When my father died, and I broke up with my boyfriend of many years, I went to see a Santero in Puerto Rico. As I was leaving his house with him, I saw something odd in a stairwell. It turned out to be a big old cauldron. I asked the Santero what it was. He said, “Ese es el muerto.” That was the dead one. I later learned that cauldrons like that housed spirits of the dead that had been placed there to do “work” for the master of the cauldron.
Some of the spirits in cauldrons were gods, but others were “bound,” and had to carry out magical errands for the Palero.
This really grabbed hold of my imagination. What would it be like, I wondered, to be one of these spirits that had been “bound” in a cauldron and that suddenly broke free?
I wrote and published my first short story in a long time called “The Cauldron.” It was about two people who are looking for ruins of a plantation in the countryside in Puerto Rico, and they run into a spirit who escaped her cauldron many years ago. This would be the starting point for my first novel. It was emblematic. The spirit was searching for her origins and identity. She was also trying to forge a future free of the past.
In a sense, I was too.
Tomorrow: Lyn Di Iorio Day 7: Real Life Magic
Lyn Di Iorio is the author of the novel Outside the Bones (2011), which won ForeWord Review’s 2011 Silver award in the category of literary fiction, was “Best Debut Novel on the 2011 Latinidad List,” and was a finalist for the John Gardner Fiction Prize, and other awards. She has also written scholarly books on Latino/a literature, and has published short stories and essays in other venues. She is Professor of English at the City College of New York and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where she teaches Caribbean and U.S. Latino/a literatures, magical realism, Gothic literature, creative writing, and other topics. Currently at work on a second novel called The Sound of Falling Darkness, she is number two on the 2012 Top Ten “New” Latino Authors to Watch (and Read) list compiled by LatinoStories.com.