Bonfire stories

It is incredible to think that we have reached the middle of our trip. We just got back from our first camping trip with the Seri, and there is so much to talk about that we haven’t been able to cover all the different topics in our conversations. We spent our days camping in the Infernillo Channel with various members of a Seri family: The Lopez. The three sisters: Vanessa, Vilma, and Juliana, along with Vanessa’s husband Miguel and their daughter Monserrat shared three nights with us. Their cousin Omar also joined us for the trip as well as their uncle, José Luis. Finally, our tour guide and elder, Ernesto Molina showed and told us about different important places for the Seri across the channel.

During the day we would explore estuaries, sandbanks and fishing spots that the community would use. We got to see dolphins, sea turtles, and many seabirds. It was amazing to see a glimpse of the beauty of the Gulf along with the Sonoran Desert.  Still, the nights were really special for me too. Off course part of it was because of the incredible sunsets and the clear skies decorated with millions of stars, but mainly because I loved the time we spent as a group after dinner. We would all gather around a bonfire each night and tell different stories. Like the time Lara survived an encounter with bears or the legend that Vanessa’s grandma would tell them about a headless man to scare them away and avoid taking them on trips with college students. I think telling stories brought us together and helped us understand our cultures. I loved listening to the stories that Vilma told us while warming up close to the fire in Taseem iiyat, and I will make my best to honor her two stories.

Photo credit: Xavier Basurto

The first night, Vilma talked about “Quiisil xeel cöcoos” or “The kid that sings to the breeze”. This story is about a kid that wanted to help his family because he saw them struggling to find water in the desert.  To do so, he asked the spirits for help, and they gave him the power of bringing water in the form of breeze whenever he sang. So, the kid helped his family, and soon enough other people heard about his gift. He would travel around the Seri territory when different families called him for help, but he would only travel in moonless nights so no one could see him. He would sing, and the breeze would bring water. The kid helped a lot of families, but his face was never seen. His favorite place was precisely the mangrove patch that was close to our camping site and was considered a sacred place to him. I must admit that although it was a happy story, I was a bit worried about running to a faceless kid in the middle of the night. Thankfully, that didn’t happen!

In another occasion, Vilma told us the Orion’s Belt story. This story talks about a hunter that was following a peninsular pronghorn, a mule deer, and a bighorn sheep. The three animals were escaping, and back then, it was possible to move between mountains, the ocean, and the sky. The three of them went to the sky to cross to Tiburón Island. The hunter was following them and started to throw arrows until one of them hit the mule deer. A drop of blood from the sky covered Tiburón Island, and that’s how the mule deer population started to grow in the island. Additionally, in those times, changes of tides were related to the destruction and creation of the earth. So, while the three animals were crossing the sky to reach Tiburón Island, high tide came in and all the species were washed away but they stayed in the sky to be safe, and that’s why today we can see the three stars of the Orion’s Belt lined up. We all looked up and there they were, those three starts were just above us!

These past days with the Seri were full of new adventures. I feel grateful and fortunate to have shared moments, conversations and stories with them, and would like to thank all of them for showing us some of their culture. I am sure we will remember and take back home all these memories. This is not a goodbye but a see you later.