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El Tio

Although you appear in earthly form, your essence is pure Consciousness. You are the fearless guardian of Divine Light.” - Rumi

The 12-year-old miner plodded towards the gaping mouth of the monster. It could be his last fatal day. His safety helmet and headlamp provided a scant consolation against the brooding danger. His hands were loaded with offerings for El Tio – cocoa leaves, cigarettes, and alcohol.

He did not have a choice, other than facing the severe risks of the mine. There was no other work, and he was his family's breadwinner. With his left cheek bulging with chewed coca leaves to stay alert, he entered the tin mine.

"The Mountain that Eats Men" endowed a large portion of the colonization of the new world. But at the cost of millions of indigenous people and African slaves' lives due to insufficient mining practices and silicosis, a respiratory illness caused by breathing in toxic particles of dust.

The Woman sadly watched him disappearing through the dark entrance in the “Rich Mountain”. Her heart ached for all the children working up to 20-hour shifts in utterly savage circumstances.

She followed the guide into the mine's smothering blackness, clambering over boulders and crawling through rock crevices. Her boots provided little grip as she clasped outcrops with trembling fingers.

The Woman panted heavily while serpentining through the claustrophobic tunnels under the weight of tons of rock and earth pressing down upon her. While dodging shabby wooden pillars that seem to separate the roof from the ground below, she observed the miners' hazardous working conditions around her.

Slowly a disturbing creature rose out of the gloom in front of them. With a goat-shape head, devil-like ears, and cyanide eyes, the demoniacal spirit sent shivers through the Woman's veins.

The miners believe that El Tio presides over the underground mines because God abandoned the underground world. Outside the mine, the miners are devout Catholics where they worship God.

One by one, the tourists in front of her donated their offerings to the mud-made statue, moving slowly forward, surrounded by the dim light of their torches.

The Woman passed the horned figure, disregarding its presence.

"So you choose to ignore me," a gruff voice whispered behind her.

"Yes," she murmured. "You are Darkness. And Darkness provides the breeding ground for all evil practices. It is a deceitful myth that you bring luck and riches to these mines. The offerings of coca leaves, alcohol and tobacco are a senseless masquerade. "

"And who protects these faint-hearted wretches? Their God has abandoned them in this ghastly labyrinth of nothingness," the devil-like spirit snarled at the Woman.

"Though they do not know it, it is the Light within themselves that make them carry the burden of these mines," the Woman replied softly. "Only Light gives birth to prosperity."

"For a lost soul seeking to rediscover her life purpose, you are quite wise about Darkness and Light, aren't you," the horned one mocked the Woman.

"I have never doubted the Light within me," she answered. "Though I often come upon dark moments on my path, I do not fear, because my Inner Light will always overcome the Darkness. No matter how small or how weak the glimmer, Darkness cannot put out Light."

The Woman followed the others without looking back.

When she exited the mine, the Woman was perturbed by the Darkness of this world and its deceptive ways. However, she realised that Darkness can never prevail in the face of Light.

Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” - Brene Brown

(Photo Collage: Cerro Rico Mines in Potasi, Bolivia; Cerro Rico means Rich Mountain)


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