Among the African pantheon of the Orichas—deities and messengers often inscrutable to the Western mind—stands Changó, god of fire, war, and thunder. In Manuel Zapata Olivella’s four-hundred-year epic of the African American experience, first published in 1983 as Changó, el gran putas, Changó both curses the muntu—the people—for betraying their own kind and challenges them to liberate not only themselves but all of humanity.
In luminous verse and prose, Zapata Olivella conveys the breadth of heroism, betrayal, and suffering common to the history of people of African descent in the Western hemisphere. Ranging from Brazil to New England but primarily turning his wrath on the Caribbean centers of the slave trade, Changó inhabits personas as diverse as Benkos Biojo, Henri Christophe, Simón Bolívar, José María Morelos, the Aleijadinho, Marcus Garvey, and Malcolm X. His message is one of vengeance, but also one of hope.
Readers and critics will relish the opportunity to at last experience Zapata Olivella’s masterpiece in English and to appreciate this extraordinary tapestry, woven from equal strands of myth and history.