When I think of the Huguenot men who died in the Matanzas massacre, it is nearly a physical ache deep inside my soul. I suppose I have “adopted” them, in a sense. In my mind’s eye I attach faces, figures, and traits to men whose true identities will most likely remain hidden. They were mostly young, I would think, eyes full of dying dreams and the crumbling hopes of New World conquest. They had already suffered so much amid shipwreck and ruin. Yet they were alive, hopeful, and alert, living and breathing God’s pure ocean air and feeling the benevolent sunshine upon their faces. Then suddenly, unjustly and horrendously, they were gone.
Gone. Lost. Silenced. Betrayed.
There have been few moments more touching in my life than standing at the boardwalk near the spot of the massacre, looking out over the fragile dunes and the sparkling Matanzas River beyond. There were two separate massacres that took the lives of nearly two hundred and fifty men in all. Each with a purpose in life, a family, a plethora of loves and hates and interests and passions. I have written many short stories attempting to capture the extreme pathos of the situation, yet no matter how much I write, I cannot capture the feeling of despair and sadness that fills my soul. I did not know these men, yet I feel as if I do. It seems they have been largely forgotten. That fate is even worse than the slaughter itself.
So I am planning to go back.
Sometime in the near future, I hope to return to Matanzas, for a Protestant pilgrimage, part two. I am uncertain when, what, or how, but hopefully my next pilgrimage will be just as momentous as the first. I also hope to return to La Caroline near Jacksonville and see the inside of the fort, which I could not do this year due to construction. The story of Matanzas remains in my thoughts and refuses to give me peace until I do all I can to make the victims’ memories known. If that is the task with which I have been entrusted, I will uphold it gladly. On a bittersweet note, I have compiled a pitiful pile of names of those killed at Matanzas.
|The haunted dunes of Matanzas Inlet, taken on my recent pilgrimage|
They are (1) Nicolas Barre (who, interestingly enough, was a colonist in the Brazilian colony at Guanabara Bay in 1555, see my post of May 03rd), formerly governor of the South Carolina colony of Charlesfort; (2) Monsieur Sainte Marie, captain who was martyred at Matanzas in October; and (3) Jean Ribault, a French commander both brave and foolhardy who was martyred in October after having lived an adventurous yet tragic life. According to the official Fort Matanzas website, there were 245 Protestants killed in all. Who were the other 242 that have been lost to history?
Such are the questions that will haunt me forever.
(c) 2012 Joyously Saved