Ecuador: A poem for the women of the mangroves


(Photo: C-Condem)

The décima is a poetic form that has been used for many years as a tool of protest by Afro-Ecuadorians, who keep this cultural traditional alive while denouncing the trampling of their rights by greedy and powerful interests like the shrimp farming industry and others that are destroying the mangroves.

Linver Nazareno dedicates this décima to the women who live in the mangroves, as a tribute to the hard work they endure every day.

Mangrove Woman
by Linver Nazareno

Mangrove firewood is your coal
The seashell will wait for you
An oar is your rudder
Your dear friend, the mangroveAn open fire is your kitchen
Your children, your entertainment
The forest, your medicine
The shade, your protection
A good fish, your food
Chillangua [1], your seasoning
The mangrove, barrier of life
Protecting it is your reason
To obtain your food
Mangrove firewood, your coalSkin weathered by hope
And by rising so early
Your mind gives you your strength
You will walk through the mud
Tobacco is your passion
Smoke to chase away the flies
The wind is your song
Tapao [2] is your feast
To nourish you
The seashell will wait for youYou heat up the lemon grass
Before breakfast
Your way of life is so simple
You work so hard
The sun is your faithful timekeeper
The waves, your heart
The moon is your calendar
Your gas, a sack of coal
To reach the estuary
An oar is your rudderSmoke from burning coconut fibre
To chase the flies away
You have drained the milk from the coconut
The tonga [3] must be prepared
My little mangrove tree
You have given me so much food
I have waged a thousand battles
When I go out to work
Life has gifted me with
My dear friend the mangrove
(original version in Spanish)Leña e mangle es tu carbón
La concha te va a esperar
Canalete [1] es tu timón
Tu gran amigo el manglarEl fogón es tu cocina
Tus hijos tu diversión
Los montes tu medicina
La sombra tu protección
Un buen pescao tu comida
La chillangua [2] tu sazón
Mangle barrera de vida
Protegerlo es tu razón
Para apurar la comida
Leña e mangle tu carbónPiel curtida de esperanza
Y de tanto madrugar
Tu mente te da la fuerza
En el lodo vas andar
El tabaco es tu pasión
Humo pa`l mosco espantar
El viento es tu gran canción
El tapao [3] es tu manjar
Pa darte alimentación
La concha te va a esperar

Calientas el limoncillo
Antes de desayunar
Tu vivir es tan sencillo
Duro sabes trabajar
El sol es tu fiel horario
Las olas tu corazón
La luna es tu calendario
Tu gas un saco e carbón
Para llegar al estuario
Canalete es tu timón

Estopa botando humo
Los moscos hay que espantar
Del coco has sacado el zumo
La tonga [4] hay que preparar
Mi arbolito de manglar
Mucha comida me has dao
Mil batallas he librao
Cuando me voy a faena`
La vida me ha regalao
Mi gran amigo el manglar



(1) An aromatic herb, similar to cilantro

(2) A traditional dish from the province of Esmeraldas, made with fish, green plantain and chillangua.

(3) A snack or meal that people take with them when they work far from home, typical of the province of Manabí: rice and fish or meat wrapped in the leaves of a plant known as bijao. Women usually prepare it in the morning and then eat it later, in the middle of the work day.