When I was in Ecuador, my cousins and I played soccer in the backyard. I saw my Tia Flor leave the house and wait for the bus in the corner. She was going back to the commune. As she waited, I asked her to tell me a story. “Okay Santisimo,” she said with a smile. “I will tell you the Butterfly Story.”
Back in the day, when your family used to live in the commune, your grandmother came all the way from the United States to pay us a visit that summer afternoon. I think your mother was still a child – a playful child, indeed. Your grandmother walked on the beach. She visited the forest. She visited the relatives. She was happy back home.
One afternoon, she was walking on a road that led her to your great grandmother’s house – but she let out a sudden scream.
The cousins, the aunts, the uncles, and the grandmothers peeped out of their windows and saw the poor child frozen like a statue.
“What happened, young lady?” the aunts asked.
“There’s a snake on the road, help,” she replied in fear.
They called for your great-grandmother and your great-great-grandmother to come to your grandmother’s aid. One of them carried an iron pot. The other carried her faith and love. Your great-great grandmother wore a long braid that stretched to her waist. She wore thick-framed glasses that made her eyes look fierce like a jaguar.
“What is this yelling about?” she asked my grandmother in her angry voice.
“The snake…the snake…” your grandmother whispered pointing at the creature.
Your grandmothers worked together to remove the snake out of the road safe and sound. They chanted words. Like they called the spirits of the other world. Like the words themselves moved the plants. Like the words called the thunder.
And the snake swerved to the grandmothers. It crawled right into the pot.
The village prayed. Your mother played with her cousins in the forest. The sky grew darker. The day got cooler. The Chawis chirped more than ever.
Your great-great grandmother and your great-grandmother shook the pot together and prayed in that language. That calling of the spirits. That thunder shock. That rolling of the waves. That gust of wind. That…that…and then – poof!
Your great-great grandmother opened the pot and a giant butterfly flew in the sky.
“That’s why you do not kill a snake,” your great-great grandmother said. “Because who knows if you end up killing your own ancestors who might have reincarnated as a snake in this life.”