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El Sentir de María Lionza

In Venezuela, I grew up with the invisible presence of María Lionza, the daughter of a native Indian chief, something to do with a legend, something to do with a queen, or something magic. This piece, El Sentir de María Lionza (The Sentiment of María Lionza), comes to be as a reflective response to the socio-political crisis that invades my native country at this time. This is a time of unrest as it was the time of the Spanish Conquest, when this legend takes place. This is also the latest piece I have written for my friends and colleagues Alberto Almarza and the Cuarteto Latinoamericano. It consists of three movements, El Mensajero,El Río, and Pieles de Metal. The first and second movements are connected with no break in between.

El Mensajero (The Messenger), refers to the story of the Jirjana people who received a warning: a girl with green eyes would be born and her eyes would be a signal of bad times to come, and if she ever saw her own reflection on a nearby lake, a monstrous giant snake would come out of her to bring death and destruction. Under this prophecy, and just before the Spanish Conquest, a girl with green eyes was born in the village. She was to be sacrificed to the Great Anaconda snake. However, her powerful father saves her and sends her to a secret place where she grows up under the care of twenty-two guardians. They also had to prevent her from reaching the water at the lake.

In the various metaphorical messages, I introduce a birdcall from one of our indigenous birds, the Cristofué, thus named for the rhythmical similarity of its song to the spoken words of "Cristo fué" ("Christ was" in Spanish). With the Spanish invaders came a new Faith. This bird is known in America as the Great Kiskadee. This name is derived again form its call which sounds very much like French for "What is it saying?" ..."Quest-ce-que dit". Click here to hear its song.

In the movement El Río (The River), I refer mainly to the realm of waters, like the doorways to other spheres or the underworld. In the story, María Lionza manages to escape the vigilant guards, runs out into the country and finds a beautiful lake, with fascination sees her own reflection in the water. At that instant she becomes the giant snake, overflowing the waters and bringing floods and destruction.

In Pieles de Metal (Metal Skins), I wanted to depict the confrontation of two worlds, the Venezuelan indigenous people and the Spanish conquerors. A confrontation that would change both cultures forever.

Multiple versions of María Lionza's legend exist, but nothing speaks of Venezuelan magical spirituality stronger than this popular myth. In a way she represents the unifying element in the different races that blended in the country. Her image fluctuates between that of a Native Indian princess to a more European queen, a queen Mary, the great Mother of God.

Efraín Amaya

For more about María Lionza visit this site:

A Girardian reading of the myth of Maria Lionza

Instrumentation: Flute and string quartet.

Duration: ca. 12:30


  • El Sentir de María Lionza - 2003 (flute & string quartet) 12:30 (three movements)

    Full score & parts (5) $60.00
    Score and/or set of parts



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