Hurricane Dancers: The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck

by Margarita Engle

Margarita Engle recounts the often brutal relationship between indigenous people... read more

Margarita Engle recounts the often brutal relationship between indigenous people and conquistadors in a multilayered story built around a Caribbean pirate shipwreck in 1509. Quebrado (the broken one) is a boy of mixed blood—part indigenous Taíno and part Spanish—who was taken from his (Cuban) island home and enslaved. He is on the pirate ship with the captain, Talavera, and the pirate’s hostage, Ojeda, both conquistadors, when it’s caught in a storm. Quebrado is rescued by Naridó, a young fisherman in love with Caucubú, daughter of his island village’s chieftan. Quebrado befriends the young lovers, who run away because the chief has promised his daughter to another. Meanwhile, Talavera and Ojeda make it to the island and are found by the villagers who took in Quebrado. They can’t speak the Taíno language so must rely on Quebrado to speak for them. Quebrado shares his painful history as he speaks to the men’s fate. “After dancing and sphere games / the village cacique is willing / to execute my enemies / or banish them forever. / The choice is mine.” Engle’s poems in multiple voices pulse with feeling, whether it’s the passion of the star-crossed lovers, Quebrado’s desire for a place to belong, or the dismissiveness, arrogance, and eventual desperation of the two men who thought they were destined to conquer them all in a story woven from fact and fiction. Only Quebrado is a wholly fictional character. (Age 12 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2012

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