Just a quick post keeping you apprised of my publishing journey. I heard today the title of my book, Mariposa, is likely to change. The publisher is concerned it won’t resonate with teens and may confuse readers, because, Mariposa is a Spanish word. Even though the book will come out in bilingual format for both English and Spanish speakers, the English speakers might see the title and pass it over, because they won’t know what it means.
Mariposas (butterflies) are a theme in the book, and it stems from a story the main character’s grandfather (Abuelito) tells her (Evangelina) when she’s a little girl. People who know my dad well may think the character, “Abuelito” reminds them of someone. That’s because I modeled him after my dad. And there’s a bit of my dad in Evangelina’s Papá, too.
Here’s an excerpt from the scene between Evangelina and Abuelito sitting on the front porch at their ranch, on a warm summer night. Abuelito, shares a story with Evangelina about how their town got its name.
“Long, long ago,” Abuelito starts, “a band of Spanish explorers journeyed from halfway across the world on a big ship in search of gold and precious stones. When they arrived in the new world, there were less than half of them left. Many died from starvation and scurvy during the voyage. The surviving men arrived in a pitiful state, pale as that cloud over there and wasted away to nothing but skin and bones. The men were weak, but they found strength and hope in their dreams of wealth and glory. They labored from sunup to sundown to uncover the riches they’d risked life and limb for, but found nothing of the sort, only natives who offered food, water and gifts. They decided to settle on the banks of the great river rather than go back to their King empty-handed. It didn’t take long for them to marry the local women and build a small village they named Agua Fuerte.
It was there the people witnessed a magical event in the spring when God bestowed upon them earth’s greatest bounties – splashes of color across the grasses, plentiful wild fruits, berries and abundant game; a time of beauty, celebration and new life.
One clear morning thousands of butterflies appeared from the north. We see butterflies ourselves each spring, don’t we? But this time, there were so many, they filled the sky in every direction.”
I look up in wonder hoping to see the butterflies myself.
“The outsides of their wings were lined in thick black stripes with white spots,” he continues. “The insides were filled with orange, red and gold shapes that fit together perfectly like pieces of stained glass that reminded the explorers of the grand cathedral windows in the crowded city they used to call home. They fluttered in, out and around the great river, and the people took it as a sign from God – that, through the arrival of the butterflies, he was gracing them with his goodness and blessing all who lived there.
But the next day, to everyone’s surprise, swarms of pocket-size swallows dove in, out and around the great river and snatched many of the butterflies for their meal. Some butterflies escaped. When the sun disappeared from view, the birds were gone, and the butterflies were no more.”
“Ooohhh,” I lament. “That’s sad.”
“In only seems sad, but you must hear the rest of the story.” Abuelito put his arm around my shoulder. “Soon thereafter, the people of the village renamed Agua Fuerte, Mariposa; in honor of the beautiful, noble creatures they believed God sent especially to them from up above to bless their village and all who lived there.”
I crinkle my eyebrows. “Were the butterflies too scared to come back?”
“Naturally they were scared of the birds, but they knew they could find a better place to live, beyond what they could see, beyond what they’d ever seen in all their travels. And yes, they came through Mariposa the next year, and every year since then on their way to the warmer weather in the south,” Abuelito replies. “The birds come, too, but that doesn’t stop the butterflies. Fear doesn’t determine their fate.”
“What is fate?” I ask.
“Fate is the way your life is meant to turn out.”
“Where does it come from?” I shrug.
“Fate comes from inside you;” he touches my chest lightly with this fingertips. “Right here, in your heart.”
“Really?” I look down at the spot where my heart is.
“Really! No one else decides it. It’s what you choose, not something that happens by chance, like some people think. The butterflies know this, because they are wise creatures.”
“Butterflies can’t be wise,” I giggle.
“Oh, yes they can! Each one breaks free of its cocoon, flaps its wings, rises into the sky, travels long distances and overcomes many challenges and dangers along the way. But, in the end, it reaches its destination. It works that way for people, too, mija. Many small steps become long distances with determination and hard work. You just have to know where you want to wind up.”
I squeeze Abuelito’s hand and lean into the warmth of his right side.
“Over the years Mariposa grew,” he continues. “More and more families came to settle where the legendary butterflies first graced the great river, now called the Río Bravo.”
“That’s our river!” I proclaim.
“And just think – you were born here, on Rancho Encantado on the banks of the Rio Bravo, right outside Mariposa. Evangelina Carmen De León was born July 1, 1897, and it was a very special day.”
“You were born here, too,” I remind him.
“Yes, of course,” he draws me closer. “But when you were born, it was a sign of God’s goodness and grace, like the mariposas. God wants you to dream just as they did, then spread your wings, and go get your dream.”