This month will see the highly anticipated debut of Matthew Hughes’ novel, What the Wind Brings. With a slip stream narrative, and elements of magical realism, readers might be tempted to believe this novel is a work of fiction — which it is — but it is also based very firmly on real people, real ideologies, and real history. Here is the inspiration for his novel, some 50 years in the making:
In 1971, Matthew Hughes came across an intriguing footnote in a university textbook on cross-cultural conflicts and assimilations. In fewer than two dozen words, the footnote said that a group of shipwrecked slaves had been castaways on the coast of 16 th century Ecuador and had managed to build a new society in conjunction with the indigenous people.
Hughes thought, “That would make a great historical novel.”
But researching the events proved difficult. There was very little English-language scholarship about the Zambo state; most of what was available was in Spanish-language journals in Spain and South America. But as the years went by, Hughes kept a watching brief on the subject, gathering what information was to be found in academic papers.
By the second decade of this century, the Zambo state had caught the attention of several North American scholars. Papers and books began to appear, and the true shape of what had happened in Esmeraldas began to emerge. In 2014, The Canada Council for the Arts awarded Hughes a major grant and he began the process of putting the story together.
In 2018, he found a publisher in Pulp Literature Press.
The Zambo state remains a distinct ethnic identity in parts of Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean. Their history was largely ignored, thanks in large part to historical whitewashing that has only recently been re-examined. We believe What the Wind Brings is a credit to that new research, as well as a credit to well-researched and masterfully written historical fiction.