SPANISH WOMAN 

  Two opposite forces fought inside Isabel's spirit, since she was a child: the heaven appeal and the world appeal.
  Daughter of a geese breeder from Salamanca's surroundings, she lost her mother when she was only six. This fact gave her the first contact with the idea of God, which was imprinted to her mind for many years: a tyrannic God took her mother away, while making use of His unarguable arbitrary will. The sad picture of weeping women dressed in black that prayed while moaning the inert body of her poor mother, likewise dressed in black and bearing the most desolate expression that one could see in a human face, left in Isabel's heart the certainty that that God was cruel, and heaven, as the weepers said her mother had gone to, was not a good place. Otherwise, the dead would not wear that sad face. 
  Isabel suffered twice: by her mother's death and by her father's indifference, sank in the apathy since the day he became a widower. To scare away the sadness, the girl threw herself to the fields herding the geese and only came back home when the night fell down. During these lonely strolls, she fed herself with wild fruits, drank water from the brooks, sat on the highest rocks to view the valleys and did not think of anything, only listened to her own heartbeat. The geese uproar and the fields freshness relieved the sadness that, over time, started disappearing without leaving visible marks. 
  Hence, Isabel grew and she even did not realize it. And as she grew, her long black hair grew even longer; it grew past her waist and they were so long, that one day the girl needed to braid them, so as it would not hinder her steps. When her father saw the girl braiding her hair, he finally reacted as if he woke up from a long sleep. By foreseeing that, from now on, every man who saw that black braid would like to undo it, he sent the girl with her few belongings to a convent, where he believed the nuns would protect her from the world's evil and would give her a better education. 
  Isabel was thirteen, when she entered the convent, isolated on the top of Ávila hills. That was her second contact with God's world, and it was even scarier than the previous one. The nuns led a life that, at first, it could seem to be sublime, but after a time, by evaluating it from behind the heavy doors of the convent, it was insane. That world of prayers and penitence, prayers and vows of silence, prayers and resignation, was definitely a sad world. It was by that time that Isabel started to sigh. She started to heave long and sore sighs, which thrilled beliefs carefully cultivated in the nuns' hearts, thus spreading restlessness. Later, thinking of the seven endless years that she spent in the convent, Isabel reasoned that she survived thanks to the geese.
  Getting aware of the girl's experience with the birds, the nuns trusted her the breeder task. Early in the morning, after the first prayers, she fed the hens, ducks and geese and, after that, she herded them down the hill, the white novice clothes confounding her with the birds. Those moments of freedom let her body as light as the spirits should be, and undoubtedly, they were responsible for her survival at that gloomy place.
  At the edge of making the perpetual vows, her inadequate attitude and her inconvenient sighs concerned the Mother Superior of the order, who then decided to send Isabel to a peregrination, as a last effort to confirm that non-existent vocation. In case this would not work, she did not know what to do, because the girl's father had died two years earlier, letting her orphan, with no relatives that might accept her.
  Therefore, Isabel followed on foot to Santiago de Compostela, together with two nuns and there, she knew Ignácio, the woodworker, who was graced with a divine revelation. Faith, undoubtedly, personified in that skinny long-haired man, with a trimmed beard, who looked like the Christ. In him, Isabel found what she was looking for inside herself, and never had found: the truly faith.
  Impressed by the girl's face of devotion and grasped by the view of the long black braid, which he barely glimpsed under the mantilla and wished he could undo, Ignácio felt his instincts wake up with a scary intensity. Aware of the girl's situation, he took the only attitude the circumstances and decency might allow. He looked for the nuns and proposed to Isabel. A messenger was sent to consult the Mother Superior, who promptly agreed, without masking the relief she felt for getting rid of that matter.
  Ignácio and Isabel got married in a rustic, simple, but nice ceremony, watched by priests, nuns and hikers. Fifteen days later, they both left for a great adventure in the New World. 



  During the first years in the New World, Ignácio preached to the rare profaners who would arrive suspicious; he worked hard and had six children with Isabel, all sons.
  Once a month, a young monk from the Saint Anthony Convent, named Clemente, came to visit the little chapel, where the devotee Ignácio was living, by permission of the Franciscans. Clemente stayed at the Spaniards' house, bringing the cities news, provisions and religious teachings. Monk Clemente's visits always represented a happening. With the house all decorated to welcome him, Isabel made her best in the delicacies and anxiously waited the arrival of the religious man, for whom she had undisguiseable affection. On the visiting days, Monk Clemente and Isabel spent the afternoons at the porch in lively talks that entered the night. He always stayed for two days and after, he took the way back, going down the river on a canoe conducted by an Indian, baptized with the name of Adam.
  It was the Franciscan, who involuntarily caused the misfortune that fell on Isabel's family and that would, again, radically change the Spanish woman's life. Everything started when, in the middle of a conversation about the origin of the Order he belonged to, the monk mentioned the heretic Cathars and Ignácio showed great interest about that subject. Because of that, the next visit, the monk brought as a gift a copy of The Book of Two Principles (Liber de Duobus Principiis) and a former copy of the Cathar Bible, used in the convent for studies. Believing he was contributing for strengthening the Spaniard's faith, Monk Clemente was, actually, planting a dangerous seed.
  After reading the material provided by the monk, Ignácio started changing. He started to believe that the divine character of the spiritual world was as real as the satanic character of the material world. Those convictions sprouted with a striking force in his fertile spirit, tormented by a life of poverty, suffering and isolation, which he led for many years until he found some joy with Isabel's love.
  The next months, the Cathar doctrine was a theme of endless discussions during Monk Clemente's visits. The more he argued using Saint Francis own ideas and other renowned theologians', the less the monk could take out of Ignácio's head the intention of becoming chaste. Ignácio was convinced that he was lingering in a bad universe, and started to reject his wife at the conjugal bed and denied his sons, stating that he was guilty for having contributed to imprison those poor souls to the mean matter.
  He moved to the tiny church sacristy, in order to keep distant from his relatives, as they might contaminate him with their impure bodies. He fed himself vegetables only, because he believed that the animals also had a soul. He prayed and punished himself all day long. Focused on the divine contemplation, he did not work, what made Isabel roll up the sleeves and take on the responsibility of supporting the family. The boys had to help: the two oldest ones, together with her, working hard in the fields; the third and fourth helping with the ill father and the two youngest ones were still too small to help working. While Ignácio withered away, Isabel fought to keep alive her children and herself.
  More surprising than Ignácio's conversion was the success of his sermons. Never before, the little church had warmed so many people. Some came from far away to hear the one who preached perfection, because Ignácio now considered himself a perfect and practiced Consolamentum.
  Alarmed with the news that came from the little church and the course that the Spaniard's preaching took, the monks alerted the governor of the province for the danger that the propagation of a heretical sect represented, in a land with no deep religious convictions yet. All the catechism work that they had been accomplishing might be annulled because of a frenzied man like Ignácio. As the government intervention was required, a militia was sent to the place in order to prohibit the heretic cult and interdict the chapel. 
  The arrival of the garrison was the tragedy detonator. It was a Sunday and Ignácio was in the middle of a preaching, when the soldiers broke into the crowded little church. There was a likeness of a tumult at the time the commandant addressed the preacher and handed out the official prohibition to the cult. After reading the paper, a disturbed Ignácio, at yells, gathered the congregation against the soldiers, who, under his words, were there at the demon's service. The tumult that happened caused many wounded people from both sides.
  Chocked with the violence that he witnessed, Ignácio, even more hallucinated, climbed the altar and in front of an amazed audience, he preached what would be the last preaching of his life, before stabbing his own chest with a spear took from the hands of a Saint George's image, which was decorating the altar.
  With Ignácio dead, the religious, concerned with the widow's fate, having a number of children to bring up, decided to legally donate to Isabel the lands around the little chapel. That way, the Spanish woman was the first female farmer in Paraíba Valley.