The Jibarito’s Dream

Por Luis Germa Cijiga
Por Luis Germa Cijiga

As the silvery moon is radiantly enveloping the dark sky, a jibarito loads all his goods in his mare, and eagerly heads down to the market in the city where he knows he can sell his crops. The silence of that still night is broken by a hymn of joy. During the rural trail, the jibarito goes down overjoyed, happily singing, anticipating a great day at the marketplace. His mare is rhythmically galloping because he can sense in his owner’s song the bliss that overflows through the fresh air of that glorious morning. His thoughts reach out to a world of possibilities, where he hopes to buy a new dress for his mother and with a grateful heart he tells God how bad he wants to surprise his family, and help his neighbors with the earnings from selling his harvest.

When he finally gets to the city, a beaming sun welcomes him.  However, the joy of the jibarito fades away as he walked into a deserted market. Now and then, when someone walks by, he says with a bright smile; “buy my crops, they are fresh and delicious, I will give you a good deal.” But instead, an apathy takes over the lovely morning, and all he hears back is; “I have no money.”

A long day goes by, and the jibarito hasn’t sold one single crop. His mare sadly looks at him, noticing how down his master is. On the way back home, instead of singing, the jibarito is crying, asking God how much longer his island will be able to survive so much misery.

As Rafael Hernández describes in his song, Lamento Borincano, during the Great Depression, the jibarito encountered tough years to support his family. Although he has no education and lives in extreme poverty; the jibarito inherited from his indigenous ancestors the magic that fills his heart with joy. Hospitality is one of his best virtues and regardless how difficult things could be in Puerto Rico, he will always be very proud to be a Boricua.

The name jíbaro was derived from the Taíno language, meaning people of the forest. By learning to live in harmony with nature, he has found a haven in the rural towns of Puerto Rico. Because the jibarito is an illiterate Boricua, many people have underestimated his wisdom, labeling him as someone inferior. However, the jibarito has many talents and just like the Taínos, the Puerto Rican culture has inherited many of his customs; like for example; the lechón a la varita (whole pig roasted on a shaft) is one of them, as well as mastering making a fogón (bonfire).

Music is a significant part of his life, expressing himself as a poet, composer and storyteller. He cannot afford to pay the power bill; therefore, instead of watching television or playing, he likes to entertain making up stories and composing songs, using the percussion instruments he has crafted.

It is no longer common to find authentic jibaritos in the island; however, there are still some living in remote towns that are in the mountainous region of the isle. I remember meeting and old jibarito during the years I was going to college, who loved to tell all kind of stories about the pirates that existed in Puerto Rico. Just like the Indian Taínos, he claimed that nature is sacred and assured me that by perceiving magic through Mother Earth will keep you young at heart.

My favorite expression he used to say is; “Life is like the ocean waves; situations come and go with the current of the sea, and it is entirely up to us to decide if we want to learn to surf them smoothly or to drown.”

One day I asked my old friend; “what is the jibarito’s dream?” He paused to think for a minute about his answer, and with a grin in his eyes, he said with a smile in his words; “that all Puerto Ricans learn to love Borinquen the way I do…”

“What do you want Puerto Ricans to do?” I asked him.  “To see magic in nature and hopefully, respect it. The coquí is the Puerto Rican fairy that brings us harmony but so many people here are so blind…” The jibarito said with pain in his brown eyes.

My friend died almost two decades ago. Every time I hear the song Lamento Borincano, I think of him and remember his joy that was so magical. The Taínos were great teachers to the jibaritos, just like they are to us. And yes, like my old friend the jibarito, I am also a very proud Boricua because of the kindness we had inherited from our brave ancestors.

19 thoughts on “The Jibarito’s Dream

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