
"Itís because youíre cheerful. The meat of someone who laughs is good meat, itís easy to digest, it gives you good dreams! But the meat of misery-faces like your companions sticks in your throat, ferments in your stomach, makes your do tremendous burps, and in the end, it makes your breath smell!"
Meanwhile the sun was going down, and I relaised that the next day they were going to slit my throat and hang me up by my feet from hooks to drain my blood, like with a pig.
No, Iím not going to stay here to get myself slaughtered!
During the night, with my teeth and nails I managed to break the rope and I freed myself.
I had the desperate notion of escaping through the forest, by climbing over the stockade. I knew perfectly well that this was an insane idea, that Iíd have no chance of staying alive even for two days in the forest, with all those animals and snakes that you find. Above all there was the jaguar. The jaguar is an animal that is spotty all over... A lion without hair! It leaps onto you... it has claws that skin you alive from your head to your feet.
Never mind, better to end up eaten by a jaguar, or a puma, or a crocodile, rather than ending up roasted!
There was a whole fence of wooden stakes around the village, which protected it. I crept along at the base of the fence. There was no-one on guard. I climbed up on top of the poles... Ye gods! What do I see but the shadows of some armed people trying to climb over the palisade.
These were enemy savages, who were coming creeping up* to overcome them in their sleep!
I donít know what came over... All of a sudden, instinctively, I started shouting: "Sound the alarm! Alarm! Wake up, people! Your enemies are here, theyíve come to kill you!"
What a moron! Why should I have worried about saving the skins of these cannibal savages, who apart from anything else wanted to eat me?!
I couldnít stop myself, though!
"Raise the alarm! To arms!"
Whatís more, I grabbed a big pole and started bashing the hell out of* these savages.
Finally the sleeping Indians woke up.
A tremendous battle began: arrows and spears flyng all over the place: the women were fighting too, throwing stones and lashing out with sticks.
Of those enemy savages who had succeeded in getting into the stockade, only ten remained alive, and they took them prisoner.
Of ours, one was killed, and many were wounded, some of them really seriously.
Among these was the Shaman witch doctor: a knife blow had ripped open his belly, and his guts were spilling out.
Poor devil, I feel sorry for him. .. At least I want to try to save his life.
I run to my hut, I take an iron blade, a lesina, and the needle for sewing up the sails, which I had kept hidden, and I go over to the dying Shaman. I make the iron blade red-hot, and I pass it over the wound.
"Waaaa!" A tremendous yell from the Shaman. The natives, armed with spears, made as if they were about to spear me. The Shaman just about managed to raise his arm, as if to say: "Let him do it."
Me, with my needle and thread, keeping an eye on the spears of the nervous natives, I begin sewing him up, as I used to do with the horses. A straight stitch... two cross stitches... one diagonal... Nice bit of embroidery.
Iíd hardly finished the stitching when the Shaman opened his eyes, and gave me a feeble smile... He took my hand, and kissed it. And everyone all around kissed my hands, and caressed me...* Then they lifted me up bodily, and took me to where the other wounded from the battle lay.
I found people carved apart all over the place! I had to cauterise and sew without even being able to catch my breath, until the sun set. In the end, dead tired, they carried me off and took me to my hammock... I slept and sewed and sewed and slept!
What woke me up was a soft, tender warmth around my shoulders and my back. I opened my eyes: thanks be to the Lord...! It was the two girls! Hooray! Obviously, this was my prize for having saved the village. I let myself fall into their arms, and I slept. A short while later, I donít know how long, I heard the cacique shouting: Hey, Johan Padan, youíre a marvel! You have saved us! If it hadnít been for you giving the alarm, our enemies would have killed us all...! Well done...!" And he kissed me!
"All those wounded people that you sewed up are aive, theyíre just fine. The Shaman is even walking... a bit wonky, but heís walking!"
He kissed me on the mouth, which I found a bit disgusting! "So Iím safe? Youíre not going to eat me any more?" I said. "Eat you? Of course weíre not going to eat you, because you raised the alarm... No, no... relax, we wonít eat you: weíll keep you as a guard dog!" "Thanks. And my companions?" I ask, "Have you decided to free them too?" No. Weíre going to eat them. They didnít save us." And there was no way of persuading himL they were going to be eaten, and that was that!
Sad and angered, I walked out of the village stockade towards the sea. As I walked I had a big lump in my throat. "How can I save them?"
I arrive at the waterís edge, sit on the sand, and look at the moon, because these days I always keep an eye on the moon. The moon was bi and clear, with lots of little clouds around it... just like that time in Venice when my witch girlfriend had shown be the same kind of moon, and shortly afterwards thereíd been that terrible storm.
"Pale witch, I love you!" The Cacicco turned up, and he said: "What are you doing, talking with the moon?!" "Yes...! Perfectly normal!" "And does she answer you?" "Sure she does... sheís my mother!" "Ha, ha, youíre the son of the moon? And what is this mother of yours telling you?" Sheís telling me that sheís totally furious with you, and that if you donít immediately spare my comrades from being eaten, sheís going to send down a storm and lightning to kill you all!"
"Ha, ha!" the Cacicco laughed. "Hey, what a cunning devil! Fair enough, you showed yourself as being good at sewing up wounds, and you saved us by raising the alarm, but now passing yourself off as a witch doctor whoís the son of the moon, thatís a bit much, Johan! Hey! We may be savages, but weíre not stupid, you know!" "So itís a bit much, is it? Alright, if I was in your shoes, Iíd give the order to haul up all the boats, to bundle up everything that you can personally carry, and Iíd hurry off to that big cave on top of the hill to save myself, because in a short while the sea is going to climb up to the skies!"
"Ohaaa! Ha, ha!" the Cacicco almost fell about laughing. "Donít talk nonsense! The sky is so clear it looks like itís been washed out,* the sea is flat, tranquil, calm as a pool of piss."
Heíd no sooner said "tranquil, calm" when... Whoosh! All of a sudden a there was great flash of lightning, a blinding flash,* and a roar of thunder like two hundred cannons. Then a terrible onrush of wind lashes up a big cloud of dust... A terrible black line appears on the horizon of the sea. All the natives are seized with terror and run to pull up the boats.
"A hurricane!" they shout. "Thereís a hurricane coming! Get to safety!"
They rush back to the village, load up everything they can, haul out their animals, and their prisoners, including my companions, and off they all go, goats, children, turkeys, wild pigs, all seeking refuge in the big cave.
Weíd hardly found shelter when, outside, all hell breaks loose. A raging wind tears up trees like they are straw. The houses in the village are blown away like dry leaves. Huge rolling vomited up from the sea. Wham! They smash everything... and even reach up as far as the cave!
Hey, we get a tremendous stroke of luck: a clump of trees has been torn up, and comes rolling down and blocks* the entrance to the cave, and shields us from the waves that are pounding outside.
But there was such a shaking of the earth, something coming undone,* a crash, a din... that the women were crying and screaming, and the men were swearing...
By all thatís holy! After two days and three nights of this raging hurricane, just like happens in the puppet theatres, all of a sudden the scene changes: up goes the backdrop of the storm, and down rolls the backdrop of the nice weather and the sun shining.
It was just the same... a big flash, then suddenly a silence... and inside the cave we saw some rays of sunshine. A silence of the dead...* There was not the sound of a parrot, nor even the screech of a monkey.
With difficulty we freed up the entrance to the cave. We came out. Ye gods, what a disaster! Outside it looked as if two hundred furious, raging giants had ploughed up the whole coast and the entire forest.
The village had disappeared!
Later we found out that, out of all the villages, of which there were thousands all around, we were the only ones to have been saved. And I, who am an Antichrist, saw my hand come up of its own accord and make the sign of the cross...
I turn round, and there, with their faces down in the dirt, there were all these natives kneeling at my feet, like a flock of animals: men, women, children, prisoners... I even had the impression that the goats, pigs and even the turkeys were kneeling too.
They wept and pleaded with me: "Forgive us, if we didnít listen to what you said... we promise, we wonít eat you any more, nether you nor your Christian companions! We have understood at last that you are not only the son of the moon, but also the son of the sun that rises, come especially from the other side of heaven to save us! We have already had a prophecy that said that from the other side of the sea, one day, a bearded man will come, like yourself, white of skin, like yourself, a bit ugly, like yourself, who speaks with the moon as if it was his mother. You are that man! Marvellous holy man, holy son of the sun, help us!" And everyone was shouting "Holy, holy..."
I came within an ace of adding "Hallelujuah! Hallelujah!"
Oh dear Lord! Me, a blaspheming rabble, the son of a whore, whoíd been saved by scrabbling in the shit of cows and pigs, escaping from the fires of the Inquisition, all of a sudden become: a saint, a witch doctor, a doctor, the son of the mon and of the rising sun too!
Isnít life amazing!
But I tell you, I never realised what a hard-working life it is, to be a witch-doctor-cum-saint-cum-shaman!
For a start, they turn up with a whole load of baskets full of stuff to eat: a hundred-odd pots, paniers and baskets,* full of food, which they had saved from the disaster. They go down on their knees, and they say: "There, holy man, itís all for you. Eat" "Hey, are you mad? You want to blow out my belly!? What about you? What are you going to eat...?" "Well, if you want to leave something for us too... thanks... but first you must do us the honour of blessing it." "Blessing what?" "The food!"
So I was obliged to kneel on in front of this row of baskets:* and a big blowing on the maize, and then another on the manioc bread, another blowing on the fruit, on the fish, on the granseole and the turkeys. "Whoosh!" I had to breathe on their heads too, to free them from evil spirits.
"Puff, puff..." All that breathing on things was enough to give you a detached lung! And I was obliged to touch each of them, one by one, on the forehead and on the mouth. By the end my comrades too were embracing me, with tears in their eyes: "Thank you for having saved us! Saved us twice: first from being eaten, and then saved from the hurricane... Theyíre right, these savages... you certainly do have something of the sorcerer in those eyes and hands of yours! Touch us too, please do!" "Embrace us..."* "Touch us.." "Me first, my turn...!" "I was first!"
And they all come crowding round. And the savages piled in too.
"Hey! Slow down! Hey! No, thatís enough...!"
I picked up a big stick and started started whirling it around! "Shift yourselves! The first person who touches me, Iíll break this stick over his head!"
Having resolved that situation, there was another one, a bit more serious: the Cacique turned up once again on his knees before me: "You, who can talk to your mother the moon and your father the sun... ask them where we can go... you have seen that all around, for days and days of walking, weíve found not one single healthy tree, nor an animal to eat, and even the lizards and crabs have disappeared... We have to escape from this place! But where are we to go? We must go to a place that was not reached by the storm. But where do we go? To the north or to the south? Do we go to the west? Do we go to the East? Where do we goooo?" "Hey, I said, "donít shout! Weíre going to the West!" "How come you say that so clear and sure?" "Iím a holy man! I ought to know a thing or two, didnít I?"
I knew for a fact that during that period a lot of Spanish fleets, with fifteen-to-twenty ships per expedition, had been going down that coast in order to set up a big colony. So, with a few months of walking, we were sure to come across these Christians.. and , at last, we would have had the chance to return home safely. Home! Because to tell the truth, weíd had a serious bellyful of these damned Indies!
Because, what with the journey in the hold in among all the shit of the horses and cattle... and then saving ourselves by hanging onto pigs... then being enslaved... and plucked like a turkey, painted with circles, and then being beaten... wind, storm, thunder-and-lightning*, and after that: "Holy man, holy man...", and having to breathe on them, and put my hand on their heads, their buttocks, and their bollocks... Enough!
Home! I want to go h-o-o-o-o-ome!
So, weíre off, on our way!
The Cacique gestures as if to say "Yes, certainly, but just a warning, in those parts there is a race of people called the Junicacio, who arenít nice at all... and others who are called Incas, who donít mess about either."
"Well, thatís the country that weíre going through. Thatís all there is to be said!" For Godís sake, was I or was I not the very holy son of the Sun and also of the Moon?!
So, silence in the ranks! Forward march!
And so we formed up a caravan, with me at the head, with a big leaf over my head to protect me from the sun, and all the others behind me. Including the prisoners that had been captured during that fighting in the village: all roped together with ropes around their necks.
We walked for days and days, through countryside that the hurricane had devastated, ravaged. We didnít find so much as a leaf,* even a worm to eat... Not even sweet roots.* This meant that, as the days went by, our supplies* of maize and of goats and pigs began to run out, until in the end we no longer had anything to eat. We were dying of hunger, there were peple screaming, children passing out, and at that point the Cacique said: "Thatís enough. This evening weíll eat!" "What will we eat?" "Weíll eat a couple of the prisoners weíve brought with us." "Oh here we go again, with your barbarous habits of cooking human flesh!"
"Why?" replies the Chief. "You mean you Christians are more civilised? You, who kill your enemies in battle, tear each other apart, butcher each other... and then you leave all the hacked-up bodies to rot on the battlefield... Good fresh meat, freshly butchered. Youíre wasters! And you call us barbaric!" "Who told you these things?" "A Christian whom we ate last year." "Thatís enough, thatís an end of it. From this moment on, no more eating flesh, either Indian or Christian! Otherwise the moon will get angry, and sheíll send down another storm!" "Ye gods," they shout, "that moonís nothing but trouble...!"
Two days later, when none of us had eaten so much as a dry leaf, and we were dropping* as we walked, as if drunk with hunger, all of a sudden, looking down from a hill, we saw a long thin river... which was going up into the sky. "Weíve arrived," shouted the Cacique, all excited. "Down there are the Conciubas..." "Who are the Conciubas?" "Theyíre natives like ourselves, of the same race... They call them Conciuba because theyíve got shaved heads. Theyíre a friendly tribe... And for sure theyíll have survived, because the hurricane didnít get up this far."
Straight away these natives of ours light a fire, and then they throw on damp grass in order to create clouds of smoke. And going round them with broad leaves like the one which I was using to shelter me from the sun, they waved them and flapped them over the column of smoke. They blocked the smoke, then took them away: they sent clouds of smoke up, long ones, short ones, broad ones, big* ones, and long ones again... and then, all of a sudden, a string of little clouds in a bunch.* Unbelievable! With this device of the smoke, these cannibals were talking to the natives who were at the bottom of the hill! With the smoke clouds, they were making words! To such an extent that, when those Conciuba arrived, they were loaded with things to eat! They had brought so much stuff... because our lot had warned them, with the smoke signals: "Warning... we havenít had any food for days and days... bring us stuff to eat, because weíve got a hell of a hunger!!"
As they got to within about ten yards of us, they all fell on their knees in front of me, gave me all the stuff to eat, and said: "Touch us, breathe on us too..."
What had happened?
Incredible! Our Indians had used the smoke to send word ahead: "Take note, there is a holy man with us who comes from the sun that is born, and is son of the moon... he speaks with the moon... With the m-o-o-n...!! Be warned, he gets as angry as s snake* if you donít do what he says!"
In among these Indians there were a dozen natives who had big heads and yellowed hair gathered in ringlets,* and were dark-skinned... almost red-skinned, and they had rings in their noses... they even had [...] with loads of teeth... faces like bad people... Their chief came towards me, looked at my feet for a moment, and then, spiu, spiu, he spat on my feet!
"You lousy savage, whatís got into you?" "Whatís got into me is that we have absolutely no respect for you, even if they do say that youíre a saint. You look too much like those Spanish Christians whom we met at four and a half monthís march from here. More than a year ago now a dozen big ships came and disembarked a hundred or so men, completely covered in iron, with helmets, armour, and carrying sticks which spit fire. And then they came and attacked us with huge monsters, which they call horses: a great beast, from whose back sprouts a man... alive, all covered in iron, part and parcel of the animal... and with the other soldiers, they slaughtered everyone. They jumped on our women, they raped them there, before our eyes, and then they carried them off as slaves. Just as well for you that youíre surrounded by all these people to defend you, because if we eve find you on your own, weíll eat you alive!" And off they went, cursing.
Then I discovered that they were from a speicl race known as the Incas... which is the ultimate derivation of the word incazzato.
I was well familiar with the programme of that particular show... I pretended to be indignant: "Oh yes? Well, Iíll go there, to that plain, and Iíll put in an official complaint to the Governor-Admiral... because he is a great man of honesty and justice. For certain, he knows nothing of this looting and killing... And when he does find out, youíll see... heíll give a terrible punishment to those murderous butchers! So, tomorrow we set off again, and you, all of you, will accompany me over there to the other valley on the other side of the mountains!"
Absolutely no chance! The Conciuba remained silent, sitting there on their backsides, with their heads down between their knees... They wouldnít look me in the eye. They told me: "No, no, no, no, weíre not coming! Those Spaniards are too evil. They kill, they butcher... Weíre not coming!" "I donít care, you can stay here if you like, anyway Iíve got natives of my own. Cannibals, letís go!"
"Cannibals, are you coming with me?"
The cannibals stayed sitting there, their faces full of fear.
"So not even you lot are willing to come with me? With everything that Iíve done for you...?! Iíve breathed on your food till my lungs were bursting, Iíve made you better by feeling your heads and your buttocks and your bollocks, Iíve sewn up your guts when they were spilling out... and now, the first time I ask you a favour, you tell me no, weíre not coming with you"! Tell me no? Me, the holy man?! Alright, you know what I say to you? Go sell your arses, you useless dickhead savages!"
And no sooner said than done. Angry like a demon, I climb a big tree, climb right to the top, and there I stretch out among the branches that are intertwined with foliage, and I try to sleep.
I canít sleep.
I take a glance down... I see movement. Men and women of both the tribes... were squatting there at the bottom of the tree. I hear them howling. Soneone is weeping. I donít care, let them all die! "Bunch of cowards!" I shouted. "Iím not coming down, and Iím not touching you any more, and Iím not looking at you any more, and Iím not making you laugh any more! Iím not going tobreathe my breath on you any more... Enough, itís all over... COWARDS!
Cowards? Thatís a bit quick of me, calling them cowards. Iíd like to see what I would have done if it had been in Brescia, or Bergamo... where I come from... and all of a sudden barbarian savages arrived covered in iron, on horseback, and start killing my children... and raping my women and daughters, my wife before my eyes and: "You shut up...! Because if you say a word, weíll break your arse too!" Iíd like to see if I wouldnít shit myself too... Iíd have been shitting myself downwards, upwards, and sideways! Alright, agreed, but what can I do...? I want to go back to my village! I canít spend the rest of my life here... Iíve already been here for five years, more even! I want to go back to my valleys... to my house."
In the morning, at dawn, I hear my companions calling me, shouting up at me: Johan, come down, because thereís been a disaster here. Last night, because you wonít look at these natives, theyíve fallen into a state of terrible desperation, and forty of them have become ill with melancholy, and eight are already dead. Please, come down, do something, because you have become a light for them, their breath for them... their life!"
Damn, what am I now, Jesus Christ? Put me under a glass bell-glass... Iíll come out with my hands spread wide to bless you! Alright, Iím coming down."
When I reached the ground, I find a load of people lying around, pale and trembling, and one by one I breathe on them, I touch their faces, and their stomachs, and their stomachs, but above all I have to show myself happy, with big smiles... give them pats* of sympathy... in short, lead them to understand that Iím not angry any more.
But that isnít enough. The ones who are at deathís door, I have to let rip with a kind of pantomime of clownlike happiness... I start jumping and dancing, and I shout: "Dance, come on, jump, come on, letís go... PAPPARAPPAPUM... dance, dance!"
All those half-dead people, dancing! After not even half an hour they were all healthy... apart from eight who had died... from dancing!
"Forgive us, we will all come with you."
"Allez! Letís go! On our way! At last weíre leaving!"
We cross through a forest for days and days... looking up among the branches intertwined with foliage, we can only make out a few fragments of sky.... we can only proceed with great effort... branches and bushes blocking our way. All of a sudden we hear shouting: "A monster!"
My companions and I armed ourselves with long lances and went to see. Oh! Sangre de Dios! It was a horse! Wild. A young stallion... it was kicking out with its hooves, giving big bites to anyone who came within range. We have to catch it. "Hey, you Indians, weíre going to catch this monster! But where have you all gone?" I raise my head... Theyíd all climbed up the trees. "Ah, so youíve all got yourselves nice seats for the show, eh?" So then, with the aid of my companions, we went round stretching long ropes, from one tree trunk to the another... round in a circle, so that we had this beast fenced in. Then we took a long cane, and the horse was in the middle of a [...], so I began: "Come on, well done..." The horse reared up, whinnied, and gave a kick... and started trembling. "You see, the monster is scared. What is a horse, when allís said and done? Itís just a donkey with fancy notions."
I climbed up a tree and sat across a a branch... I waited for the horse came within range, I jumped on its back, I grabbed its mane, and it started swerving* this way and that, pushing...* All of a sudden it [...], and I flew through the air. AHHH... PAA...! And then: smack on my bum!
And all the Indians laughing" "Ha, ha, the holy man has [...]!"
Amazing, how fast you can lose a reputation!
Just as well that Blacky was there to save me... he gave the horse a slap on the rump, jumped on its back, got it between his legs, grabbed its mane with one hand and its tail with the other... and the horse began to leap, and rear up, going across, rearing, but he, Blacky, didnít move... after half an hour of this dance, going this way and that way, up and down, the horse was out of breath. AH, AH... then Blacky had him doing what he wanted, first a nice gallop... TRUN, TRUN, TRUN, TRUN, and then a trot, TRUN and TRUN, and then the cross,*, crossing its legs, one straight forward in front, then one in front, and the other behind, and it does a curtsey... then the [...], sitting! And that was that!
One of the natives called out: "Oh well done, Blacky!" He put his arms round the horse, he wasnít scared of it any more. "I want to ride it," he shouted. "Me too, me too!" they all shouted. The women too wanted to ride this horse... so then we set up a riding school for the whole tribe!
A few days after, we heard an ear-splitting whinnying, from another horse, not so far off. Ha, ha, ha... it was a female horse, the mother of our stallion, which had escaped from the Spaniards and given birth to him in the forest. She was used to the saddle, and when we went to mount her she didnít even move; the trouble was, shortly after another horse arrived, the father of our little horse, a massive male: it was a bull with a mane! He reared up, he kicked out with his hooves, he had teeth like a lion, nobody could touch him. It was Blacky who jumped onto his back, but the stallion bucked up and tried to smash him against a tree... he might have made mincemeat of him!
At that point I remembered the way that the people of Bergamo tamed their horses, which is amazing. The first difficult thing is to get the harness* over his head, because as soon as you go near him he bites you... so you put the harness* on the ground, supported on two canes, like a trap... he walks about, he sees the harness on the ground, heís curious as to what it is, he lowers his head to lok... he asks himself: "What is this thing?... and TRAC, the two people who are hiding and holding the canes suddenly lift them up, and the harness goes over the stallionís nose as far as his ears. But at this point you have to attach the ropes to the harness to make the the reins, one on the left and one on the right... you canít go from the front because heíll bite, so you pretend to be talking to someone on your right... and you tie it here... because heís curious, and comes to listen, and then... then you go to the other side, but you talk to someone else because otherwise he gets suspicious [He mimes the [...] of the horse; the reins tied to the harness are extended until they reach the stallionís testicles, and are tied to the testicles themselves] Then the two ropes are left floppy... when you reach the balls, you make a loop, you get the testicle in, without pulling tight... then the other loop, also loose, on the second testicle... then you wait till he lowers his head, you suddenly jump onto his back: [He mimes jumping onto the horseís back, and it reacts by raising its head and neck, thereby squeezing its own testicles, with the appropriate desperate whinnyings] TAN... and he instantly TAC! "OUUUUCH!" arches his back: "OOOOOCH!" He raises his neck TAC! OUUUCH!"... After the third rearing-up... you see this beast... [He mimes the walk of a dressage horse] Such elegance!
So we resumed our journey, with our cavalry.
And off we went, across rivers, and big canals,* and climbing up mountains. Every now and then we would come across tribes scattered through the peaks* and valleys.
My reputation as a saint was growing. Everyone would prostrate themselves before me. There were people who brought me silver and gold, and I told them: "Are you crazy? You expect me to go round loaded with gold and silver and all these precious stones, like a porter?! Keep them yourselves!"
Then thereís the story of the two miracles that I did... [He addresses the audience, as if offended at the incredulity that this statement has aroused] I DID TWO MIRACLES! [Then he tones it down] WELL, TWO STROKES OF GOOD LUCK!!*
The first was when we arrived at a plateau at the top, where there was a big lake.
On this lake there was a little village, with houses raised up on stilts... with streets, canals and bridges... a miniature Venice, made out of wood. These Venetian Indians came out to meet us, lamenting: "We would like to bring you all the gold in this world, and also precious stones, but we have nothing! We have only the weeping of our eyes..."
"What has happened?"
It was two years since there had last been a risciada. The risciada is a phenomenon which happens in these parts... like an outpouring* of fish which come out of the water. Every two months, with the full moon... the moon draws, draws, draws within the lake, makes the fish come out as if they are bursting out of the water and the fish fly. They, these Venetian Indians, come out with paniers and baskets*, and catch all these fish which are raining from on high, and store them away and smoke them, salt them, crush them and eat fish for a whole year... which means that theyíre happy! But they were desperate: You, the son of the rising Sun and of the Moon... speak to your mother... tell her not to give us this punishment."
For heavenís sake, what was I supposed to do? I wait for the moon to come out, and I stick myself there and start talking to her: "Mum! Hey, Mum, do you hear me...? Yes, itís me, your son... And the son of my father, the rising Sun... listen, mother, you canít do something like this to me! The fish must jump out of the water, like every year! What? This year theyíre resting? Hey, no, Mum, try to put your hand on your heart... you canít have these poor people dying of hunger, just because those lazy creatures arenít willing to let themselves be eaten... Threaten them that if they donít move themselves, youíre going to explode the volcano thatís under the water!"
Then I turn round to the native Venetians, and tell them confidently: "You should be alright for tomorrow morning. I think Iíve persuaded my mother."
And the next day, bright and early, all these fishing Indians were there ready: baskets, nets spread out... there were some who had arranged three or four baskets around their waists... and they had placed themselves in the water of the lake, submerged up to their waists. God, I would look such an idiot if those fish didnít arrive!
And at that moment, the great stroke of luck which I mentioned!
The sun comes out... and: VRAM! All the waters of thelake begin to seethe and boil. Whole shoals of arborelle, coregoni, piotti and persici flying up in the air! Cavedani and lavarelli spraying up out of the water and falling into the baskets, thousands at a time... Storioni falling into the boats... and if they happens to make a mistake and fall back into the water: "Oh, excuse me," it gives a flip and jumps back into the baskets!
They jump into your mouth, and if you arenít careful theyíll jump up your backside too.
You canít imagine how they feted me afterwards. They threw me up in the air like a swordfish,* almost enough to break my back.
The second piece of shameless good fortune came my way when we descended down into the plain: what a disaster! It hadnít rained so much as a tear for more than four months. Everything had entirely dried up... The carob was on the ground, the maize was on the ground, the [...], animals had died of thirst, and were lying there being eaten by ants. There were these poor natives on their knees in front of me, begging me: "Oh son of the rising sun and the moon... make us a miracle!" "Hey, thatís enough... now the sun and the moon have nothing to do with water!" We know, but youíre a funny, laughing man, and you could save us. If you are capable of rasing a laugh out of the god of the rain, god his father will be moved, with so many tears that he will inundate us..." "Whoa! Stop...! I donít understand a thing, here! What is this story about the god of the rain?" The god of the rain is the one who makes it rain. He has a son who never ever laughs... But if youíre able to get a laugh out of him, his god father will see his son laughing, and heíll get a lump in his throat, and heíll be so hapy that heíll start crying and crying with joy, and soaking everyone!" "And where is this son of the rain to be found?" "There!" And they show me a big doll, a rag puppet made of straw and rags, all dangly, sitting on a chair, with a flat face: it had no eyes, it had no ears.
"How can someone laugh when he doesnít even have a mouth?" "Thatís exactly the hard bit... that like this he never succeeds!* But youíre such a laughing clown that you can make him laugh... Go on, dance, leap about..." Oy, oy, thereís no choice... I have to dance... I play the clown... I dive into pirouettes... funny faces. All the natives are clapping their hands and banging on drums... shouting... singing... and I twist myself around** to play the clown! I jump into the air... I roll around on the ground...*
They all burst out in great gusts of laughter. Then, suddenly, a woman shouts out: "Heís laughing! Heís laughing too!"
A miracle! Hardly believable. On that blank face of the puppet, a slit had opened across it, like a mouth, smiling... And two holes that were like sparkling eyes!
"Heís laughing! God of the rain, your son is laughing... Show some emotion! Weep!"
"Heís getting emotional!"
TON! TON! TON!
PTON! PTON! TON... TON... PTIN!
[He stops, with a gesture to indicate that the rain drops are faling more and more slowly, until they stop entirely. He turns to the skies, annoyed] Is that all? Is that all the tears you can manage? Youíre a bit mingy!* Rain! Rain! Weep!"
PTON PTON PTON TONTONTONTO!!!!! The tremendous deluge starts to come down! By dawn we were immersed in water up to our knees! There were all these natives dancing and singing [He mimes a dance in rhythm with the rain] PTENPTERNPTENPTEN! By nightfall the water was already up to our waists!
"Alright, God, thatíll do for now!"
"Enough!! Do you want to drown us?! [Threateningly] Be careful, or Iíll throttle your son...! Enough!! Watch out, or Iíll come up and bash you! Enough!!"
PTON PTON [The rhythm of the rain diminishes, but then resumes timidly]
The water had reached our throats, and all the natives were going round with just their heads sticking out of the water, and they swam towards me and shouted: "Son of the rising sun... stay with us!" [He mimes swimming] No, sorry, itís too damp for someone of my disposition, Iíll see you another time! [still miming swimming energetically,* he moves away] I have to get to Cacioche!"
We set off again, and those natives of the rain came with us.
We crossed a river, another river... suddenly we found ourselves in the middle of a tremendous storm... there were horses everywhere... in a big river there were sixty horses rolling around in the storm, I donít know where they came from, but they were drowning! We took all the ropes that we had, and we made a lassoo. .. We threw them, and we caught* all the horses and, one by one, we hauled them to the land, and that way we managed to save all sixty of the horses. Now we had sixty-three fine horses... The Indians were riding all day ong... a festival!
Only a year previously they had not even known what horses were, they thought they were monsters, and now here they were, as if they had been born and raised together! They mounted the horses directly: "Yeehah! Bareback: "Ahaa!" And then they turned round and faced the other way: "Eheeplom!" I saw one Indian riding like an acrobat* on the horseís rump. Then another horse came along, with three Indians on its back... standing up... another horse came alongside, trotting fast, with three crazies on its back, standing, and shouting: "Shall we swap horses?" Coming this way, and that way, and this way, and that way! Then I saw something never seen in this world: an Indian on a horse, which came up behind another horse. When it reached the other horse, he, the Indian, came a kick* to his hose with his heels, his horse leapt onto the back of the other horse: a horse on horseback on a horse, with the Indian on horseback, on the horse...!
In those days I was sure that I was going a bit out of my mind... we were supposed to be going East, and I donít know how, but we took the wrong direction, so that we found ourselves facing the other sea. We were looking for the Atlantic, but weíd got the Pacfic.
Four months of walking, for nothing...! But there was nothing that could be done!
After another four months we arrived at a hill... and on that marvellous hill I smelt a smell that I knew well: sulphur! I went to dig around, and there was a big lumo of lovely sulphur, long, solid... I pulled it out, and I hisd it. Then I prepared some charcoal. Then I went looking for magnesium, and I found some in a cave... and there was some saltpetre too: "Iím going to make fireworks, Iím making rockets!"
While the Indians were sleeping sweetly, I cut some canes, then I made a hle through them, I put inside the black powder, saltpetre and sulphur, then the magnesium, than I prepared the fuses... and I lit them [He mimes noisy explosions]: PTIN PTAN PHIIIIIIIII! PAM! PAM! PAM! PAM! PAM! PAM!
"The end of the world! Itís the end of the world!" And they started running off, this way and that!
PIM! PAM! PAM! PAM!
The stars are exploding!
PIAM! PIAM! PIAM!
"Forgive us, moon!"
They were all down on their knees... And I was laughing, laughing! They look at me: "Hey, Johan Padan, was it you made all that bombardment?" "Yes. But I didnít do it to frighten you, but because now weíre going to meet with the Spaniards at Cacioche, and all in chorus weíre going to have a big party! They like fireworks, and weíll make them a present of explosions* to make them drunk*, but first youíre all going to have to learn how to make fireworks."
And they learned... They went a bit far! They made fireworks and let them off when it wasnít required. They were walking along: PAM! I was pissing: PAM! I was eating: PAM! I was making love: PAM! AM! "Enouuugh!"
Finally we reached the top of a chain of mountains. Down below we could see a large broad valley, clear... and a city: [He spreads his arms in a gesture of triumph] Cacioche! It was Cacioche! The city of Cacioche! There was the sea! The Atlantic, with its port... the ships... Cacioche! [Shouting almost crazily] At last, Cacioche, Iíve found you! ook, what a city, what great walls all made of wood, and pallisades, and look at the houses, the big houses... those big buildings there are the storehouses of the port*, that other one is the cathedral, you see, itís got a bell-tower made all of tree-trunks... That other big one is the Governorís palace... and then other houses for the soldiers, the garrison... and just outside the walls, the cotton plantations... and maize... and corn... Look how big it is! Cotton plantation! And the mountains have holes in, here and there... the gold mines... and there were slaves too, in chains...! Indians, Indians, chained up as slaves... including those who were carrying the bales of cotton... All Indians. And those who were loading the ships... all Indians! And there were eight Indians hanging from a gallows...!"
I look round, out of the corner of my eye: around me all the Indians were white with fear, terror-struck,* and there were women who were tremblng, and others fainting... "Donít get terrorised, donít be scared, becuse Iíll scome into Cacioche with you... Donít make a noise... Iím not taking you to theSpaniards! Letís go back two daysí march, because I have to speak with you!"
When we were a good long way from Cacioche, in a hidden valley, we relaxed peacefully, and I ordered them: "Men on one side, women on the other...! Count yourselves!" "One thousand... two thousand... Eight thousand males!" "The women?" "Almost seven thousand!" "And old people? How many old people?" "More than three thousand." "The children?" "Three thousand of them too." "And the bigger children?" "Four thousand."
"Too many, too many! We canít all go to Cacioche... itíll bee to confusing... weíre double the population of the city, including the Indian slaves! I want to tell you the truth: if I take you straight to the Spaniards, the Spaniards will make you all slaves, they will put you in chains... and they are right... without wishing to offend you... but you are not normal human beings... for them you are on a par with animals. Letís talk frankly... you have no religion, you have no doctrine, you have no souls and you donít even have a God. In order to save you from becoming slaves, I ought to turn you into Christian brothers... If you are Christian brothers, then theSpaniards canít even touch you... by law! But here we need a priest, a preacher,* who can teach you religious doctrine! But I donít even know the doctrine...! [A brief pause. Then, determinedly] Iíll teach you doctrine. But God help anyone who doesnít pay attention, because Iíll be testing you afterwards.
First rule: the soul is eternal, the body perishes... after you die, it goes under ground and the worms eat it... but the soul is eternal and there are no worms hat can eat it... it goes to heaven, happy in Paradise... if the body has been good on Earth... but if it has been cruel, then the soul tumbles down below, ends up in... it goes to hell and burns for all eternity. Amen! Did you like that, Indians...? You didnít like it? Alright, letís continue."
The difficult thing was explaining to the Indians the business about original sin, about Adam and Eve. I said: Adam and Eve were two Indians, they were naked when they were born, precisely like you folks... the breasts, the backsides, the fannies, the willies, the willies with [...]... and they loved each other, and they embraced, and they made love, and they werenít worried about shame, and they werenít shy with each other... When the big bad snake arrived, the snake, which was the devil, with an apple in its mouth, said: "Adam, eat the apple! Sweet, good, red apples! Adam, eat this apple!" "No, I donít like apples, tell Eve." "Eve, will you eat this apple?" "Letís split it in two, half for me and half for Adam..." You eat and I eat... Then ut pops the archangel Gabriel... or was it Michael... or was it Raphael, I donít remember... He jumps out with his sword in his hand. "Get out, you wretches! You have eaten Godís forbidden apple! Get out of Paradise!" And all the Indians shouted out: "That one, for sure heís a Spaniard!"
But it wasnít easy to get this into the nativesí heads, this business about the punishment because of the forbidden fruit. They donít have apples... they have no apple trees, or pear trees either... So I had to put a mango in the serpentís mouth... a great ong thing like this, with this poor wretch of a snake with his mouth all awry, saying: [He speaks with difficulty, almost lisping*] "Adam, eat the mangoangoango!" It was also difficult to explain the business about shame... the fact that before they had lived happily with their willy and their fanny, and went around with their buttocks, their bellies to the wind, and that they didnít care a bit... all of a sudden they become ashamed... When? When the Archangel Gabriel leaps out with his sword in his hand and says: "You have eaten the forbidden fruit... Out of Paradise!" "Oh, the shame of it!" [He moves his hand rapidly to cover his genitals] As I said: "Get out of Paradise!" "Oh, the shame of it! Oh what embarrassment! Oh, my fanny... please give me a fig leaf... to cover myself!" The Indians didnít understand this business about a fig leaf to cover themselves... also because they only have what are called "Indian figs" Ė in other words, cactuses! Imagine one of those leaves, with all its spikes... you put it between your legs and "OUUUUUCH!"
But when I told them about Jesus, the sone of God, who was sweet and gentle, with his long hair... they all liked him... "What a nice man, this Jesus! So loving, and empassioned, that he took children in his arms, and then forgave them all: "You have a tremendous sin? Hey, what sin... I forgive you it! You, how many sins have you committed" Three sins, four sins? Five sins? All pardoned!" And when he met someone who was walking all wonky, "Hey, walk straight!" "Thanks, miracle Jesus!"
The Indians liked the Jesus who brought the dead back to life... who had parties... But who they did not like at all was the Apostles... The Indians didnít like the Apostles at all! All serious, with their hands together in prayer, walking one behind the other, with their golden haloes on their heads... all males, always males, only males... The Indians were beginning to have their suspicions! So much so, that I had to introduce a female among the Apostles: Mary Magdelene.
They really liked Mary Madelene! With her round, pointy breasts, her buttocks, all naked, covered only by a great cascade of hair that went "Ihiaaaa!" [He shakes his head and mimes the wavy movement of Mary Magdeleneís hair, leaving her naked]
It was terrible when I got to the bit about Jesus, the Son of God, being nailed to the cross, with all the blood runing down, and he was dying, dying, in his death throes... And the Madonna down below, weeping... Mary Magdelene tearing her hair... As they listened to this story, all the Indians were weeping in despseration: "Heís dying! Heís dying! The son of God, the son of heaven is dying!" And they too tore their hair, as if one of their own sons was dying, and they scratched themselves, and they beat themselves about the face, and wept, and threw themselves on the ground... One day, one night, two days, three days, three nights... "Enough!! What is this desperate womanly weeping?! Leave it out! Youíre going too far! Itís an old story, very old, forget it.! And donít worry, because three days after he died, Jesus comes back to life, he revives! [In a tearful, wretched voice] "Itís not true, youíre telling a fib just so as to cheer us up, but we know that the son of God is dead, heís dead!" "I do not tell lies... I am a saint! But watch out, because there is another saint, Thomas, who didnít at all believe in the resurrection of Jesus and who went in person to check where the tomb was that Jesus had just come out of : alive, he was! With all the wounds still in his side... And he, this unbelieving Thomas, had the nerve* to stick his fingers in the bleeding holes... and there was a flash of lightning and... NYAAAAH! [He puts both hands under his armpits, as if heís lost his hands] Golden halo, but no hands! Watch out!"
And all the Indians started singing: Heís alive! The son of Heaven is alive!" And they embraced each other and threw themselves on the ground, and made love, and drank... There were some who had brought a white powder, called "boracero" ["makes you drunk"]... borace means drunk... this white powder which they put up each otherís noses... and instead of sniffing up like this [He indicates the gesture] they put little tubes up each otherís noses and [He mimes blowing down a tube] PIUM! PIUM! ""You too! Me too!" PIUM! PIUM...! I can see God...!" "You wretches! You get drugged, you drink, you dance about, in front of the Lord!" "Arenít we supposed to?" "N. youíre not supposed to!" "Canít we dance before God?" "NO!" "Canít we make love before God?" "NO!" "Canít we drink?" "Only the priest drinks... everyone else stands and watches!" "And canít we blow down our tubes?" "NO!!" "Not even one little line?" "NOOOO!!!" "Hey, what kind of dead religion is this?" Itís not a dead religion, itís a religion of life, of life! Because in my village, in my valleys, when Jesus rises again, and itís Easter, the holy day of resurrection, everyone sings and dances and they are happy with a great contentment... and they song sweet songs that even listening to them makes you shiver with pleasure... Now Iíll sing you one, of great tenderness...
Oh what joy... Oh what happiness!
The son is still alive in heaven!
The son of Mary is still alive.
The virgin Mary is greatly happy
And none of us need any more fear
Either the Turks or the great wind
Neither the great wind nor the Christians
Neither the Turks nor the Christians!
"Lovely! Lovely!" All the Indians were dancing. "Encore! Encore!"
I sang it for them again another time, and they learned it exactly right... they sang it... a bit too lively [He does the same song, in a rhythm somewhere between a samba and a saltarello]:
Oh what joy... Oh what happiness!
The son is still alive in heaven!
At this point I said: "Now weíre all going to Cacioche...! Get the crosses ready... No, not everyone... only a thousand. The first time weíll go just in a thousand: eight hundred men, two hundred women. You other twenty-three thousand, you all stay hidden... If I need you all, Iíll send a signal, nd you come in... come in with the horses!"
More than a hundred horses... they all knew how to ride horses... "Letís get moving! Hold your crosses high...! Please, donít go exploding the corsses!" They had this mania... you couldnít put a cross in their hands without they immediately painted it in all different colours, put coloured feathers on it, added tubes with saltpetre and sulphur and manganese, and then lit them: PAM! IHAAAAAAIII! PAM!
"Youíre not supposed to explode crosses!"
We arrived at Cacioche. When we arrived before the big walls of Cacioche, the Spaniards peered over the walls: "Hey, look! Amazing! There are some Indians, Indians with crosses! Singing hymns! Christian Indians!"
From within the bastions the Governor immediately came out, and he shouted at them: "Who was it? Who gave permission for these Indians to be taught Christianity?"
I stepped forward, and I said: "It was me. Senor governor, my name is Johan Padan, and they call me the son of the rising sun and of the moon... I do not know whether I did good or bad in teaching them Christianity..."
He, the Governor, looks and sees all these Christian Indians on their knees before the bastions, and they had big basins,* big baskets* full of pieces of gold and silver and loads of necklaces. He is curious, and he asks: "But who is all this silver for?" "For you. It is a present which the Indians are giving you, senor Governor." "For me? You have done well to teach them Christianity." Then he turns o his soldiers and says: "I am speaking to the Spaniards: from this moment on, God help anyone who dares to make a slave of one of these Indians, who are our brothers in Christ, are our subjects, of the King and Queen of Spain! They will come to work of their own free will. They are free men! They will come to work every morning in the plantations.... freely... and they will come to the mines too... free, but under obligation!"
And all the Indians didnít quite understand the connection between freedom and obligation, but they were happy nevertheless...
They began drinking, and singing, and dancing... Then at nightfall they all slept on the ground, and oin the morning, when the bell* rang to call them all into work, to o to the mines, into the plantations... the ndians had disapeared, there was not so much as the shadow of an Indian! And they came and summoned me. I w5s still asleep, they grabbed me byt the throat and dragged me before the Governor. "On your knees," they old me. And the Governor said: "Hey, Johan Padan, youíre a cunning one, eh...? You teach a bit of religion to these Indians, you prepare them... you come here to test the wates. But as soon as they heard "Trabajo, work, mines..." off they all went, ran off. Now, if these Indians donít come down herre at once, on their knees in front of me, before the sun sets, Iíll hang you from the highest flagpole!* As the sun goes down, youíll go up to the moon!"
Before the sun went down, Blacky, Red and Thirty-tripes ran off to summon all the Indians, who came down quickly. In a trice thay all arrived there, on their knees in front of the Governor, asking pardon and saying: "Senor Governor, we are prepared to become slaves, but you must set free Johan Padan, the son of the rising sun and the moon, our dearest Shaman!"
The Governor said: "Look at the dedication of these wretches... Fair enough! You are free, because I have only one word... but him I will hang, because he has set up a religion which is all songs and dancing... a mockery...* Blasphemer... Hang him!"
They put the noose round my neck, and two hangmen began to pull. I felt myself being pulled up, pulled up, up into the sky, my throat was being throttles... I saw all red... the sky was burning me: "Am I in Hell?!" No! No! The sky really was burning! All the Indians, the twenty-five htousand Indians who had come down with flaming torches in their hands... they had climbed up everywhere, on the roofs, on the bastions, even on the churches, and up the bell-towers, in the plantations and even on the ships!
Twenty thousand Indians!
Forty thousand flaming torches!
The sky was burning! And there was Red, and he told the Governor: Watch out, Senor Governor... If you do not set Johan Padan free at once, these people are ready to burn everything you have! Theyíll burn your plantations, their burn your buildings with all the harvest in, theyíll also burn your churches, your cathedrals, theyíll make a bonfire of your whole palace, and your ships too...! And Iíd be interested to know how youíll get back home with your ships all charcoal!"
The captain was furious. He ordered: "Shoot them with the cannons!" "No, wait! And you natives too, with your flaming torches, stop and think: you can set fire to the whole city, Cacioche... fourteen years of work, thereís a million maravedi in all this... everything can burn... but at the end, how many of you will be saved from death? How many of you will die when we open fire on you? A thousand? Two thousand...? Are you really prepared to die in such great numbers to save this big thief? Johan Padan, who passes himself offas the son of the rising sun and the moon, in order to come and steal all your gold and silver?"
Then the Cacique stood up: "Stop. Senor Governor, for how long have you known Johan Padan...? Only just now! I know him for five years, six years, and he has never stolen from us even a dry leaf. We have made him presents of baskes and baskets o gold and silver... he didnít even touch them, and he said: I donít want to be a porter! You, senor Governor, who arrived when nobody invited you, you are the big thief! You arrived with all those people armed and covered in iron and you stole our harvest, our lands, the labour of our arms, you have stolen our men, women, gold...! And you have also stolen our language, you arrived all pompous* with feathers on your head... He arrived naked like the rest of us. You arrived triumphant, riding a stallion... he arrived riding too... but riding a pig. He arrived here and brought back to life people who were at deathís door... but you put to death people who are very much alive! He gave us a religion made of songs, of joyousness, of dancing, smiles, and happiness... You bring us a religion which 5s sad, melancholic, of death. All the time: ĎRemember that you are going to die! You are alive, but remember that you will perish!í And we touch our bollocks.*" "
"Enough back chat!" shouts the captain. "Open fire with the cannons!" The artificers run to light the fuses, but the fuses are damp, and the powder in the cannons is damp too... The captain shouts: "But who has pissed in the cannon mouths this night?! Get our the horses! Mount the horss! Cavalrymen, stand by your horses! Ready to charge the Indians!
But even pulled by ropes, the horses didnít want to come out. They reared up, kicked out, rolled on the ground, and also farted... from their nostrils!
"When have they done to those horses?" screamed the Governor. "Senor Governor, last night I saw some Indians filling long tubes with white powder... then they put the tubes in the horsesí noses and blew down them: PIUM! They ere drugging them...* and the horses like it!" a soldier replied.
All of a sudden: PA! PA! A! Fireworks arrive among the legs of the Spaniards, who began jumping here and there and running around... "Soldiers. stop, stop...! Look, the cavalry is coming to help us! What cavalry is that...? A hundred horses... INDIANS! INDIANS ON HORSES LIKE CHRISTIANS...?! God, theyíre charging like devil-possessed.! Is nothing sacred?!"
Allthe soldiers were down on their knees, shouting: "Donít kill us! Spare our lives! Donít kill us Forgive us!"
"Come on, you soldiers, a bit of dignity, please, before these Indian foreigners! [To the Indians] Go on, tie them all up, tie all the Spaniards to each other and take them to the ships. Unload all the cannons off the ships! [To the Spaniards] You Spaniards, we will spare your lives, all of you... in fact we ill return you to your houses... Weíll wait for three days and three nights, to see how the weather goes. If the weather is good, weíll send you back to your islands? Happy? Right, now, all go aboard your ships.
The first day, the moon came out... normal. The second, normal again. On the third night, the moon was big and clear in the sky... with all little clouds around it.
"Hey, Spaniards, you can leave now! Bon Voyage! Up with the sails! Let go the ropes.* Hoist the mainsail!"
And there was the Governor. He put his head out of the poop deck* and shouted: "Hey, Johan Padan, imbecile! Youíve made a serious mistake leaving us alive! You should have killed us all, because now weíre going back to the big island of Santo Domingo, and when we get there, we shall load other cannons, and we shall come back to this coast again, and we shall fire cannonades at you for weeks on end, and we shall kill you all: men, women, children, old people, and even the fleas on your dogs!"
"Senor Governor," I say. "Thereís an old proverb in the valleys where I come from, which says: "In order to come back to a place where you thought you could reach after having been in a scond place in order to prepare oneself to arrive at the first place... where one anted to arrive... you have to arrive at the second place where one thought of arriving in order to prepare oneself in order to be able to return to the first place!"
The ships ere moving away, moving away, into the distance, were about to disapepar over the horizon, and I said tp the moon: "Mother, give them a nice little wallop!"
PUAM! A huge flash of lightening, a great arc, for a moment you could see clearly, and then the sea turned black... another flash of lightning... away in the distance you could see little, little ships, and around those little ships some sea-spouts. Again, great searing flashes of lightning! Then rolls of thunder that sounded like cannons, then waves, waves getting bigger and bigger, until when they reached the shore they were like mountains! And within these great waves there were bits of ship, and in among them drowned sailors, and drowned soldiers, and drowned captains, and there was also the Governor, and the Deputy Governor... there was the chaplain too... All of them... they had all come back! And they floated there like deflated [...]
We waited for days and days to see if we could spy any ship returning, but since none of them had reached Santo Domingo, none of them could come back.
We razed the city to the ground, the city of Cacioche we razed flat, and we planted trees, which after five years... became a forest.
We waited for twelve years, but there was no sign of the Spaniards!
One morning we saw the whole sea full of sails... the flags were those of Castille and Leon. They were Spaniards. There was the flag of Panfilo Navael, a great commander, a famous, glorious captain. When he landed on the beach, we Indians disappeared. They disemabrked from their big boats, and they also brought horse, and looking at the maps that they were holding they said: "There must be a mistake here. This ought to be Cacioche here, but thereís not so much as a stake of this city, in this place...! Letís go and look for Cacioche elsewhere!"
And we, from our hidng places, saw this great expedition enter into the forest. And when they were halfway...
When people say: "If a disaster is ging to hapen, let it happen..." What happens? This whole army gets halfway into the forest, and a fire breaks out there [He ponts to the left Then another little fire there. (He points elsewhere] Then a big blaze, two fires, three fires, five fires... They run hither and thither trying to escape... "Hey, quick, get out of the forest! Itís all on fire! Out, get out! AAAAAARGH!"
All burned. An entirearmy burnt to cinders in the forest... What bad luck...!
Then, two years later, the son of Panfilo Navares, Michel Vaschez Navares, came down. He was more cunning, more intelligent than his father. He looked around and hesaid: "I donít like this! There are no Indians coming out to meet us like they usually do... Cacioche has disappeared... Look... in the forest there are burned bones... Iím not so stupid as to go through that forest, because itís a trap... Iíll go through the valley!"
The entire army heads for the mountain, which has a large slit, which is the big valley. As you enter it, the valley becomes narrower and narrower, and becomes really deep, and with steep sides... a throat* which is narrow and deep, and then they all had to walk sideways like this... [He mimes the walk] which is difficult for horses, to walk like this! All of a sudden they hear water coming down... A tremendous river... a river that is boiling: [He mimes the water speaking] "Beware the flood... be careful, itís coming... stand to one side... excuse me...!"
They were all drowned... in profile!"
Father and son, what an unlucky family!
Ernando se Soto* disembarked too, Spainís greatest conquistador. Ernando de Soto arrived with nine hundred men and two hundred horses... he was more important than Cortez, with nine hundred men he arrived, and endless amounts of cannons... and he met the Indians.
One of the chroniclers of the time says: "These Indians arrive, they are demons! There are a thousand of them, they shoot fireworks... they suddenly apear... another two hundred arrive... they disappear... then a hundred arrive... they pop up out of the earth like poisonous snakes... the meadows burn, a river appears all of a sudden... a new trap every day!"
After four months, they all returned to the shore... Heavens, what a disaster! Out of nine hundred men and two hundred horses there were only thirty Ė and twenty-eight of those were horses!
Then came Pedro Menderes de Vies, a captain, who turne dup with an army, went down ino the plain... and disappeared!
Then another arrived, Enrighe Marcos el Cronigador: he came in with an army. Disappeared!
Then another arrived: Luis Cansel Bavaraos: came in. Disappeared!
In the end there arrived an endless army commanded by one who was called Tristan de Luna... A man whoís called Tristan, what would you expect to happen to him...? He disappeared!
At this point, King Carlos V proclaimed: "Thatís enough! Sta Florida me ha enfrapado los cojones! I declare this Florida a non-approachable place.* In other words, if a Spanish Christian sets foot there without my orders... even if he comes back alive, afterwards Iíll hang him, with my own hands!"
From that day on, no more Spaniards!
A couple of Frenchmen did have a try... a bit suspicious... they found burned bones... "Pardon!" They made their excuses and left.
From that day when I first arrived hanging onto my pig in the storm, forty years had passed, forty years...... I have become old, white-haired, white-skinned, but I am happy, I am contented, I am healthy... I am in love, I have wives, and children who me love me... I have so many sons and daughters and grandchildren that Iíve even lost count. There are children all over the place... I meet one that I donít even recognise: "Who are you? My son? Oh, well! A pleasure! Give me a little kiss!"
I donít even know my grandchildren, who call me "Father! Father...!" Everyone calls me "Father!". Or rather, "Holy Father!"
They love me, I am a king, I am hapy. And they have respect, love and consideration... Around us there is never any terror, never any fear... If there is a problem, they always come to me, a dispute, an argument, advice... I always deal with things...
Respected, loved, I am a king!
The only thing that fills me with nostalgia is the fresh smell of the wind in my valleys, I donít know where it comes from, but I can smell it... it arrives in my ears, it gives me the shivers, it breathes like a breath, I smell the scent of when theyíre cooking the goat... I hear the bubbling of the must* in the hostelries, I hear the bubbling of the wine in the barrels... the singing of the women, the laughter... oh, the songs of love... even the hymns in church fill me with nostalgia... There are those moments when I get a big lump in my throat which throttles my heart, my gorge rises, my heart beats... I go running desperately to my hammock... Sprawled out in my hammock I clutch onto the net... two girls come over to me... they swing me...* they sing a lullaby to my hammock...* they swing me gently, gently... I close my eyes, and they sing me the song of my village, which I taught them... precisely with the same words and the same idiom of my dialect...
Oh how fine, oh what happiness,
The Son of Heaven is alive again
The Son of Mary is alive again.
The Virgin Mary is hugely happy
None of us need any more fear
Neither the Turks, nor the storms,
Neither the storms, nor the Christians
Neither the Turks, neither the Christians."
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Please be aware that this translation can only be performed with explicit permission in writing from the agency representing Dario Fo and Franca Rame, the Danesi-Tolnay agency in Rome.
Last updated: 11.viii.2012