¡Mira, Look!: La Gran Canoa: Leyenda Kariña

¡Buenos días! I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving weekend! As we continue with our Indigenous Peoples book reviews, I want to highlight a resource recently shared by Alin, an Indigenous Reads by Indigenous Writers list. Although this list focuses on North America, we hope you will find this to be a useful resource when teaching about all of Indigenous America (North, Central, South and beyond). We intend for these books and resources to extend not only through Native American Heritage Month, but all year round.

Today we will be travelling to Venezuela with La Gran Canoa: Leyenda Kariña, retold by María Elena Maggi and illustrated by Gloria Calderón. This book illustrates the Kariña people’s legend of the great flood. It is written in Spanish and Calderón’s illustrations are breathtaking. She paints light-colored lines onto a black background, giving the illustrations an etched look, and bringing the different scenes to life with movement. It’s a technique that appears reminiscent of sgraffito painting.

The story tells that long ago, Kaputano, the inhabitant of the sky, came down to the land of the Kariña people. He warned the people of a great flood coming to the earth, urging them to help him build a great canoe for taking refuge. Of the entire village, only four couples decided to believe Kaputano and help him build a canoe. After the families finished building the canoe, one pair of each type of animal boarded the canoe, much like in the well-known Biblical story, Noah’s Ark. One seed of each plant was also kept safe on the canoe. After the great storm, the four Kariña families are able to decide how they wish for life to continue. They construct their lives and daily activities around the morichales, rivers, mountains and trees. Morichales are a type of tree found in the Venezuelan plains, and they are very present in folklore and music from that area of Venezuela. The celebrated musician, Simón Díaz, for example, sings about it in his song titled El Alcaravan.

This book provides a great opportunity for discussing recurring themes and stories across cultures. A few weeks ago I highlighted The Llama’s Secret: A Peruvian Legend, a great flood story from Peru.

While discussing this book in the classroom, it is also important to emphasize the ways in which climates and resources influence clothing and ways of life. Since the Kariña people’s home in eastern Venezuela (and in the Guyanas and Brazil), is very hot and humid, they wear less clothing. However, different peoples across Latin America wear different clothing. In the high Andes, for example, people dress warmly in woven clothes made from sheep, alpaca, and llama primarily, because the climate is cold and those particular animals are integral to Andean cultures.

Below is a map of the Kariña people’s territories for reference (all areas in red). The Kariña people are also referred to as Kali’na and Kari’na.

Because this book’s story is well-known amongst various cultures and its text is simple and easy to understand, it could be used within Spanish classrooms, as part of geography or history units, or within literature units focused on fables and folktales.



Images modified from: La Gran Canoa, pages 3, 10, 20, 27; map from CIA World Factbook, translated in french by Moyogo


2 thoughts on “¡Mira, Look!: La Gran Canoa: Leyenda Kariña

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s