Love for Gold
La Mocuana Legend
I was just a girl, in the year 1530 of the invader’s calendar, when the Spaniards arrived. They came in their funny metal hats and with their not so funny obsession, gold. They came to our land well armed, to expand their empire and their fortune. My father was the chief of our great society, but their force was superior. Rather than sacrifice our people, my father conceded defeat. To appease the invader’s insatiable hunger for shiny stones, and to save our lives, he gave them deerskin bags full of gold pebbles. My father also asked them to never return. My father was a wise chief, he knew that in the abundance of water the pool is thirsty, that greed would bring them to our land once again. He hid all of our people’s treasures in a secret place, a place only I knew.
Years of peace and learning past, I grew. All spoke of the beauty. They said that my long dark hair, my svelte body and angelic smile made me the flower of the valley. The one every man wanted to pick. I was young. Since I could have any man I wanted, I wanted something more. My love arrived one morning, during a violent storm. He came with the same men who had threatened our land before, or at least they looked the same to us. He was different; the one who came dressed in robes. My love was a young priest, or at least we all thought so then. An official of that strange God from across the seas; a God that seemed to need gold and free labour like we needed the earth and the sun. I could make excuses for myself now, but we can only dream the past and recount the dream when we awaken. I fell in love with the one in robes, his funny voice, his strange smell and hairy face. He loved me too, that was sure. That, the entire village could see.
One morning, when I felt sick from the new life growing inside of me, my love asked me for proof. He said if I truly loved him, I could not hide anything, not even the treasures of our people. Those who call me stupid, or naïve, do not understand love, or maybe they have never known it. I took my love to the place that only the chief, my poor father and I knew. My love kissed me with joy when he saw our people’s hidden gold. He said that we should move our treasure; it was not safe where my father had hidden it. The dark, deep cave of our nation’s third mountain was safer. The mountain that now bears my name, La Mocuana, but please, let me finish the story. With great effort we brought our treasure up the mountain slope to the hidden cave. It was there, inside the cave, that the gold attacked his heart and murdered our love. I only remember him beating me, and then, a cold darkness. I awoke to a cave with no exit. The entrance closed with rocks the size of my love betrayed.
I gave light to my baby the same day I finally saw the light of the sky. Months inside of that cold, dark cave and now I was free. I had dug my way out, but my soul was buried, strangled by the darkness. My baby cried in the bright light, as I cried when I threw him into the abyss and returned to the dark cave forever. They know me as La Mocuana. I invite all the romantic men, living in the hollow shadow of my father’s great land, to come and visit me. I travel the streets late at night. Men are attracted by my beautiful long black hair, my slender body. It is all that they can see and all I have left to work my revenge.
Author’s notes: The La Mocuana legend touches three of the most painful aspects of the conquest of the Americas. The manipulation and betrayal of the indigenous peoples by the first Europeans and the latter’s insatiable greed, which left most of the Americas in a perpetual state of poverty. The Nicaraguan legend of La Mocuana has several different versions, but most agree that she was an Indian princess who revealed her tribe’s hidden treasure to her seemingly sincere Spanish lover and was then left by him in a hillside cave to die. She haunts the streets of many Nicaragua northern villages late at night, either looking to entice men who are out cruising for romance (the version I chose) or stealing neglected babies and leaving a few gold pieces in their place. Only her beautiful hair and attractive figure are visible to the mortal eye. To make this popular legend into a story, I have taken great liberties with the legend’s outline, filling and expanding it greatly and giving La Mocuana her own voice. The cave of La Mocuana is located near the village of La Trinidad, south of Estelí, in Nicaragua’s rustic and scenic northern mountains.