Barreiro claims to have found the manuscript of THE INDIAN CHRONICLES while researching his thesis. The chronicles were written by Guaikan, a Taino, during the Enriquillo war. Thanks in part to his efforts, the war ends with a peaceful settlement that assures the decimated native islanders a small reserve on Hispaniola and that allows a remnant of Taino culture to survive into the twentieth century.
Young Guaikan witnesses the arrival of Columbus at his island of Guanahani. His curiosity leads him to join voluntarily the captives Columbus takes to Spain. He serves as Columbus’ interpreter to the Indians, and the admiral adopts him. Guaikan is so impressed with Columbus that he only gradually realizes that the Spaniards are neither gods nor humans, but a pestilence who pillage the islands and natives for wealth, especially gold.
In late middle age, Guaikan assists Bartolome de las Casas, Protector of the Indians, in ending the Enriquillo war. This story organizes the novel, but Guaikan’s chronicles constitute a portrait of his people, a view of Caribbean culture as on the verge of a golden age of peace and plenty at the point when the Spanish arrive and destroy the culture. Guaikan’s narrative emphasizes the irony of a dynamic peaceful civilization subjected to disease, slavery, appropriation, and slaughter in the name of a God of peace. Even Father Bartolome’s justly famous efforts on behalf of the Caribbean peoples suffer under this irony.
This moving novel shows a cultural wisdom that colonists could not easily appreciate and that can be a valuable heritage to the contemporary world.