(originally broadcast July 11, 1948)
|[In his metaphoric tale of the black men who accompanied the earliest Spanish conquistadores to the Americas, Durham made the point that men of many races were integral to the discovery and settlement of the New World. In fact, it is in his black characters that Durham placed those sympathetic, nurturing characteristics so much more vital to settlement than the brutality the European leaders demonstrated toward the indigenous peoples. That his black characters strived from the beginning to be free illustrated Durham's thesis that the struggle for human freedom was of long-standing and of particular relevance to the society that would emerge in this New World.]|
VOICE: (On cue—singing)
Oh freedom, oh freedom
Oh freedom over me
And before I'd be a slave
I'd be buried in my grave
And go home to my Lord and be free. (Hum next stanza)
ANNOUNCER: (On cue) Destination Freedom.
(MUSIC: Theme up and under)
ANNOUNCER: In cooperation with the Chicago Defender, WMAQ brings you Destination Freedom—a new radio series dramatizing the great democratic heritage of the Negro people—a part of the pageant of American history.
(MUSIC: Up briefly and out)
ANNOUNCER: The men who blazed the way toward the New World were men of all races and all creeds. Today in this chapter entitled "Dark Explorers," Destination Freedom tells the story of some of the Negro explorers who helped open the New World.
(MUSIC: Explorers theme up and to background)
ANNOUNCER: The lightning that had disclosed the New World with Columbus' discovery was now but a flicker. The thunder that rolled over it with the gold hunters Cortez, Balboa, Velas, Almargro, Pizarro was now a rumble under the earth. The year is 1541. The place is Peru. Francisco Pizarro has been murdered. Outside the city of Lima, two gravediggers are moving the earth to make room for the dead explorer.
NARRATOR: One is Alvardo, a Negro teacher from Seville. The other is Omar, an Indian of Peru. Both are slaves (fade) both are tired.
(SOUND: Start digging under above. The men grunt and groan occasionally as they lift the heavy sod.)
OMAR: Ohhh! I'm tired. Now look, good Alvardo, isn't this deep enough to bury him?
ALVARDO: (Looks) Pizarro dead looks smaller than Pizarro living, but no, Omar, keep digging.
OMAR: (Goes back to work) Why did they have to kill him just when it's my turn to work in the field?
ALVARDO: (He has a philosophic approach with a touch of bitterness.) You kill a tyrant when his time comes. Pizarro was overdue. My eyes are dry.
OMAR: (Little awkward) Look at him lying there like he could get up if a bugle called.
ALVARDO: (Sophisticated) I looked at him enough when he lived. Let's get him under ground (pause). You still scared of him?
OMAR: (Considerate) No. Not afraid, careful. Once I came out to bury one of these Spaniards—he'd been assassinated just like Pizarro—and I coughed and he got up and walked away.
ALVARDO: (Nonsense) If a volcano coughs, Pizarro couldn't hear it. He died the way he lived—deaf and dumb.
OMAR: (Digs) How can you say that? He always listened to you.
ALVARDO: He never listened to me!
OMAR: Didn't he bring you here from Seville to teach him reading and writing? I heard him say so with my own ears.
ALVARDO: (Bitter) You never heard him say he learned anything. I wanted to save him from the mistakes the other explorers made. He wouldn't listen. He made me a slave. Now I'll bury him.
(SOUND: Spade dug in)
OMAR: What did you want to teach him?
(SOUND: Spade dug in)
ALVARDO: Not to bite off too much of the earth.
OMAR: When I worked in the yards I could see you talking to him—always talking. He seemed to be listening.
ALVARDO: (Cut in) I said he never listened! At least he never understood. I told him he would end like Cortez and Balboa, but he had too big a head. Huh—he'll need more room for that head. Dig here.
OMAR: And you say he didn't listen?
ALVARDO: (Brush-off) No more than he's doing now. I tried to tell him how to leave the world something more of himself than a hateful memory. I told him of the fate of Columbus as Alonzo had told it—
ALVARDO: He was the Moor with Columbus. He was a pilot before Pizarro ever saw the sail of a ship. Alonzo would tell how Columbus never knew what he'd found—never knew for sure what he was searching for.
OMAR: And you told Pizarro?
ALVARDO: Just as Alonzo would tell it about Columbus.
OMAR: (Curious) Yes?
ALVARDO: Keep digging, Omar. Alonzo used to sit in the taverns around Palos and tell how on one voyage he brought Columbus back to Spain in chains.
(MUSIC: Well under above slip in and bridge with explorers theme to background)
ALONZO: I was playing cards that night on the ship. We were coming back from the islands and they had Columbus in chains. I was shuffling, but I could hear him in the next room walking and the chains rattling....
(SOUND: Fade on rattle of chains and steps)
PEDRO: (Cut in) Stop worrying about him; he's locked in his cell. Now will you shuffle?
ANTHONY: (Edge in) Yes, shuffle the cards, Alonzo. If the governor wants him in chains, it's no skin off our backs.
OTHERS: (Ad-lib agreement on this)
PEDRO: Let him rattle his chains. Put down your stakes, Alonzo.
OTHERS: (Ad-lib nervous agreement)
ALONZO: I took a grip on the cards and put down my coins. I played, but my mind was on the man in chains, whose nerve and brain and drive had unlocked a new world. I played and thought about the day I'd met him in Palos. I remember on that day, too, I sat with these same men in a tavern playing cards and losing. It was the year 1492. The Moors had lost the war with Spain. Spaniards were rejoicing. I was not. I was a Moor. I was in debt. I was thinking of how to find a ship that could take me a thousand miles away for a fresh start. (Slow fade). I was playing cards, my mind a thousand miles away.
(SOUND: Cards shuffled and stacked)
PEDRO: (Cut in) Wake up, Alonzo! Where's your mind?
ALONZO: (Startled) What?
ANTHONY: You played two hands without paying—that's what!
PEDRO: As many ships as you've taken up the coast of Africa, surely you have money left to pay your debts—
ALONZO: (Comes to) I—I'll pay all right.
PEDRO: Well, we're waiting.
OTHERS: (Ad-lib, "yes, yes, come on now, come on," etc.)
ANTHONY: Since you heard about that Columbus getting a commission from the Queen, you've been doing nothing but daydreaming, Moor.
PEDRO: (Winks) Or maybe it's because His Majesty is finally driving the Moors back to Africa?
ALONZO: (Retort) Never mind what's on my mind.
ANTHONY: (Snaps) Then let us have what's in your pocket. Are you paying?
ALONZO: (Fumbling, searching) Of course I'm paying. It's here somewhere. (Pause). I sat there rambling through my pockets for coins I knew I didn't have. I looked at Anthony's stiletto, half drawn, and I remembered I was already in debt. I wished again I was a thousand miles away. And then—
COLUMBUS: (On) Can anyone tell me where I'll find Alonzo Nino?
PEDRO: I suppose he can tell you himself—there he is.
ALONZO: (Suspicious) Who's looking for him?
COLUMBUS: (Calm) I am. Christopher Columbus.
PEDRO: Columbus? Well—speak of the devil
OTHERS: (Ad-lib agreement)
ALONZO: (Not believing him) You—Columbus? What do you want with me?
COLUMBUS: (Cagey) If you're the Alonzo they call "the Negro"—a Moor
ALONZO: (Cut in) I'm all of that. What have you got to say?
COLUMBUS: (Quieter) It's only for you to hear. Where can we talk?
ALONZO: (Cautious) We'll talk here, in front of my friends. There's nothing that concerns me that I keep hidden.
COLUMBUS: (Curious) I wanted to talk about something that's troubling you.
ALONZO: (Guarded) Nothing troubles me.
COLUMBUS: (Continues) I wanted to talk about the thing you think about most. Something thousands of miles from here.
ALONZO: (This gets him.) What do you know about—(Catches, thinks better of it). Well, I suppose there's no harm in talking alone. Come, we'll go out by the docks.
PEDRO: (Cut in) Not before you pay us Alonzo! You don't go anywhere!
OTHERS: (Ad-lib "Hold on there, wait Alonzo" etc.)
COLUMBUS: (Cut through) Let him go. Will these coins take care of his bill?
(SOUND: Two coins clinked on table)
PEDRO: (Whistles) Well, it seems the Old Man's private talk is worth something. (Up) Go on, Alonzo. See what's on his mind.
(MUSIC: In under)
ALONZO: I saw what was on his mind before we got to the docks. Three ships sat waiting to be manned, with the ocean air blowing their sails. I waited for the Old Man to talk. For a man past middle life he had the fire of youth in his eyes. He kept looking out at the ships until I spoke to him—
(SOUND: Wind and waves, creak of rigging)
ALONZO: What's this about what's on my mind? How do you know about that?
COLUMBUS: (Calm, confident) You're the best pilot in Seville, aren't you?
ALONZO: Some say it
COLUMBUS: (Cut in faster, eager) What pilot doesn't think of getting his grip on a ship. A ship that'll break away from the old routes and sail out where the sun sets, sail west—thousands of miles away to the richest land in the world—India. A new route. You must think of it. I know you do.
ALONZO: (Cautious) And I think of the risks too. And where'll I find crew and captain that know enough of the world to get that far?
COLUMBUS: (Confident) Look, you see this paper here
ALONZO: (Appraise) I see it
COLUMBUS: It's signed by Queen Isabella. It gives me those three ships out there. It makes me admiral and governor of' the land I discover. We'll all get a part of the treasures we find in India.
ALONZO: (Slow) This India
COLUMBUS: The land Marco Polo talked about, we'll find a short way to get there. We'll be rich and free. I feel as you do. Here every man has chains on his feet. We can snap the chains once and for all. The ships are ready. I need the crew and pilots to navigate them.
ALONZO: (Nods) It's a pretty picture you paint. Why haven't you gotten a crew with it?
COLUMBUS: (Falls a bit) Seamen are afraid of it. Talk goes round of the sea being flat like a bed and ships falling off the edge of it. Some believe it. Men, like you, who've seen the stern of a ship sink on the horizon before the sails, know there's no flatness on the sea. Won't you sign up, man? What's bothering you?
ALONZO: (Worried) It's not falling off the world that bothers me—
COLUMBUS: Then what is it?
ALONZO: It'll take hardy sailors for a voyage like this. Where'll you get them?
COLUMBUS: (Doesn't know) Some of your friends will go if you go. Then, the king has decreed that convicts who're willing can go with me—
ALONZO: What'll they get for it?
COLUMBUS: All I offer them is their freedom (pause). What would you ask for going?
ALONZO: (Thoughtfully) I suppose my price will be the same as that of the prisoners. My freedom.
(SOUND: Slip in under sound of waves and water, rigging)
ALONZO: I went with the Old Man, and other men went with me. We sailed off on a hot day in August and headed towards the setting sun. Columbus took his scarlet cloak and a letter from the queen to the great Kubla Khan. It was a voyage none of us forgot. There were days when we sailed through seaweed seas and days when we sat still waiting for a breeze to blow. There were times it seemed we were headed for the end of the world and mutiny broke out aboard the Santa Maria, and on the Nina, where I piloted, the men begged to turn back. The Old Man wrote one thing in his log for the men to see and another for himself to read. Then one twilight the longing, hunger, and fear ended when we found that Columbus was right. The word came from a sailor on the lead ship—
PEDRO: (Off calling) Land ahoy! Land ahoy, there! (Fading) Land ahoy! Land! (SOUND: Waves and water under)
ALONZO: It was the greatest day in the world. Sailors wept, cursed, laughed, danced, and looked out at the land. I was there when the Old Man, dressed in his scarlet robe and with the letter to the Kubla Khan, walked out on the new ground and kissed the earth. The fire was burning bright in his eyes, and he looked younger than any of us. He wasn't worried that he didn't find the Kubla Khan or the rich treasures. He looked at the land as long as he could see it. And on the deck at night I came up to him, peering over the rail at it. He looked up and spoke—
COLUMBUS: (Soft) The world's wide open now, Alonzo. It's been out there waiting for us to take it. Look at it—
ALONZO: (Low) I'm looking at it
COLUMBUS: (Mild concern) But you're not happy about it. The men are drinking and making merry—you say nothing.
ALONZO: (Slow) I was thinking—what'll we do with it?
COLUMBUS: That's a foolish question. We'll claim it for the king. Of course it'll be up to him what's to be done. We haven't found the Khan's palace, but we will. The king'll see that we get our just rewards.
ALONZO: He will?
COLUMBUS: He will that, and more. Ah, look at it lying out there. just finding it has brought me all I'll ever need. And you Alonzo?
ALONZO: I'm not sure it's all we'll need. I'll sail with you again. We'll explore the world some more. Then maybe we'll find what we both need. I'm not sure of it now.
SOUND: Bring up waves a bit and under)
ALONZO: The Old Man, with his thin face and fiery eyes, sailed again and again. Each time he brought back fewer riches. And each time the Court became more impatient until soon it turned to a new sport. Columbus got in the way of a bolder man. He was outrivaled and outsailed, and we picked him offa an island he’d discovered, put him in chains, and shipped him back to Spain. I was on the ship, playing cards, while in the next room Columbus shuffled up and down in his chains and cried out.
COLUMBUS: Alonzo! Free me! Free me! Alonso!
PEDRO: (Mutters) just because he crossed an ocean, he thinks he owns the empire.
COLUMBUS: Free me! Anthony! Alonzo!
PEDRO: (Cut in) Stop listening to him, Alonzo, and shuffle the cards!
ANTHONY: (Uneasy) Yes, forget him. We're carrying out orders.
PEDRO: He'll get tired of shouting "free me." He's an old man; he'll go to sleep and forget it.
ALONZO: (Slow) He's an old man, but he'll never be tired.
PEDRO: They all get tired!
ALONZO: They never get tired looking for freedom.
(MUSIC: Bridge and to background)
ALONZO: I knew because I never got tired of looking for it. I piloted the ships back and forth between the two worlds, and I thought of the Old Man who had opened the doors for us all. And some of us were so eager to go through, we trampled much of the world to death to get in. I was Alonzo—the Moor. I was one that tried to leave the door—wide open.
(MUSIC: Slip out)
(SOUND: Digging under above line and continue)
ALVARDO: That was the story Alonzo told of Columbus, and I told Pizarro. He was too bullheaded to listen.
OMAR: (Low) It's not good to speak evil of the dead.
ALVARDO: (Contempt) Make the sign of the cross if you want to. It's Pizarro's funeral, not mine. Dig deeper.
OMAR: I'm digging. You say you told him more?
ALVARDO: Oh yes, I told him what happened to Balboa. Just as de Olana told it‑
OMAR: De Olana?
ALVARDO: He was a builder—he called himself a carpenter. He knew Balboa better than any of them. I can hear him now, telling the story of the Spaniard Balboa. He was one who never forgot a detail.
(MUSIC: Explorers theme under above, up, and to background)
OLANA: (A genteel man but somewhat ironical) I was a carpenter in Balboa's crew. I had never turned down a job—but I turned down this one.
(SOUND: General hammering and sawing in background)
VOICE I: (Somewhat close) De Olana, if you're not going to work with us, don't stand there in the way!
VOICE II: We're making the scaffold for Balboa, not you Olana. Don't look so glum!
VOICE I: (Aside) Hurry now. They're ready to hang him and we haven't nailed down the trap set. (Appeal) Give us a hand Olana. (Fade) Give us a hand.
OLANA: I kept my hands behind me and waited for Balboa to walk down the path to the scaffold. I wondered what I had to say to him who I'd helped to his grave. (Sound out) I thought of the day on Haiti when I met him. He had been put in slavery to work out his debt. I had seen him around the farms watching me. I was the governor's carpenter. One day he came to me (fade slow) with a strange request.
BALBOA: (Fade on) Carpenter?
OLANA: (Stops) Yes?
BALBOA: Will you do some work for me?
OLANA: (Amused) For you? You sure you can pay for it?
BALBOA: (Serious) Don't make fun of me.
OLANA: (Not too pleased) Why shouldn't I? My time is taken up with the governor's work. You've got a forty-year sentence to pay and you haven't any money. Why should I stop for you?
BALBOA: (Sly) Because—I know you helped the Indians.
OLANA: I helped the Indians—
BALBOA: Yes. Indians escaped front the stockade last night. I saw you when you gave one an ax. Now if* the governor knew that—
OLANA: (Sharp) Now see here— if you make trouble for me—
BALBOA: (Sincere) It's not trouble I am after, carpenter. I want you to help Inc. Will you?
OLANA: (Pause) It all depends on how quiet you can keep. What do you want?
BALBOA: (Encouraged) Make me a big cask, like the casks they load rope and food in for the ships...
BALBOA: Roll it down to the docks where they're loading ships....
OLANA: That's simple enough. Then what'll happen to it?
BALBOA: When they load the ships, they'll load on the cask, too.
OLANA: Of course, but how will that help you?
BALBOA: (Pause) I'll be inside the cask. (pause) Will you do the job?
(MUSIC: Whip under and keep)
OLANA: I did the job. I made the cask, and Balboa slipped himself into it. When the ship was at sea, the captain stumbled upon the cask and took the stowaway into his crew. They took him on all their trips, and in a few years Balboa was the best explorer of them all. He took his ships over the New World—probing, knocking, poking, searching for a greater treasure. And I went with him. I was with him when he sailed along the coast of South America, looking for a way across it. I was with him when he fought along the coast. I was with him when he marched inland looking for new lands to conquer, looking for the fabulous Peru we heard about and for a strange new ocean Columbus had talked about but never saw. I was with him when he questioned an Indian chief (fade) and found a way to reach it
BALBOA: Answer my questions or we burn everything in your village. Now, old man, they say somewhere there's land where the people make everything out of gold or silver
BALBOA: Or gold. Speak the truth.
CHIEF: I know where there is silver.
BALBOA: (Eager) Show us.
CHIEF: You go over towards the mountains. Go that way until you reach the top of it. Then you'll see it. The silver is a water. More water than anywhere else in the world.
MUSIC: In and under, swelling chord with drum)
OLANA: We knew it was the ocean Columbus had heard about. We sent back the men who were sick or weak, and we struck out through the jungles. We fought through fierce tribes and, in the heat of the swamps, took off our armor and steel caps and plunged ahead. In twenty days, we had gone twenty miles. We came to the foot of the mountain and began to climb to the top. We were nearly there when Balboa stopped us and drew his sword—
(SOUND: Sword from scabbard)
BALBOA: The man who looks at the new ocean before I do will die! From here on—I'll go alone!
GROUP: (Move back muttering and ad-libbing discontent and surprise)
OLANA: (Over mutters) I stepped back, but still standing there was a young soldier who was new with Balboa. He was Francisco Pizarro. He confronted Balboa boldly.
PIZARRO: I've suffered as much as you have to win this day. Why should I go back? If we claim it, we claim it together.
BALBOA: Will you fight me for it?
OLANA: (After pause) They stared at each other for a long while. Then Pizarro stepped back. Hatred made him shake like a leaf. But Balboa went ahead. He climbed up the mountainside alone. We watched him break through the small trees and reach the top peak. And there he stood stiff and still while we watched. Then he waved for us to come, and carefully we crept up, as if we were afraid we'd scare the ocean away. We stood around him then and looked. It was too big for one man's eyes to see. It was like a million silver sheets spread together, and it lay there gleaming, glistening, rising, and falling, waiting for us to sail on its surface and open up the other side of the world (pause). We stumbled down the mountain and rushed to it. We bathed and played in it. Balboa stabbed the king's flag into it and claimed it for Spain. He stood glowing in the water with his beard wet, and he winked at me.
(SOUND: Surf rolling, water lapping)
BALBOA: (Triumph) Now, carpenter, aren't you glad you made that cask for me? Wasn't it worth the trouble?
OLANA: We haven't seen the end of this.
BALBOA: There's no end to this new world. When the king hears of this, he'll give me more troops to go on to Peru. We'll be the richest explorers in Europe.
OLANA: And after that?
BALBOA: After that—there'll be nothing in the world we can't have for the taking. Nothing.
MUSIC: Chord and to background)
OLANA: Balboa was wrong. He never found what he sought in the New World. And we sailed along the coasts and took more land, more gold. Balboa had his day. I had mine. When it was up—when the gold ran out—the king's favor switched. Francisco Pizarro hated Balboa and told the governor Balboa was a traitor. Traitors were sent to the gallows. Balboa was lead out to the scaffold while I stood beside it. The carpenters were ready.
VOICE I: (Low) Is the noose tied right? Here he comes.
VOICE II: It's ready. It's been ready. Let him come.
OLANA: He walked out with his head up, his eyes looking westward, and stood on the gallows while the noose was adjusted. And then he saw me and spoke—
BALBOA: (Seems older, more weary) Olana?
OLANA: Yes, Balboa?
BALBOA: Now, was it worth the trouble—your making the cask to free me?
OLANA: It's not for me to answer.
BALBOA: Why isn't it? Who else can answer?
OLANA: You used your freedom to enslave others.
BALBOA: Is that all you have to say to me? To accuse me? Answer me!
OLANA: It's for those we enslaved to answer, Balboa.
(SOUND: Spring trap)
OLANA: The trap was sprung. The noose was tied right. Balboa was dead. He left the New World open wider. More ruthless explorers thundered in. I went back to being a carpenter.
(SOUND: Digging under above and hold)
OMAR: (Puffing and grunting as he digs)
ALVARDO: Well, I told Pizarro a carpenter is what he should have been. He'd be alive now instead of lying here stiff, waiting for us to bury him. I told him what old Raylon had said, Raylon, the gunsmith, who stuck it out with the bloodiest of them all—Cortez. I told him what Raylon told me, (fade) how he joined Cortez—
(MUSIC: Explorers theme under above up and to background)
RAYLON: I was working in my gun shop when I met this Cortez. He was a likeable lad. You could see he itched for the gold and glory that was being won in the New World. He had asked me to go with him. He had gone to get the governor of one of the colonies to help him. He came back angry, a bag under his arm. I looked up and asked him—
RAYLON: What did the governor say?
CORTEZ: (Sullen) He's a man with no imagination. I asked him to outfit me for an expedition....
CORTEZ: I told him I had good men ready to go with me, and a gunsmith who can keep half a regiment equipped. He gave me this!
RAYLON: What are you holding?
CORTEZ: A bag of grain he gave me. He wants me to settle down in the colonies and be a farmer. He wants me to raise crops like a common peasant. (Grim) This is what I think of his grain (Begins to throw).
RAYLON: (Catching him) Wait—don't throw it in the fire! (Pause) Let's look at it.
CORTEZ: (Surprised) You've seen a bag of wheat before.
RAYLON: (Nods) Yes, when I was a farmer in Africa. It's been a long time.
CORTEZ: (Notices) You finger it as if it were gold.
RAYLON: (Simply) It is.
CORTEZ: Nonsense. Make the guns I ordered—forget the wheat. I'll find a way to outfit an army. Come and march with me, and I'll show you real gold.
(SOUND: Marching underneath)
RAYLON: I made the guns, and I went and marched with Cortez. But the wheat went with me. He went to Mexico. Everything he touched turned to loot, blood and gold. In a week, his armies brought to an end an ancient Aztec civilization. He stalked Montezuma and hacked him down (pause). Then he ruled the land in the name of the king, with fire in his fist. I made guns until I was sick of it. (Sound out) One day when the fighting stopped, I slipped away and went to live with the Indians. I was gone a year, and when I came back to Mexico City, I had something to show him I thought he would like. He snapped when he saw me—
CORTEZ: (Spit it out) Deserter! So they found you. I should have you hanged! RAYLON: I came back of my own free will, Cortez.
CORTEZ: Why did you come back?
RAYLON: I brought you this gift, friend. Something you haven't seen for a long time.
CORTEZ: (Curious) What have you got wrapped there? Have you found a new jewel?
RAYLON: (Nods) It's as good as a jewel. Look.
CORTEZ: Why, all you've got is a loaf of bread.
RAYLON: It's from the wheat you were going to throw away. I showed the Indians how to plant it. This is from the first harvest.
CORTEZ: (Disgusted) You waste your time planting wheat when my men are giving their lives for gold. Take your bread back to the Indians and take up your guns again. (Disgust) I came to win a world, and you plant wheat!
(SOUND: Marching under)
RAYLON: I planted more wheat and taught the Indians how to care for it. I watched it grow while we marched through Mexico, trying to put down the revolts that sprang up like leaks in a dike wherever we moved. (Sound fades out) Then we grew tired, and enemies of Cortez caught the king's ears. We went back to Spain. Cortez, the conqueror of a million people, wandered in the streets, homeless. He never understood.
CORTEZ: (Bewildered, older) What—what's happened to me, Raylon? They stood in the streets and cheered when I passed. Now no one knows me.
RAYLON: The crowds forget easily.
CORTEZ: But even the king. His carriage passed me today, and I jumped on it.
RAYLON: You shouldn't have done that.
CORTEZ: I had to. I said to him, your majesty, don't you remember me? And he said, who are you? He asked me who I was!
RAYLON: Did you tell him?
CORTEZ: I yelled at him. I said, you fool, I'm the one who gave you more territory than all your ancestors put together! (Lower) Then the guards struck me. No one remembers us. They only talk about the new explorers. The new ones!
RAYLON: Back in Mexico, Cortez—
CORTEZ: (Recoils) They hate us, you know it! We left nothing but hatred there. RAYLON: We left them food. We left them wheat.
CORTEZ: (Wistful) It was growing tall when we left. When they think of the gold we took, they'll curse us, but when they eat the wheat, will they still think of the gold—or of the greater things?
(SOUND: Digging in background—Omar groans and labors)
ALVARDO: And that's what I told this Pizarro. I told him to leave something the people could live by. But he wouldn't listen, so now we must bury him. I told him about little Stevan, who found the greatest thing in the world. I told him the way Stevan would have told him.
(MUSIC: Explorers theme under above, up and down behind)
STEVAN: I tell it the way it happened. I was a slave in Spain until I took off with a thousand men and Naravaez to explore the coast of America. It was a trip that lasted six years. When it ended, only three of us were left alive. Naravaez went back to Spain. A merchant explorer named Margo took me on his ship, had his servant feed and nurse me. In a month, he had a new mission for me.
MARGO: So, you're on your feet again, Stevan?
STEVAN: Yes, thanks to you.
MARGO: No need for thanks. I've been thinking of the country west of here and north of where Cortez ruled. You've been through it?
STEVAN: (Hesitant) I may have, but I've forgotten so much—
MARGO: (Cut in) You can find it again. They say you speak the language of the Indians. You can find what I'm looking for.
STEVAN: And what is that?
MARGO: (More intense) just this. They speak of seven cities laid out in a fantastic region of gold mines.
STEVAN: (Hesitant) I've heard some speak of it.
MARGO: I know you have. No explorer has found it yet, but you can. (Comes to point) That is the reason I nursed you back to health.
STEVAN: I see—
MARGO: So, you'll go ahead, and my men will follow you. I'll give you plenty of servants to help you. You'll be ready to leave by morning?
STEVAN: And if I refuse‑
MARGO: (Halts) Refuse? (Low and slower) Now, wouldn't it be a pity to waste the life of a man like you in the slave quarter? (Pause) Which is it?
STEVAN: I'll explore the region.
MARGO: (Curt and businesslike) Good. Now, whenever you discover something worth my advancing to, send back a messenger....
STEVAN: A messenger?
MARGO: Yes. Simply take sticks of wood, and make a cross. The bigger the cross, the more important the news. But when you've reached our goal and discovered the greatest thing in the world—you'll send back a master cross. (Fade) Get a good night's sleep. Tomorrow you'll go west.
(MUSIC: In under)
STEVAN: I went out and explored the West Coast. I went out still thinking of what the merchant had said—send back the biggest cross when I found the greatest thing in the world. I went through the jungles and crossed over into the deserts. I found a village full of silver idols, and I called a messenger—and sent back a small cross. I found another village where the women were wearing jewels, and I sent another message, with a larger cross. I thought of the plunder that would follow me, and I hesitated, but I pushed on and kept sending back the crosses. Then I came to a village and a region where I was welcomed like a friend. There were wide plains and pueblos. I thought of the new free life in the New World, and I called all the messengers together.
GROUP: (Ad-lib, yes, Stevan, what is it?)
STEVAN: Get ready to go back to your master. Cut down the tallest tree you can find
STEVAN: Then make a cross out of it. All of you together, take it back to your master, and tell him I've found the greatest thing in the world.
MESSENGER: The seven cities?
STEVAN: No, freedom. Take the cross back to him, and tell him hereafter he'll find me on the side of the Indians here, not on the side of the plunderers. Take him the tree (pause). I sent back the tree, and marched on into the New World. I never looked back at the old world. It never caught up with me.
(SOUND: Digging up and under)
ALVARDO: Yes, I told Pizarro what Stevan had done—still he wouldn't listen!
OMAR: (Caution) There's no need to shout now. Pizarro can't hear you.
ALVARDO: He would have been alive if he had listened to me. He called me from Spain to teach him to read and write. But the only writing he did was to mark the walls of a room and tell the Inca he had captured to fill it with gold if he wanted to be free.
OMAR: I remember that very well. I saw the gold come in. I helped to stack it.
ALVARDO: And when the room was filled, he killed the Inca. I came to him. I warned him of the hatred he was leaving. That time he listened, then said—
PIZARRO: Alvardo, I sent for you to teach me simple things I hadn't time to learn as a child—
ALVARDO: I try to teach you—
PIZARRO: I've listened to you. I've heard your tales. I've decided it's not teaching we need.
ALVARDO: What do you need?
PIZARRO: We need slaves. We need men who'll work and not cry for a share of everything I have. Hereafter, you will work in the fields, not in the classroom.
ALVARDO: What work can I do in the fields?
PIZARRO: (Laughs) Well, you can dig graves. (fade) Yes, dig graves!
ALVARDO: That is why I want his grave dug deep--deep! (Digging) Deep enough so that he and the hatreds he brought to the New World can be buried together. Deep enough so a new crop can grow up. New people can come out clean, fresh, and good like the wheat Raylon planted. Go on, dig deeper!
(MUSIC: Transition to)
VOICE: (Singing) Oh freedom, Oh freedom Oh freedom over me And before I'd be a slave I'd be buried in my grave And go home to my Lord and be free.
ANNOUNCER: You have just heard Destination Freedom's story, "Dark Explorers," the story of Negro explorers in the New World.
(MUSIC: Theme up and under)