Mamá Tilda

Mayahatakale community (Sibano), Bürekün
c. 1901 - January 9th, 2012 (aged 110)
She would always ask me, “do you want to hear a story today?”

I’d always reply, “yes, Mamá.”

She’d say, “Do you want to hear about the stars? Do you want to hear about the ocean? Do you want to hear about the mountains?”

She was a storyteller.

She knew the history of anything that existed in our world. She knew the stories of creation and the stories of responsibility. She knew cautionary tales and she knew the jokes.

She would sit me down and first in Taino she'd say, "Let me tell you a story." Then she would repeat it in Spanish. She often did this.

She would give me warm tea and bread and she would write in her book. Slowly and carefully, recording.

She recorded our stories. In hopes I would assume responsibility when it was her turn to move on, as is our custom.

She told me that stories are the most important thing in the world.

Through stories, our language and history survived. Through stories we know where we come from. Through stories, we feel compassion and responsibility for the things we wouldn’t otherwise understand. At times when we had no other resort, we would tell our stories. That's how we go on.

In memory of Mamá Tilda, who fed and watched over the community, who continues her work in spirit after her passing. Our language, sleeping, and our culture survive because of her immense work, and the work of her mother and mothers immemorial before her.

— Keyla (@CaribeIndigena), community leader and storyteller, 14th November 2016