The Montezuma Oropendola is a Central American bird in the Icteridae family (along with blackbirds, orioles, and meadowlarks) and named for the Aztec emperor Moctezuma II. Quince Duncan’s story, “The Oropéndolas,” is a short, sad, and beautiful tale of these birds, who “always fly in the protection of the gods. Mornings, they streak across the sky southward; at dusk they return, the sunset in tow behind their yellow tails.”
The speaker of the story and his friend, both twelve, make a “daily pilgrimage” to visit these birds and “learned to love them.” Their regret comes, however, when they invite another friend to join them, and he brings his bow and arrow. Though only two pages, the story is packed with beautiful and touching imagery that makes the reader connect with the speaker:
Like always, at sundown the oropéndolas flew in the protection of the gods. They streaked across the sky northward, their yellow tails shimmering, and in tow behind them, the last breath of twilight. We watched them pass overhead with a sorrow that pierced us to the depths of our spirit.
Quince Duncan is the author of Final de calle and Kimbo. His stories “explore the social milieu of Costa Rica’s blacks.” Duncan himself is of Jamaican ancestry and was born in San José and grew up on the Atlantic coast of Costa Rica. His time in this region no doubt influenced the beautiful nature imagery of his stories.
Photo Credit: Wiki Commons
Source: Ras, Barbara, ed. Costa Rica: A Traveler’s Literary Companion. San Francisco: Whereabouts, 1994.