Road through the jungle – Barima-Waini Region – Guyana
Photo Credit: It’s Always Sunny in Guyana Blogspot
I have started work on my second novel. It’s a journey back to my final year as a high school teacher at the Mabaruma Secondary School in Guyana’s northwest region. Whenever I think of that year, I relive the days I walked alone with God along the red dirt road through the jungle to and from school. At the time, I lived in Santa Cruz (fictitious name for the indigenous Amerindian settlement) located on a hilltop some five miles distant from Mabaruma, the administrative center of what is now called the Barima-Waini Region.
On the Road to Santa Cruz, my working title, is a story about jealousy and betrayal. Attractive, twenty-six-year-old Sister Barbara Lovell, the only child of an Afro-Guyanese father and Indo-Guyanese mother, is a teacher of the religious community, Sisters of Christ the Redeemer. When conflict erupts with Sister Frances Stang, a German-American missionary who also teaches at the Mabaruma high school, Sister Barbara’s life is turned inside-out. Her adversary is a powerful force. The surrounding forest offers no refuge.
The story is set during the period 1979 to 1980, covering events leading up to the assassination of Walter Rodney on 13 June 1980. Betrayed by a man in whom he trusted. Wrenched from us at 38 years old. The Guyana-born scholar and historian, a frontline leader of the political group, the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), had become a threat to the dictatorship government.
Following his return to Guyana in 1974, Walter Rodney succeeded in bringing together racially divided blacks and Indians at his public meetings.
“For the first time they were listening and looking at each other as brothers, comrades, that there was some common bond,” writes Abbyssinian Carto, a WPA activist in the struggle and civil rebellion during 1979 to 1980. “We come from different religious and different races and stuff like that, but we really are not different.” (Walter A. Rodney: A Promise of Revolution, edited by Clairmont Chung, 2012.)
The research process in novel writing is vital not only for historical accuracy, but also for developing complex, authentic characters that readers will love and hate. Influenced by Dr. Rodney’s teachings about self-emancipation, Sister Barbara’s conflict with Sister Frances takes on other undertones.
Betrayal can be a devastating experience, as it was for Sister Barbara that year in Santa Cruz. Sometimes, we may never recover from its effect on our lives. But, I believe it’s a valuable learning experience. People we think we know well are not always what they appear to be. To make matters worse, the people with power over our lives do not always have our interests at heart, though they claim to be.
Walter Rodney was prepared to risk his life to free his people from ignorance and fear. Did he die in vain?