Imagining Matanzas by Alicita Rodríguez

Matanzas is called Matanzas because of the Matanzas. I’m not being flip. The first killings took place when Cuban fishermen upset the boats on which they were ferrying armor-heavy Spaniards across the river. Which river is unknown. Other massacres include soldier casualties during the Spanish-American War and slave murders during the Year of the Lash. They say sugar is made from blood. Matanzas natives breed girls with skin as sweet and brown as ripe zapote. For such beauty Santeros prescribe river mud and hard seeds, cane juice and coconut flesh, lavender soap and blue scorpion venom. The babies come out smooth and lovely, as if they had just returned from a spa vacation. But the placenta is another story. It’s purple as eggplant and smells of wet matches. The glutinous sac is full of foreign objects: rusty door hinges, telephone wires, bottle caps from Presidente beer and Materva soda, lost keys, dust-covered pills from under the couch, gold coins, bobby pins. One midwife found her long-disappeared cat, still alive, trying to scratch its way out. Another retrieved a stack of losing lottery tickets. My aunt keeps a placenta marlin over her mantle. The uglier the placenta, the prettier the child. It is said that in the womb, the ravishing Maria De Estrada fed off glaucous eyeballs. Her husband is a lucky man. Such a shame that he is blind.

Alicita Rodríguez is a Cuban-American fiction writer. Born and raised in Miami, she now lives in Denver with her husband, daughter, and chocolate lab. Her work has appeared in Sudden Fiction Latino, Denver Quarterly, TriQuarterly, and Sentence.

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