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By Steven Donnini
Copyrights 2010 Steven Donnini
In Miami’s Little Havana there are many small stores that carry exotic oils, which are used in offerings to Orishas (Gods). Most Santeria
believers are Cuban, Puerto Rican or Haitian. Victor Dela Campa Hernandez Valdez Castro, is a Haitian illegal alien from Porto Prince. their children after their lineage. They name
In 1998, he
managed to tie several truck tire inner-tubes together to create a rubber raft for his journey to Florida. After 8 days at sea with his 15 year old
brother Hector, they washed ashore on Marathon Island in the Florida Keys. They walked north to
the rich farmlands of Homestead where they found work picking lettuce, watermelons and squash. Victor is a clever man who has many skills like welding, pluming and laying tile.
Victor’s life changed when he met 25 year old Gusty Twombly. They were eating sandwich’s at the El
Gallito bar in Little Havana while watching CNN Cable TV news when a segment about Fidel Castro played. Announcer: Doctor says, Castro healthy enough to live till 140 years old.
Cuban President Fidel Castro, enjoys vibrant health and will live to 140, his chief doctor said. Doctor Eugenio Selman-Housein, who heads Castro's medical team, denied that the longtime leader has Parkinson's disease, as the CIA reportedly believes. "Every day they invent a new one," Selman-Housein said. "He will live 140 years."
Castro's health, once a taboo subject in the communist-led island, has become a topic of discussion since he fainted in public in 2001 and slipped and fell before television cameras in October 2004. Castro, who quit smoking his trademark cigars in 1986, has led Cuba since 1959. Victor went into a rant over the prospect that so many Cuban’s would be trapped in the Castro political nightmare until he dies at 104. customers in the bar agreed. Many
Twombly ever the optimist said, “Look at it this way, when has a 104 year old man been able to tell anyone what to do?” Victor replies, “Yeah, what’s he gonna do, chock on a chicken wing?” Throughout her life Gusty was just plain lucky. few years back when people in Florida decided to tear out old moldy carpeting and replace it with tile, Gusty was there with a crews of skilled A
Everything she did worked out exactly as Now she owns the largest tile Victor has just met his meal
business in Orlando. ticket.
Gusty’s mother Alberta Twombly was a practicing Santeria priestess and practitioner who had immigrated from Cuba in the 1960’s. Her skills are
well known to the James clan of Central Florida since she lived in the James home and attended to the reclusive Vivian James during her many bouts with depression and Migraine headaches. Alberta
was viewed by others in Haines City, Florida as a witch doctor with extraordinary healing powers. Her only child Gusty was blessed with good fortune from birth. Some think this was the handy work of
Alberta Twombly and her Santeria ceremonies. Santeria has been in existence since the first slaves came to the Caribbean Islands from West Africa. The religion is a blend of Catholicism and
West African Tribal Spiritual beliefs.
However, Santeria practices are not unique to the Caribbean Islands. Today the largest groups of
Santeria followers in the USA are in New York City and South Florida. Santeria is not a written theology, so there’s no bible or scrolls. It is passed on by word of mouth
by devotees and priests. Before the James brothers were conceived, Dr. James and Mrs. James visited Havana, Cuba where
they met Alberta Twombly who was working in their hotel as a chamber maid. fast friends. Vivian and Alberta became
Vivian was having difficulty
conceiving and all the known remedies of the time were exhausted. Alberta knew a Santeria fertility When the
ceremony that would give her children.
James couple returned to Haines City, Vivian was pregnant with twins. Before the birth Vivian made She
arrangements to bring Alberta to Florida. never returned to Cuba.
When the boys were small she would work around the James home watching after them. She would tell
them bedtime stories like this one.
The Wind & the Rainbow Elegbara, aye-o, Elegbara, aye-o, Elegbara, madupe, Elegbara Wonfa nyem, listen and hear, and remember.
Listen my children to the tale of Oya, and her children the colors of the rainbow, a tale of questions and answers, sacrifice and healing, friendship, and trust renewed.
Hear the tale of Oya, come weary to the bone from a long hunt to her home by the black waters of the Niger. There her children are being raised by
Osayin, the herbalist, and taught the ways of the woods. She clothes them in purple, and calls each
by a secret name, but they see her seldom, she
stays but a few days, and leaves the mothering to the old healer.
One day she does not return, the children go hungry, and Osayin is worried. He turns to Elegwa,
who watches everything, and asks where she may have gone.
To the East Elegwa goes searching, far beyond the borders of the land, but though he searches far, he finds only tall grasses waving in the breeze, and tracks of the water buffalo.
To the West Osayin, himself, continues searching, far into the mountains of the Cameroon, and from a high place he seems to see her dancing, but when he gets to the plain, it is a flock of wild birds covering the seashore and the remains of a great catch of fish.
To the South, he sends Ochosi, the tracker, who often finds traces when no one can see the way. Ochosi goes hunting, seeking through the jungle, and though Ochosi is able to find traces of her journey and people who have seen her, they tell him she has gone north to the country of her people.
And so the three friends return to the village, each having journeyed and returned disheartened. The villagers are hungry and they do not know what to do as the harvest has been poor. The three
counselors do not know what to do but are fearful of leaving the children without their mother, so packing their belongings, they take the children with them.
To the North, then, Elegwa, Ochosi, and Osayin go journeying with the nine children until they come to the hut of Orunmilla, the seer. He greets them,
"I have been expecting you, the Fool, the Bow, the
I have seen you for many days in my shells,
for you come to bring home the harvest."
"What" speaks Elegwa, "I know no such harvest, I seek only my friend Oya, whose children miss her."
"It is a strange harvest--I see nine children and a mother who does not return and only now you miss her? She shall be your harvest indeed."
Ochosi spoke also.
"I see her trace everywhere.
The villagers speak of a brave woman warrior, dressed in black with a purple sash, who comes, stops oppression, but leaves before anyone can thank her."
"You see her harvesting justice--and you do nothing but track her traces--what must you learn?"
Osayin shook his head sadly.
"I was trusted with
her children, but she has left no word."
"You speak of trust," Orunmilla spoke gently, "and for that I will speak. She has come by this way, Go home, and she will
and left you these horns.
return when you blow them in blessing the feast."
"But what shall I tell these her children?" asked Osayin.
"Tell them she will return when the hunters return from the South with no food, when the sailors return from the West with no fish, when the lands to the East are dry, then they should blow their horns and she will return."
And the three returned to the village by the river Niger disheartened. They waited for another moon Elegwa looked to Osayin
and thought of Orunmilla's words.
the East and saw only the shifting stars.
looked to the west and saw only the birds on the seashore, Ochosi pondered the South and the strange tales of a warrior who took no food as reward. they knew that it was time to call her home. And
And they blew on the horns.
The wail of the horns died out, and there was a palpable silence. And from a distance they could
here the snort of some beast come to the village. They watched and from the forest came an immense black buffalo, bleeding from many wounds, who ran at each of them, chasing them into huts as if mad with fear.
The buffalo ran about the village, once, and they thought it best to stay indoors. began to peer outside. they knew to wait. Twice, and they
Three times, and it was if
Four times, and the rhythm of
its running made a strange dance on the drums of
Five times, and all the villagers
began to dance, ignoring the buffalo as it continued to run. still. Six times and no one could be
Seven times and the beast began to tire. The ninth
Eight times and the drums fell silent.
time, the buffalo ran into the center of the village and collapsed, dead of exhaustion and blood.
The villagers shook themselves, and looked upon the beast, now dead in the village. It skin now hung
in tatters, like cloth, and even as they watched, the tatters became loose, and the hooves shrank, until finally they saw Oya, seemingly dead upon the ground.
"No, it cannot be," cried Osayin, "we saw her tracks everywhere and we never suspected."
"She is the harvest we knew was to come, but not at
the sacrifice of our friend," replied Elegwa.
"Only the hunter knows what it is to be hunted," observed Ochosi. We tracked her to the East, to
the West, to the South, and never knew that we chased a friend. And now, she is dead."
"I am not dead," spoke a voice from the clearing, and they turned but saw no one. "I am not dead," "You see my old I am
and it was if the sky itself sang.
form, your old friend, that was but a shell.
the spirit of the wind, and nothing will keep me from my children." And the wind blew as if a great howling of drums and Oya arose alive again, calling her children one by one.
"Not many know me as you know me, my youngest child, you shall be the Dark Mother (pulling out a cloth of Black). You will lead them by secret ways
through the forest when they have lost their way."
"I have shed much blood from the spears of the hunters, you my child shall remember, you are the Blood Mother (pulling out a cloth of Red). You
will always remember the blood of the warriors who fight in your behalf."
"The sun shines golden in the fields ripe for harvest, and you will always know its abundance if you call on me. You are now the Golden Mother
(pulling out a cloth of Orange)."
"I blind the enemy so that they are diverted and do no harm, you I call my Shield, the sun (pulling out a cloth of Yellow). will do." Do no harm when deflection
"Osayin taught you well the patience of waiting. Sometimes you cannot see the pattern until the cloth is finished. You are now the Weaver Woman.
Take this cloth of Green, as you must pull the reed when it is ripe and let it dry."
"Ochosi traced you to the ends of the earth and looked upon the sea. bringing change. There my winds are forever
You are now the Hurricane
(pulling out the cloth of Blue), forever changing the sea and the land."
"When justice is not done, I grow angry, and become the seeker after truth. I call you Lightning,
blasting from a clear sky (pulling out a cloth of Indigo)."
"And when you are old, you will teach the young my words, for you shall be the Crone (pulling out a cloth of Purple). You will be old before your
years, and call even the elderly to learn at your feet."
"And you, the eldest child, they will see but seldom as you will follow in my footsteps, invisible as the wind, you are the Dancer in the Flame (pulling out a cloth of Silver)."
Know my friends, Elegwa, Ochosi, Oyasin, that you did not fail me. You, o wondering villagers, you Now
cared for my children even in your hunger.
when you have need, call me by my horns and there will be fish in the sea, a harvest on the land, and meat for the hunter.
Take up the colors of my children as my token, and when you see them in the sky, know that I am there, and here, and in your heart. Rainbow, and I am the Wind. This is just one of many West African Tribal stories Alberta told to the James Brothers over the years. Dr. James wasn’t interested in the tails But Jimmy and James never You’re now the
of Alberta Twombly.
forget the lessons they were told about life in the West African Niger villages. It wasn’t until Alberta died in 2002 that the James Brothers realized Gusty Twombly was their half sister. The three children grew up together
without knowing this. Jimmy James discovered the birth certificate tucked away in an attic trunk with Twombly family photos from Cuba. The brothers and sister mourned their
loss together. When Gusty Twombly and Victor Dela Campa Hernandez Valdez Castro were married it was in the Catholic Church in Winter Park, Florida. James Jimmy James
was the best man and Jimmy James gave her away. Gusty kept her family name in honor of her mother. It all proves that life is a messy business.