By: Dr. Raúl Mendoza Rejón
Mrs. Carol Nash
Revisión Técnica de la Versión en Ingles:
Lic. Frank A. Pool Cab E.D.
Coordinador de inglés de la Facultad de Educación de la Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán.
The Maya as a people and as a culture did not vanish into space. They did not leave and go to Asia or anywhere, for that matter. They did leave the cultural religious centers and returned to small villages where they went on with life growing corn, squash, beans and other vegetables. They hunted deer, pheasants and wild turkey for meat and raised pigs and chickens.
After the Spanish Conquest of the Mayab, life for the individual Maya became increasingly difficult. The "White Spanish" were called "Ts'uul" and held a much higher station in life than the Maya who considered themselves to be Indians or "Máasewaal". This race distinction exists even today in the Mayab and has been the source of countless battles between the Maya and the "Whites". Even today the distinction is very evident.
The Maya felt persecuted by the Ts'uul, and history shows this to be true. The Ts'uul took land wherever they pleased and the Máasewaal in these areas were collected and put to work for little or no pay. The Ts'uul built plantations and factories exploiting the labor of the Maya masses. Spanish slavers hauled thousands of Maya to the mines in northern Mexico where most died. But, the struggle between the races was not merely manifested in forms of near slavery as this was only part of the problem. Besides bringing diseases from Spain that killed entire villages of the Maya, the whites built cities on top of sacred Maya Temples. They had no understanding of the spiritual life of the Maya. This became a problem that brought the Ts'uul and the Máasewaal to the point of bloodshed, on numerous occasions.
The Maya wanted to hold on to their culture. The culture and lifestyle that had sustained them for thousands of years. So many of the Maya moved away from the Ts'uul. Entire villages pick up and left the lands of their ancestors. As far away from the whites as they could get. They went into uninhabited parts of the jungle from Guatemala and Belize to the wilds of Chiapas and even into the southern remote lands of Quintana Roo. And there, in these places, they tried to live free from the ever changing world of the Ts'uul.
David L. Smedley Calvert,
Valladolid, Yucatan, 2000
C H A P T E R :
Chapter 1 The Encounter
Chapter 2 Childbirth
Chapter 3 The Town
Chapter 4 The Capture
Chapter 5 Jacinto
Chapter 6 Escape and Sacrifice
Chapter 7 Black Small Pox
Chapter 8 Trip to Belize
Chapter 9 Hunting
Chapter 10 Jacinto and Lola
Chapter 11 Return from Belize
Chapter 12 Day of the holy cross
Chapter 13 The rural teacher
Chapter 14 Trip to Tok'tuunich
Chapter 15 Arriving in the village
Chapter 16 Return to Tok'tuunich
Chapter 17 Chucbac
Chapter 18 Winds of rebellion
Chapter 19 Leonor and Marcelo
Chapter 20 The wedding
Chapter 21 The Jaguar
Chapter 22 Tuluum
Chapter 23 Life and Death
Chapter 24 Presidential Trip
Chapter 25 Cupul Flies
Chapter 26 Medical Brigade
Chapter 27 Tzaab-Kaan
Chapter 28 Credit Bank
Chapter 29 The Highway
Chapter 30 MariJuana
Chapter 31 Elections
Chapter 32 Epilogue
Appended: History of Cupuls
Damian Barrera stopped suddenly, instinctively putting his right index finger on the trigger of his '30 - 30', his companions two steps behind him stopped, staring down the path, more or less mecate ahead.
Alert and surprised, they watched an Indian coming out of a side path carrying a wild pig in his 'mecapal'
When the máasewaál sensed the presence of the three 'ts´uulo´ob, he was paralyzed in surprise for an instant, which seemed like forever. The expectation was mutual until Damian reacted, slowly advancing toward the unmoving Indian, who was looking at him without any expression.
'Don’t be alarmed' - he spoke in the Maya language when he saw the máasewa´al´s expression change slightly.
'We won’t hurt you' - a slight pause to see an answer and he went on - we’re lost and we only want to know where we are going.
Silvano Ek, the 'máasewáal', slowly recovering from his surprise, didn’t answer. It had been a long time since he had seen a ts´uulo´ob, longer than he could remember.
In that moment, he was thinking of his home, of his wife who the night before had back pains, he was worried that the birth would be early, although according to her, it wouldn’t be until the moon was full.
He was sorry that he had come to the ' milpa'.
That was what he was thinking about when he was surprised by the presence of the ts´uulo´ob. His surprise turned to fear when he saw the nearest, of them touch the trigger of his carbine.
He was defenseless; his shotgun wasn’t loaded. When Damian Barrera lowered the barrel of the ' 30 - 30 ' toward the ground, Silvano relaxed a little; the words in Maya relaxed him even more; he tried to put his ideas in order before answering. Who were they? What were they doing in these parts so far from their towns? The farthest that the ts´uulo´ob ever ventured was to X-ho´otsúuk to sell their merchandise... but these men were many ' leagues ' from there. What were they doing? .
No ' Ts'uul' had never set foot in his town, and these men, he thought, wouldn’t either.
This is the road to Chuun-x- ya'axche and Chuun-oon, answered Silvano, measuring his words precisely-if you are going to Chuun-oon, you have to go south on a side path a quarter of a league ahead, if you want to go to Chuun-x- ya'axche, you should head toward the east and walk several leagues, Chuum-Poom is farther toward the coast.
Well-answered Barrera- where are you from? Silvano answered - from Chum-yaxché. Barrera was leery. When the Indian was talking, he watched him carefully trying to sense some sign in him that would reveal whether he was lying. He didn’t sense anything and relaxed.
Carlos- he said speaking in Spanish to his companion immediately behind him- we will have to walk a lot to get to this town to the east,' What do you think? ...And you Miguel? - He said to his other companion.
We have no choice- answered Carlos- Chuum-Poom is too far, I think. I have been told that it is close to the coast, to Tulu´um. Chum-yaxché must be on this side - at least three or four leagues closer than Chuum-Poom.
You’re right, Carlos- agreed Miguel entering the conversation, - we are worn out, and we don't have any supplies; we won’t make it to the coast. Lets take advantage of this Indian; let him take us to his town and let God decide, maybe when they see that we didn’t kill this guy they wont hurt us.
Silvano listened to the conversation in Spanish without understanding what they were saying. He watched their gestures trying to guess their thoughts. He imagined what they were saying by the names Tulu´um, Chuun-oon, Chuum-Poom and Chum-yaxché. What were they talking about? Would he be able to trick them? If they continued south, they would arrive at his town, Tok'tuunich. He noticed that he was still carrying the wild pig on his shoulder, he let it slip to the side. The movement called the three white men’s attention to him. He put his shotgun on top of the animal.
Look "friend" - said Damian Barrera in Maya- we want to go to the coast, to Chuum-Poom or Tulu´um, but we’re very tired. We’ve been in the woods almost five days; take us to your town and we will pay you well, if they sell us a few supplies, we’ll go on our way without bothering you anymore. What do you say?
Silvano understood right away that they didn’t trust him.
If he went with them, they would discover his trick and they would kill him for sure. His mind worked dizzily.
Damian and his companions were expecting an answer.
Ok- answered the máasewáal, trying to look calm,-I’m going to my 'milpa' is 10 mecates from here.
Damian knew it was a lie. The Indian was trying to escape from them.
I’ll go with you- he said imperatively. Silvano Ek got a little pale. He had been discovered.
He turned his back scornfully and, followed by Barrera, went into the woods on a path...' What to do?'- He thought. The only thing he could do was to escape at the first opportunity, and run in the brush and risk getting a shot in the back.
What else could he do ? -He was sure they would kill him anyway.
He had tried to trick them. Damian advanced two or three meters behind the máasewaál. ' Wouldn’t he have companions in the milpa ', he thought.
When Silvano jumped to one side of the path and ran as fast as he could, Barrera raised his '30-30', aiming at him, but he didn’t fire. Slowly he lowered the barrel of his rifle and retraced his steps. He had nothing to gain, he thought, in killing this poor devil, he was either scared to death or stupid to risk his life by running like that.
When he came back to the path, Carlos and Miguel were lying on the ground waiting for him. They were surprised to see him alone, where was the Indian? - Before they asked, Damian told them.
That son of a bitch was trying to pull a fast one, I could have killed him like a dog, but what good would that do? We’ll go on take the cut off to the east, and let God decide, but you can be sure that we have a long journey ahead of us before we get to our destination. That is, if this Indian and his friends don’t kill us. I’m sure they’ll be waiting for us. We'd better get going.
The three picked up their gear, and took up the march, with renewed energy in the face of the imminent danger that they would be in if they stayed in this place. They picked up the shotgun to unload it, put it back where it was and took a leg of the wild pig that still lay in the path for supplies. In a few minutes, they were far away from there
Meanwhile the máasewáal ran desperately toward his town to report the presence of the ts´uulo´ob who, at the same time were pushing themselves on their own way.
The three advanced, showing signs of complete exhaustion, but determined to get as fast and as far away as possible from the site of the encounter.
Where would this path take them? To Chum-poom? To Chuun-x- ya'axche? Or to another town unknown to white men, their faces drawn, with several days growth of beard, their eyes irritated from lack of sleep, their expression somewhat indifferent, didn't reveal their greatest fear:-What waited for them in that inhospitable jungle ?
Days before in their native city, the now far away Zací, they had seen many of their companions fall in the cross fire of the guns with which the government forces displaced them in a brief but furious combat where many of them, young boys without any experience with weapons, had tried to resist from the palace, the churches, mansions and improvised trenches.
The movement had failed and the effort to liberate themselves from the tyranny and oppression of the government of General Diaz was aborted
Tears of anger and pain escaped from the eyes of Damian Barrera at the memory of is companions and family fallen in the heat of the battle. The memories passed though his fever brightened mind, from the beginning to the end - when they had to flee precipitately. What would be of their wives and their children? Would the government forces be capable of taking revenge on them and on his aged father? What would be of the others?
When the Indian started his desperate run, trying to escape from the ts'uul, he had the sensation that from his first steps, he would get a bullet in the back. He advanced, desperately zigzagging and stooping down to avoid it. The vines and branches whipped him and scratched his face and arms, but he didn't slow down; not even for one second.
Those first seconds seemed like a century. Soon he knew that he was out of reach of the his oppressors' carbines and stopped, out of breath to listen.- absolute silence- not even the natural noises of the jungle- why hadn't the man shot him ? He had time to get off at least two or three shots? Had he been overconfident? Had he been surprised by Silvano's escape? He couldn't explain these things.
Completely recovered from his run and from the excitement, he turned toward his town, advancing in the brush. He was sure that those strangers had followed the road that he had indicated, and that he could go back to his path; but he did not want to run the risk of another encounter.
He was advancing as fast as the jungle let him with just one thought in mind - to warn the 'báatab', who would certainly order the intruders to be hunted down.
One hour later, Silvano Ek interrupted the silence of the town and ran quickly though the streets to the square where the main house was.
The '' Báatab '' listened to Silvano's excited report while some of his closest allies gathered at the door. When Silvano finished, the chief ordered:
Go home right away, your wife is in labor. You will stay at her side while some of us go out to receive or hunt down these ts'uulo'ob.
I would like to go with you' babbled Silvano.
I understand how you feel, but you family is first, and besides you must be worn out from your run. We will leave on a forced march to see if we can catch them before they get to Chuum-Poom, if that's the road they took.'
In a few seconds the chief's lieutenant had gathered a dozen of Indians armed with rifles and machetes and with provisions for the journey.
Behind them two men would follow with pack mules, carrying everything necessary for a three or four day march. The group left while Silvano turned toward his hut to see his wife.
When Silvano came to his yard he stopped for a second, trying to listen; the door was closed, so he went around the back and jumping over the stone fence, he entered the house from behind.
While his eyes became accustomed to the half-light, he closed the door. He smelled the strong aroma of incense.
A new- born baby's cry pulled his attention toward a corner. In the light of a candle he could discern the mid-wife sitting on a stool. She was tying off the umbilical cord with of string of henequen threaded by hand.
He watched how she carefully cut the cord with a knife and cauterized it with the candle flame. His wife watched. She looked exhausted and pale but she had an expression of peace and satisfaction. As his vision cleared, he could discern the details better. His mother-in-law was picking up the clothes and utensils used in the delivery.
His questioning look had an answer from the mid-wife.
"It's a boy, Don Silvano; he was born a moment ago; he didn't give us much trouble".
Silvano Ek didn't answer. His thoughts flew to the memory of that fortuitous encounter, only a few hours before. He was thinking of how only fate had permitted him to see his son, the ts'uulo'ob could have killed him easily.
His name will be Jacinto in memory of that great chief that had led his grandfather during the war against the ts'uulo'ob, he and that group of his people whose descendants founded this town.
He remembered that only a few years before his father had fallen in the last of the barricades built six leagues from Chan Santa Cruz. He remembered his last words, when, with his guts torn up by the gunshots, he told him:
"It's useless to fight, Silvano, it's not like it was when we first fought with the ts'uulo'ob anymore. We can't stop these soldiers with their repeating rifles and cannons that blow our fox-holes apart. In a question of days, our sanctuary will fall. Chan Santa Cruz.- Get back to our town as quick as you can. Take your mother and little brothers and go south, beyond Rio Hondo. There are our people who didn't want to fight back before you were born.
They were right, we will never be able to beat the ts'uulo'ob.
When your grandfather died, in the last stronghold at X-ho'otsúuk, when l was just a boy- continued saying his father- he told me that same thing that I am telling you today. We are almost finished from so many years of fighting at a disadvantage. Escape to the south, you will leave this land which we have defended with the last drop of our blood; it hurts, but you will be able to live with dignity and be free".
Silvano remembered all that in the moment of the birth of his first born son and he remembered how his people had disbanded when his father died.
Since its foundation, Tok'tuunich had not changed and in two generations, scarcely a few gardens augmented around the first ones.
In the center of the town, around the cenote there was a small square; which covered more or less ten "mecates. The cenote was the only water source to the entire population; it was extremely beautiful since a part of the root vault had fallen in to permit all the beauty of the cavity to be appreciated.
There were several stalactites of different shapes and sizes hanging from the vault. In the late afternoon, the rays of the sun lighted it indirectly; drawing capricious effects on the opposite wall. The water was clean and crystal clear and number of fish could be seen from the edge. It had been protected by a stone wall whose parts had been glued together with resin as firm as the solid rock. For two generations the Eks and the rest of the group who founded the village cleaned their yards, weeded their streets, planted their gardens, and raised their domestic animals in the most complete isolation. In each yard, there were generally two or three thatched roof huts with mud walls capriciously distributed, with the biggest or main one at the edge of the yard, in front of the street. This was used as a living room and bedroom. The second generally smaller was used as a kitchen and the third was used as storage to put up the corn harvest. In all the yards there were pigs, chickens, turkeys, dogs and occasionally domesticated animals like "kitam" the "k’ulub" the " baack" the "kaambul, the "killí" and others. Some yards had rustic fences to pen in the pigs or hen houses of sticks and palms to protect the animals from the "chomac " or the "ooch".
In all of them, near the main house, in the " ka’anche"in kinds of rustic planter made of palm and dirt, a meter or a meter and a half in height, they cultivated mainly citanther, chile peppers, epazote, oregano and yerbabuena.
For two generations, they slashed and burned to make their milpas and the population grew until it doubled its number.
Their fertile soil provided harvests, which, if they were not abundant, were at least sufficient to support their simple life- style.
So they multiplied and lived in peace and tranquility with their brothers, who had formed, just like them, small villages in the heart of the eastern jungle. No white man had ever stepped in their village and many of them had never seen even one in their lives.
The news of those three ts'uulo'ob coming near; flew like dust in the village. As the fist-full of men left the main square to go after them the old men revived the oral tradition, telling many things that had been forgotten: the struggles, the escapes, pains, and unsatisfied hates in that blood bath between the ts'uulo'ob and máasewaálo'ob.
That night, Silvano, like the others, around the heat of the hearth fire told his friends and family about his encounter with those white men. Most of them accepted his version. Everyone coincided that it was a miracle that they hadn't killed him. While the murmur of the conversation prolonged into the wee hours of the morning, in the interior of the hut, the newborn clung to his mother's breast as the people clung to the land of their ancestors.
Jacinto was the fourth child of Maria Cohuó, except that only one of her daughters survived and now was six years old. Her other children had died, one at birth, and the other in the first year of life of some sickness. It had been more than three years since Maria had gotten pregnant. She had been afraid of not being able to have more children when she got pregnant with Jacinto. From the first she wanted in to be a boy - because who would help her husband in his labors in the milpa when the years passed? Besides she knew that he desired a son because he was the last of the Eks of Tok'tuunich. Maria fervently gave thanks to God as her painful breasts nourished her newborn baby.
Damian Barrera and his companion were extremely exhausted.
How many hours had gone by since the encounter with the máasewáal?
- Let's stop a minute to rest, he told his companions- lets gather some dry branches to roast a piece of the wild pig-.
- We have to keep up our strength because if we don't we won't be able to go on. Besides l think we're out of danger for the moment. Anyway we'll have our weapons ready-
A few moments later, on the coals, on a grill of green branches, the wild pig was roasting. They ate it as it cooked.
Damian- said Miguel - we have to rest. If we don't, we'll never make it. Besides, the companions of that damned Indian are going to reach us, they're going to do it sooner or later, and if they want to kill us they will. So let's rest like we should it would be better. -
-Ok Miguel, but one of us will stand guard while the others sleep. If they kill us it won't be like dogs. I'll take the second watch call me in an hour. -
Carlos and Miguel slept soundly while Damian struggled with the stupor produced by fatigue, heat, and the food. He covered his watch, thinking about what the meeting with the chief of Chuum- Poom, Kitak would be like, that is if they made it to him. He remembered his father. As in a dream, he imagined the scene that his father told about so many times. The hand to hand fighting, sword against machete, the badly wounded Indian that his father picked up rather than kill, his convalescence in prison his freedom on the promise to work in the hacienda and finally when he let him go back to his people.
How many years ago was that? 30 or 40? He could not he exact. He took out of a soft-skin bag, among some gold coins; it was a carved earring of those that the southerners used. He examined it carefully. He should give it to Ki'tuk personally, or to his son if he wasn't alive. His father had told him how careful he should be with him.That earring was his salvation, also the salvation of his friends.
That's what he hoped. A few instants later, a noise in the brush startled him. He didn't have time to pick up his rifle. A máasewaál aimed his weapon at him while others surrounded the group.
Damian didn't make the slightest movement, showing a calm he didn't feel; he spoke to his sleeping companions.
Carlos- Miguel- he said in Maya intentionally, - wake up, we have company.
The two woke up startled, controlling themselves they got up slowly.
Damian said to them in Spanish- Don't try to take your weapons because they will fill us with bullets and chop us up- turning to the máasewáalo'ob- he said.
We want to go to Chuum-Poom. We are acquaintances of the leader Ki' tuk, he spoke calmly with certain authority to impress them.
I have a message to deliver to him personally. I am asking you to take me to him. I will reward you for your services.
After a pause the answer was- Who are you to dare to come here? Don' t you know that this territory is ours and no white man can penetrate our lands? This will cost you.
Damian interrupted energetically- " We didn’t come to fight. We came to see Ki'tuk and if you don't lead us to him you will awake his anger.
Another pause and the máasewaál answered. -" Chuum-Poom is six leagues from here,"- said the "báatab" of Tok'tuunich, it was he who spoke.
It doesn't matter; we will rest today and make the journey tomorrow- Damian answered.
The "Báatab" of Tok'tuunich moved a way with some of his men, and after a few seconds of exchanging words, he returned.
Ok- he said to Damian-but if you have lied to us, I would kill you myself with my machete-.
Without saying another word, he turned his back while his men picked up the weapons of the three ts'uulo'ob.
The night seemed endless. They slept fitfully under the vigilance of the máasewáalo'ob.
The next day, in the early morning, they left for Chuum-Poom. It was a long and tiring journey in permanent silence.
From the out-skirts of the village, the Indians came out of the yards, the children ran along side the small column of men until they came to the house of the chief. They stopped at the door.
Damian observed the construction built in front of the plaza where a couple of armed young men stood guard. That must be the church, the house of the talking cross of "Chuum-Poom.
Although Barrera feared this moment since he left Valladolid, a surprising calm invaded him, and his serene attitude gave his companions confidence. What was happening in the minds of those Indians and of his people? -In one more moment he would know his fate- the security of an inaccessible refuge in the jungle or death by machete or the banderillas. A chill ran through his being at this last thought. A few minutes later they were in front of the chief's house. While they waited for the chief to come out he glanced at the rough faces and aggressive looks of his captors. Everyone in town was at the main square in front of the house and the murmur of their conversations came vaguely to his ears. A máasewaál of enviable complexion opened a path through the multitude followed by two or three of the elders. It was the hour of sun going down to the horizon.
The silence was broken by the clear firm voice of the báatab who spoke to them in the Maya tongue.
You speak our language-without waiting for an answer he continued -who are you who so fearlessly has come to us? You are the first ts'uulo'ob to set foot here you won't live to tell it. The pitch of his voice did not change at pronouncing the last phrase.
Barrera answered with precision of one who has thought over his words many times.
You are the lord of this village, you must be for the way in which you have spoken-your name is well-know, even to far away Zací where we come escaping from. Let me tell you why.
Barrera told the chief the happenings of the last days, its cause, and its purposes. While he spoke, he observed the reactions and interest of the group.
And if you doubt my word, I would like to show you this- he expressed at the same time that he took from his pants pocket, a pig skin bag from which he took an ear-ring of pure gold, preciously worked.
-My father gave me this and he told me to look for you, wherever you were.
He told me that he was sure that you would let us live until we could return to our people-
Kituk took the jewel and contemplated it attentively. A few seconds of silence and instants of abstraction made the people there understand that his thoughts regressed to whom knows when and where. Seconds that seemed like centuries later, he said to his followers.
- Give food and shelter to these men. We will convoke our counsel later-.
Damian Barrera and his companions were led through the group that silently opened to let them through.
Behind them, the eyes of the báatab showed his abstraction while his companions looked at him. The thoughts of the báatab receded many years back. That night he spoke before the counsel.
" When I was a young boy, I remember very well, my father left the hut telling my mother to gather the few belongings and the animals and to go into the woods walking into the sun. It was scarcely dawn and we got into movement, frightened but without desperation, like we had done so many other times. Soon we were together with the old people, women and children, and in a short time we lost ourselves in the jungle I remember well, I will never forget the group of "ts'uulo'ob" was coming in forced march to our village. In a few minutes, we heard in the distance, to the west, the rifle fire, gun shots that a few minutes later stopped. We were afraid as so many other times we were. And all the women, although nobody said anything, expressed the anguish and the fear of never seeing their men again.
We didn't stop the march until mid -day and after a short rest we went on now with the sun at our backs in the evening we arrived at the shelter, a hut abandoned in the thick. clamps of ramon trees.
The men didn't arrive until late at night many of them with wounds from bullets or bayonets, or swords. Some walking, some in " carts." My father didn't return, and my mother said they saw him fell in the hand to hand fight, but nobody could tell her if he was still alive.
Many moons passed, until one day, when everybody in our town had given him up for dead, my father appeared, skinny and exhausted.
It was a surprise for everybody and a great rejoicing because he was one of the chiefs of the village. My father was the second in command, if the "báatab died, the command would fall to my father.
Everyone was happy and a great feast was prepared to celebrate his return. And hugging his feet, I listened to the story of how he had been saved.
He was picked up wounded and as a prisoner, he was taken to Zací where he stayed while, waiting his fate. The father of this man that you have seen set him free, and in gratitude he left him this earring, symbol of his rank. He told about the combat, and when Ts’uul had my father at his mercy, he didn't finish him off, later that man let him go. The " báatab " asked- Is it just that now we kill the son of that man ?... after some moments of meditation pronounced sentence
-He will live among as, he will live with his companions, the condition will be that they won't be able to leave the village, they will be killed if they try, we can not take any risks, nor can we change our laws-.
That same night Barrera and his companions appeared before the báatab , who explained their situation.
And they were given land and wives to form families and from then on they lived in the village.
Silvano Ek and Maria Cohuó were happy with the birth of Jacinto. The baby was robust and Maria's painful breast could hardly keep him satisfied.
In a few days Maria went back to her house-work fully except for washing the clothes, since, according to the mid-wife, the cold water could "dry up the milk" or produce " cramps"
The old mid-wife washed the clothes of newborn and of his mother. She also prepared plenty of atole and other "hot" drinks to produce sufficient breast milk. The first day, Maria only had chicken broth, but not the meat, because that too could cause cramps.
When the "tuuch" dried up and fell off, Maria could take other nourishment and " wild animal's meat.
Silvano satisfied with his male-child, began the preparative for the baptism, which will take place at the " church" of Chuum-Poom. For this, the "baalche" the turkeys for the "piib" had to be prepared, and if possible some bottles of x-táabentun should be obtained to give to the women.
Who would be Jacinto's godfather? ...
the curse had been broken, since he had a son after having two daughters.
Jose Chuc, the godfather of his second daughter who had died a few years back, was his best friend and faithful companion.
Together the two of them had shared joys and pains.
His character and temple would be a good example for his son. Jose Chuc would be Jacinto's godfather , he would teach him many things when he became a young boy.
Jose Chuc accepted gladly Silvano's offer and together they began the preparations for the baptism that would be in Chuum-Poom, the most important church in the zone.
They would travel before hand to make arrangements with the priest and the chief Kituk.
Silvano wondered what would be of those white men who had sought refuge there a few days after Jacinto's birth? Surely he would speak with them again, and maybe they could explain to him why they hadn't killed him.
The grain on the corncobs was dry now. The days of the new atole and the "is-waaj" and the tamales of new corn had passed. The corn stalks had been bent, the shed was ready to store the harvest, the corn both for food staple and that which would be used for seed the next year.
Now he could make the trip to Chuum-Poom to prepare the baptism. It would be after the cabañuelas that was after the full moon of the new year.
Silvano and Maria Jose Chuc and his wife, Jacinto’s sister, family members, the most important friends and the authorities of Tok'tuunich marched to Chuum-Poom, after the new-year's day.
There was an almost full moon on the horizon to the west when they went out of the village. It wasn't so early, but the sun didn't even come out completely when it was full daylight, and there was some fear that a cloud burst could take them by surprise because it was the month of the cabañuelas.
It was cold, but a few minutes after beginning the march, the mules as well as their masters had warmed-up. It was nice weather for traveling.
The tiny Jacinto slept bundled up, and covered with Maria's rebozo. The march went without incidents, except for an hour of rest at mid-day to eat and let the heat of the sun pass over their heads, without any hurry because of the little ones who went mounted with their mothers. Long before sunset they entered Chuum-poom, then they separated, looking for hospitality with their friends.
José Chuc and Silvano had gone to Chuum-Poom during the last moon. After greeting some friends, they went to the church, permanently watched over by guards armed with rifles. They took off the "xana-keuelob" and with profound respect and in silence, barefooted they entered in to the hut, where behind a division, was one of the sacred "crosses". The "cross" of Chuum-Poom. With great devotion, they kneeled and whispered their prayer, just as they had done for three generations, their fathers and the fathers of their fathers.
In the half- light, the silence and the aroma of the "copal " that they burned along with the smoke of the candles that they offered, gave a feeling of submission, and gratitude and respect to the only God of their people represented by the cross hidden behind the rustic enclosure.
After their visit to the church, they went to the house of the chief and authority Ki'tuk, to whom they presented their respects and asked for his authorization for the visit and the baptism, a routine for his which approval was taken for granted.
The commander Ki'tuk, sitting on an old trunk was removing the grain from the corn cobs from the last year's harvest with his family, because the corn from the last harvest should be stored when the existing storage was exhausted. When Silvano and Jose came in, he gave them a friendly look, and smiled at them. The women and children hardly even lifted their heads and went on with their work.
-Good day, commander Ki'tuk. May God , preserve you and the holy cross protect you.- Silvano put his hand into his " sabucan" and took out a packet of tobacco and a bottle of anis which he respectfully offered to the chief.
-Allow me to offer you these modest gifts as a token of friendship and good will and respect-
- Thanks for the gifts, brothers from Tok'tuunich. my thought is that your families are in the grace of our Lord in good health and prosperity-to what do we owe the visit of the Ek's to our village? -
-My "compadre" is of the Chuc family and, I; sir, am Silvano, the eldest of the Eks of Tok'tuunich-
After a very brief pause, he continued -we have come to you to baptize my first son and to ask you, also the leaders of the village, to honor us with your presence at the ceremony, which will be, with your permission, after the full moon-
-It will be as you desire and arrange with the priest of the village. You should be in agreement with him for everything that will be necessary-he answered and getting up, invited the visitors to come into the main room, speaking with everyone about matters of common interest. An hour later more or less Silvano and Jose left slightly under the effects of x-taabentun that they had been drinking during the conversation.
He will be baptized as we had planned. We will rest for today, and the day after tomorrow, we will return to Tok'tuunich-said Silvano.
Compadre -said Jose- before that, let's go to visit our friends. Maybe they would like to share a bottle with us.
-Where will we get it?-
-I have it here, in reserve, compadre- and smiling cunningly, he pointed to the bag where he carried his clothes. The compadres went to the house of a friend, where they went on drinking.
Damian Barrera noticed the presence of Silvano and Jose. He tried to remember, because Silvano's face seemed familiar. Suddenly, everything was perfectly clear. He was the máasewáal of the encounter who had led them away from his town, and nevertheless, had showed them the way, involuntarily but directly to their destination. Thanks to him, they could reach Ki'tuk, their goal since they had left Zací. He saw him with Jose when they had gone to the church and later leaving the house of the chief. Since then something made him keep track of them.
When he saw them drinking alcohol with their friends he prudently went back to his house. He knew about the spite and hate that had accumulated against the white man, and he, after all should be prudent with this máasewáal that he had had in the sights of his "30-30". The next day, when they were still recovering from their binge, he saw them again, in the little square. Then his glance briefly crossed with Silvano’s.
It was a quick but significant glance. As he was going away, Barrrera heard foot-steps behind him and looking around, he recognized Silvano. He stopped because he understood that Silvano wanted to talk to him. When he was close, and after they both stopped, they looked unblinking at one another until Barrera broke the silence as he had done the time on the path of the encounter, on the evening before the birth of Jacinto.
-Do you wish to speak to me?-
-I know that you were accepted here in Chuum-poom answered Silvano. Besides Vega, who is one of us because he lived here since he was a boy, I don't remember any other ts'uulo'ob living here among our people. Baatab Kituk must have had a very powerful reason to accept you. If he was done it, it is well done. I only want you to tell me why you didn't kill me back there at our first encounter.-
-We aren't killers, we do not kill for the sake of killing, neither you nor our own people. If we have killed it is because we, like you, do not accept injustice or slavery. That's why we fought in Zaci, and that's why we escaped, since the government forces defeated us.
I didn’t have anything against you then, neither I do now. On the contrary, if you people hadn't accepted us, we would have been dead now one way or another.
Silvano listened attentively as he had done on the other occasion, at their first encounter.
-Some time if God is willing - he answered - we can talk more,- without waiting for an answer, he turned his back and broke off the conversation, walking away from Barrera.
Damian thought about the man's motives for wanting to know why he hadn't fired. Perhaps some other time everything would be cleared up between them.
The three ts'ulo'ob saw the group come in, and they heard about the party and the baptism, that would be the next day. Their wives informed them that they too would participate in the ritual with the other women of the town. It would be a happening, according to what they said.
There would be plenty of turkey and pigs to be used for the piib, honey anis for everybody, and without fail, of course the baalche.
The next day, the interior of the church was completely occupied by the families of Tok'tuunich and by the people of Chuum-Poom.
The religious songs had finished and the assistant of the maasewaal priest burned the incense, its aroma saturated the interior of the big hut when Jacinto was taken in front of the priest who practiced the ritual with great devotion.
Only the voice of the maasewaal priest could be heard speaking in the Maya language sprinkled with words of the sacred scriptures in Spanish. When he received the baptismal waters, Jacinto whimpered a little. His mother, filling his mouth with her maternal nipple when the ceremony ended quieted his cry.
After a few complementary prayers, everybody or almost everybody, left slowly, and went to the house where they would celebrate the new Christian.
Damian, Miguel and Carlos, the tsu'ulo'ob were discreetly leaving with their families when Silvano approached them and said.
-Today is a day of rejoicing for my wife and my family and my friends. It is the will of God that I could see this son of mine. All of the village will accompany us to celebrate it, and you are now a part of the village. If you wish, you can go, or let your wives go.-
Before the answer, he turned and looked at his wife and son, and the group that was leaving.-I think- said Damian - that we shouldn't pass up this invitation -and he added - we wouldn't want them to take it as an insult. We should let them think that we are assimilated. We shouldn't miss the opportunity-what do you think?.
Carlos nodded his head as Miguel said- besides, we don't always get a chance to eat " reline Negro " or drink a good anis, let's celebrate with them, but just this, let's be careful not to get drunk, some bad feelings could come to the surface. We should leave right before the spirits heat up from the x-taabentun.
Let's go to the "xunan," we really deserve it, for holding out all this time.
The women made tortillas in groups of two or three around the "comal" scattered around the yard, under the fullest trees. The men dug up the turkeys placed in piib since the night before.
The bottles of x-tabentun and the gourds of baalche were uncorked and shared among the groups that had formed in animated conversation.
The three ts' uulo'ob talked, sitting on small treetrunks while their wives participated in the making of tortillas with rest of the women.
Silvano approached them with a bottle of x-tabentun offering it to them, while in the other hand he held a jicara with " baalche," - l like it better because x-tabentun has a bad effect on me.-
Don Silvano- said Damian- -we want to thank you for your invitation. If you would like to drink with us in honor of you newly baptized son, it would be true pleasure.-
n spite of his stern expression, Silvano couldn't avoid a spark in his eyes, that was caught by the ts'uulo'ob.
- Later, because l have to see to my companions and friends.. -. the three ts'uulo'ob exchanged knowing glances. By mid afternoon, the liquor began to have its effect. The groups raised their voices. It sounded like arguments were breaking out, so the three ts'uulo'ob prudently agreed to retire discreetly from the party. In the early hours of the night, Damian , in his hammock, heard the not far away shouts of joy at the celebration of the birth of Jacinto.
ESCAPE AND SACRIFICE
Many months had passed from the time the tsu’ulo’ob arrived in Chuum-Poom, days after the rebellion of Valladolid on June 4, 1910, until the retreat of General Bravo from Santa Cruz, when the Revolution government ordered its evacuation and it was handed over to the Cruzo’ob. When the ts'uulo'ob heard, they desired ardently to return to their homes in Valladolid. During all this time, the white men worked in their fields and participated in all of the activities of the village, except in the ¨safeguard¨ of the ¨church¨ since they were excluded because of a religious taboo. No white man could be worthy to be a custodian of the ¨sanctuary¨ of the Talking Cross.
Miguel and Carlos had children with their máasewáal wives, but not so Damian Barrera whose mate had not conceived. Ki'tuk, from the beginning, had placed a tight watch over their movements, in the village as well as in their milpas and they never had at their disposition, the weapons which had been taken away from them when they were captured. They only ate meat like venison, wild pig, turkey or pheasant when they took part in the ¨puuj¨as beaters or when a family member of their wives was paid for some game animal.
The vigilance became even stricter when Ki’tuk heard that ts'uulo'ob had abandoned Santa Cruz. He suspected and intuitively knew the thoughts of the three ts’uulo’ob and their desire to return to their homes. He placed them under extremely tight surveillance and the towns of the area were put on alert and instructed to kill them if they escaped from the town. Ki'tuk and the other Maya chiefs decided, not to go back to Santa Cruz. El Baalam-naj had been spoiled and desecrated. After that it had served as a prison, and many prisoners had been killed inside of it. It was said that the ¨Cross¨ would never go back there.
Besides, everybody agreed that only the inaccessible jungle could give security, isolation and opportunity to go on being independent of the government of the ts’uulo’ob.
Commander May and the other chiefs already were making deals to exploit the chicle and lumber with the ts’uulo’ob. They were considered traitors by Ki'tuk and the other chiefs. It will cost them a lot someday - They thought.
While the days passed, Damian was developing a plan to return to Zaci.
Whenever he had an opportunity, he would analyze the options and difficulties, as well as the possibility of making a successful escape from Chuum poom.
Carlos wasn't very enthusiastic about the plan. He, even frankly declared that he would stay with his wife. They were very fond of one another, and she was expecting another baby, However, he offered his help although he asked for absolute carefulness; he reminded them that if they were discovered, they would be killed without remedy, also she was sure that because of his wife's family and his loyalty to the village that they wouldn't kill him.
More than two years had passed since their arrival in Chuum-poom when they found themselves together in the little square of the town sitting in the light of the full moon.
I believe-said Barrera- -that we can not put off our departure. The rumors are confirmed; the revolution is within the government, we can go back to our families .
We have to go back to our people, at least I will run the risk. Tell me, Miguel, will you go with me ?
- I'm with you compadre, he answered .
-I won't go-put in Carlos- I have thought about it a thousand times. Here, I have peace and tranquility that I have never had, I could never abandon my pregnant wife and my unborn son. -I know that I am running a great risk- he continued- but I think I'll make it. I believe that you two are running a greater risk. I don't see many chances that you will be able to escape.
-Which way will you go? - toward Valladolid you will have to get by Tok’tuunich and Ti ho suco and other towns, toward Santa Cruz you won't stand a chance, you would have to go Chetumal, I don't see how - but it is decided, and may God be with you.
We will go directly to Valladolid, but we will avoid the most used paths. If we, make it to Ti ho suco, we will be safe- said Damian. -and with what weapons will you survive? - you won't be able to get enough food without a shot gun at least- said Carlos.
We will have to depend on Vega -interrupted Damian- I'll ask him for his shot gun and we will stage a robbery so they won't accuse him of being an accomplice -it is our only chance of getting a weapon-.
Carlos kept silent while Miguel and Damian went over the details.
They would accumulate supplies and water in the milpa. An old carbide lamp would be very useful during the first night of their escape, their old boots would last two or three days at least.
And so they revised the whole plan a thousand times. days later, on a very dark night after sunset Damian and Miguel sneaked toward their milpa. Later, their wives, afraid because of their absence went to Carlos house. They were surprised to find him alone, because the three were always together. Carlos informed them of the situation and convinced them of the need for silence for as long as possible. They would tell the "baatab" that they had thought that their husband were getting drunk in Carlos house. So it would look like they didn't know anything. Carlos couldn't get to sleep during the first hours. He imagined his friends in their desperate escape toward far away Zaci.
He guessed at their anguish, the crazy race against time, their advance in the dark and the thousand dangers around them. Almost at dawn, he fell asleep.
When he woke up, a group of guards armed with rifles and machetes was next to his hammock.
In an instant, he understood that it had all been discovered. Pretending to be ignorant of the facts and simulating to be calm Carlos asked.-To what do I owe your presence here in my house with guns ?. Did something happen?- .
The head guard said dryly.- Get dressed, commander Ki’tuk is waiting for you. -Carlos got up and dressed quickly. An instant later he was standing in front of Ki’tuk.
- Your friends did not keep their word- - it is my fault because I broke our laws. I assure you that they will not escape and my men will kill them. All the villages have been advised. They will not escape, as for you, you will be the bull in our bullfight, as we had warned you
Carlos felt a chill at the thought, not of his death, but of the "banderillas".
-Kituk- he answered calmly
-I want to tell you, if I didn't escape it is because I want to stay here with my wife who is expecting a baby and with my son, I preferred to run the risk of dying here than to escape with my friends. I am not afraid to die, but I ask you to let me live for my children.
Ki’tuk listened to him, apparently unmoved. In his mind, he admired Carlos.
-The sentence will be carried out at once.
The shouting of the máasewáal outside the house of the baatab made him imagine what was coming .
His decision was instantaneous. He grabbed a carabine from the closest guard. He pulled the trigger of the "30-30" but before he could fire the máasewáal’ob jumped on Carlos with their machetes.
In a few seconds, Carlos lay at the feet of Ki’tuk dying from the many machete wounds, meanwhile, Silvano was playing with little Jacinto in the patio of his house when he was advised of the escape of the ts’uulo’ob. He knew what that meant, everybody must take part in the hunt when he listened to the "baatab" who instructed the máasewáalo'ob to cover the zone, he imagined that the only road that the fugitives could take, would be the one to x-ho'otsuck or maybe father to the east, the roads that led to the small villages around Zaci.
There was only one direction; and surely they took it, that had decided to go as fast as possible to their home town. If they had almost a days head -start on their hunters, they couldn't be very far away even if they had walked all night The order was to take them alive.
That would not be difficult if they caught them up because they wouldn't be armed. -My compadre Jose and I will cover the path that goes to Chemax, suggested Silvano. Jose Chuc agreed, the two were habitual buddies.
- Everybody, leave at once, with only the most necessary. If we wait, we won't have as much chance to catch them-- emphasized the "baataab." He formed groups of three, pointing out the different routes to be covered. If anyone found traces, he would come back to report and reorganize the hunt.
Silvano, Jose and another máasewáal left with water and food for three days. If they could not do anything in that time, it would useless to continue.
Damian and Miguel didn't stop for a second during the first night, nor during the next morning. On the march, they ate the hard piimo'ob and drank water, around noon, beaten by fatigue and need for sleep, they decided to rest for two hours.
While Damian dissolved in a jicara the "pakeyem" with salt, sitting on a rock in the shadow of a shady "pukte" Miguel gathered some branches to lay down on the ground.
-We'll both sleep at the same time, it's better that way. I don't think there will be any danger we have at least a sixteen hour head- start.
When we pick up the pace again we'll recover our advantage. We need to get our energy back-
- If we can keep up this pace for three days, they'll never be able to catch us-said Miguel.
In a few minutes after drinking the "pozole," they both were sleeping soundly in the shade of the abundant "pukte" tree.
The carabine that they had taken from Vega was at hand, together with the "chuuj" and the "saabukaano'ob of supplies.
When they woke up, the sun was filtering through the branches of the trees toward the west. They jumped up, at least four hours had passed.
They picked up their gear and restarted their march, worried now and with all the vigor they could muster.
Where were they? wondered Damian. He was sure that they had left the path leading to Tok'tuunich and Chun-yaxché to the south.
They were going directly north, the sun setting to the west. In a few minutes more they would light the carbide lamps, they were waiting as long as they could to save fuel.
If we keep up this rhythm, in two or three days we will reach safety-- said Damian.
May it be God's will- answered Miguel-until now we have a good start but don't forget these damn Indians are great walkers. We shouldn't be over- confident, and they continued walking, as they had been doing almost until dawn when they ate again, and rested for two hours, more or less.
Silvano and Jose had made no mistakes, the second day wasn't over yet when Silvano who was leading the way discovered the first sign. The marks further on convinced him that they were on the right track. Turning to his compadre, he said:
-Jose, you and I will go on ahead, let "P’uus" -(that was what they called the third man of their trio) let him go back—P’uus went back along the way, while Silvano and Jose continued their forced march. More than forty-eight hours had gone by since they had left their village to hunt down the ts’uulo’ob, when both of them stopped brusquely, at the sound of a not far off shot gun fire.
They removed their sandals so they wouldn't make the slightest sound, with extreme caution, they sneaked through the big trees by the narrow path. Finally they heard foot steps at a short distance: It was a question of waiting for an opportunity. They waited patiently.
Damian and Miguel stopped to rest in the shade for a little while. It was almost noon they were worn out from the effort and anguish .
They didn't hear anything , until Silvano's voice less then five meters away surprised them.
-Don't move-said Silvano while he and his compadre pointed their "30-30" at them .
After that the ts’uulo’ob recognized Silvano, the same Indian, that they found when they were looking for Chuum-poom more than two years before.
Damian and Miguel didn't move they were expecting the worse.
-Well-said Damian- now you have us at your mercy- will you kill us?. If you are going to have to, do it here, because we won't move one step back- saying this, he expected more máasewáalo'ob to appear. He didn't think they were the whole party.
Silvano didn't answer, he turned to Jose -pick up their weapon, be careful, if one moves, kill the other one. Jose picked up the shot-gun and stepped back.
You should know that your friend was killed the same morning that they discovered your escape, you, too, will die.
Nothing, matters anymore Silvano- -said Damian- - we knew that if we failed we would be killed, but we can't live our lives with you; I don't guess you can understand that. We have families and we have to go back to them-.
Silvano remembered the first encounter when this white man could have killed him, but they didn't. He remembered his only son, Jacinto, who he would never have seen, if this Ts’uul had shot him.
It was a great confusion, for a moment, he didn't know what to do- and if I let them go? -they surely will be able to make it to their homes.
After a few seconds he told Damian
Two years ago, you could have killed me but you didn't. We too have feelings. I will not kill you, but your friend here will go with us.--Damian immediately understood the nobility of the máasewáal.
-Silvano, I couldn't live in peace if, like a coward, I abandoned my friend. Either let us both go or we will both stay and be killed.--
Silvano listened and admired the gesture. At the silence, Miguel spoke.
-Get out of here now, Damian, you mustn't sacrifice yourself for me, besides, you can tell our families what happened. that way, they won't have to live with doubt of whether we survived or not.
Silvano didn't understand since Miguel was speaking Spanish, but he knew what they were talking about.
No, Miguel, either both of us walk out of here or none of us Pick up your gear and let's go, and be ready for a shot in the back. If they don't shoot, we'll be safe.-
When the two bent over to take their saabukaano'ob, and water, Jose lifted his carabine, and aimed at Miguel.
Let them go, Jose-ordered Silvano .
He took Vega’s carabine, and taking a couple of steps, he said to Damian . -Take it, you will need it further on.--
Damian took the shot-gun, and overcome to the point of tears, could only babble a couple of words.
-Thanks, I'll never forget this.-
- We're even, I don't owe you and you don't owe me- answered the máasewáal.
Damian and Miguel took up the march again a few steps beyond, Damian stopped and turned to look at the two máasewáal. For a few minutes Silvano sustained his gaze, then Damian went on his way.
Would they ever see each other again ?.
BLACK SMALL POX
How many years ago had the federal soldiers left Santa Cruz? Silvano tried to remember exactly.
Was it 7, 8, or maybe 9?
There hadn't been any special events in the town since General Bravo left Santa Cruz and after him the ts’uulo’ob, leaving the town practically abandoned which was purified by the torches of the Cruzo'ob. The tranquil existence of the inhabitants of the tiny village of Tok'tuunich, passed among the harvest cycles which had been abundant during these years.
There was plenty of the golden grain, and the domestic animals reproduced abundantly.
They traded peacefully with the river communities of Rio Hondo, interchanging goods to satisfy their needs, tools, ammunition, clothes and the most indispensable things for their simple way of life.
The little Jacinto grew strong and healthy in his family group and with the other children of his age, he ran, and played in the streets and yards. It was time to chase, branch in hand, the multicolored butterflies that gathered in the puddles of the quick cloudbursts of the end of the dry season. The entire family, men women and children moved toward the milpa at first light to plant corn, squash and chile taking advantage of the wet earth, or to transplant the plants that had been seeded with dry soil.
Silvano Ek watched little Jacinto playing with his little friends in the center of the small square in front of their house.
Maria, his wife, dedicated herself to her housework in the little kitchen, while Leonor, Jacinto's sister; five years younger entertained herself close to her mother. After Leonor, Maria had not conceived again.
Going to the door and scrutinizing the sky looking for signs of rain, Silvano saw his inseparable amigo, Jose, his son's Jacinto's godfather as he came near. He said without greeting- bad news Silvano, do you remember the rumors from our people who'd been in contact with the chicle cutters of the coast and the ones who have dealings with the generals?
-- I remember well compadre, what is it that worries you? As long as they don't invade our land and they pay us for the right to the chicle? I don't think the fight among them will affect us. -
- Well, maybe this time it will affect us- emphasized José. You know that some of our people go father on when they deliver merchandise and go to Santa Cruz, to Tihosuco, to Tepich, and some have ventured to the towns near Zaci, and they don't just bring back alcohol, but they also bring back diseases. That's what I'm talking about when I say there is bad news. They say, and it looks like it is true that there is small pox in some towns to the East. Nobody knows who brought it, but if it's true, we have to be very careful. Remember what the grandfathers told us about small pox and cholera, that sometimes attacked our cities .-
Silvano Ek listened with attention. He knew that if what his compadre was saying was true, it would have serious consequences.
The towns of the "Cruzoob" had been decimated generation after generation by these diseases in the towns of Tihosuco, Saban, Ichmul and others that often changed hands.
How many years had it been since they suffered small pox?
He remembered that his father told stories of the horrors of the disease, that very few survived and that the fever and the sores rotten the bodies, finishing off entire families. That the people, who were defenseless at the attacks of the diseases could only abandon their homes and burn them, then flee to the mountains with their few belongings until the epidemic worn itself out. Then they would have to wait until the months of sun and rain had purified their town before rebuilding their homes.
We will have to take this matter up in the counsel. We will have to send one of our own to find out what the General knows about this if it turns out to be true, all we can do is wait and prepare to emigrate as far as we can.
And where will we go compadre?
I don't know, but if it is necessary, we'll go South, maybe on the other side of Icaiche where the "isolated ones" are, even beyond where our people have their villages in Belice and, why not? maybe even to the very region of Peten in Guatemala.
The two friends were silent each one deep in his own thoughts, with their minds in past times and the changes there would have to be in their peaceful existence if there really was an epidemic.
That same night Silvano talked with the " baatab" of Tok'tuniich. We won’t be able to rest until we know if it is true what they say about the epidemic in the villages near the coast, to the east of Zaci -he reflected while Silvano listened to him with attention- it will be necessary to send a couple of our "own" to find out.
Would you go Silvano?-
-I'm ready, I only need to choose a companion-.
-Choose one of the people, and tell me when you decide.-
Silvano thought of his inseparable friend Chuc.
-First thing tomorrow, I'll talk to some of them.
It would be better if they go of his or her own free will-since everybody is afraid of the disease. -
- It is the best Silvano, you're right-
When Silvano and Jose, along with two young men, left the village, they went loaded with many supplies, tobacco, liquor and ammunition for their carbines. Two pack mules saved them from the bother of carrying the supplies themselves. Except of the gourds of water and the carbines, they would be free for the long ride, they didn't know how long they would be gone.
The first day they went toward the north, along the path that went to X'ho'otsuuk and beyond, they could take the short cuts that led to the towns to the east and south of Zaci. It was a normal day and when they were tired, they made camp for the night in small clearing sheltered by and improvised roof of branches of palm leaves. They built a fire to prepare a hot drink and to heat up the " x-cacatokab" that would give sustenance to the meal. During the day, even though, they had been alert, they hadn't been able to get any piece of meat worth while. Besides, they were carrying dry meat and salted venison.
The next night Silvano and Jose and their companions stayed at a beautiful lagoon, the same where Jose and Silvano's son, Jacinto, would rest, years later, on their way home after finding in X-ho'otsuuk, the first teacher of the zone.
They enjoyed naked a refreshing bath, after taking the burdens off their beasts, giving them water, and tying them up to graze on green leaves.
Compadre -said Jose- shall we go to X-hootsuuk or shall we keep going North to the towns near Chemax.-
- We'll keep going North and later East, I think in two or three days more, somebody will be able to tell us if the disease is here or not- .
- Ok. And if the answer is no, we'd better go directly to the coast looking for the people who have been working near there. They should know.
When the two máasewáalo’ob arrived at a small community situated several leagues from Chemax, the terror that the inhabitants had been victims of the disease invaded them.
-Shall we go in or wait for someone to come out?- said Jose.
- This is what we came for compadre. Here they should be able to give us news of the disease. Let's go in-.
A middle-aged máasewáal crossed their path when they entered the clearing where the huts stood.
-Good morning-answered the other.
-We are passing through here - trying to find something out for our "baatab"-- said Silvano.
-We got news- he continued -that there is smallpox in these parts and many must have died-
--There is no disease here --he answered-- would you like to come in and rest?--
. Jose and Silvano, taking off their hats, entered the humble hut. The animals were tied up outside under a nearby tree.
Silvano sat next to his friend on a big rock ready to drink a refreshing
"pozole". He consumed the content of the jicara in a few gulps, and then he rinsed it out with water from his gourd. Another couple of sips of water to rinse his mouth and he spoke to the máasewáal who lived there .
-How far is it to the closest town?--.
-Far, very far, more or less 10 or 12 leagues to the West and to the North. There are several ranches on the way where we trade with Chemax, sometimes we go to Kanxoc or Chichimilá, almost never to Zaci .
-Are you going there?--.
- No, we came from the south, looking for news. They said that there is small pox in this area, that many people are dying-we want to know the truth so we can prepare-.
-That's what people are saying, now that the disease has broken out, and many have died, we are afraid to go . Are you planning to go on?-.
-They said that the disease came with the soldiers that a general brought from far away, but we don't know if it is true small pox?. --
-That's what they say--
-We have to keep going until we find out-
-Why don't you wait here -my brother should be back soon -he took some quintales of chicle to sell at the chicle center. He should bring news-
-When is he coming back?
- In two or three days, he's been gone a week now. You can wait here, you can sleep in the shed.
Silvano exchanged a glance with his compadre and answered , We'll stay, if it isn't any bother-
Two days later, the traveler arrived. In the chicle center they informed him that the people were being vaccinated against the disease because it had broken out in Zaci.
At this news, Silvano and his companion began the journey back to their village.
There wasn't any reason to go on. The trip was fast with one night's rest.
When he arrived at Tok'tuniich, they went to the house of the "baatab" who they reported everything.
-We will take precautions Silvano, during two or three months we will avoid traveling to those parts.
- It would be better to wait until we are sure that the danger has passed.
Silvano went to his house when his wife and children were already waiting for him. The little Jacinto now six years old, hugged his legs to welcome him.
TRIP TO BELIZE
Jacinto was 16 years old when he left Tok'tuniich for the first time without his family -until then his excursions had been with them. They visited chuum-poom, once a year, at the time the religious feast of the village or also to "X-ho´otsu´uk o Señor" at the north west and west to buy goods or to visit the "J-meen". They were two days journey by horse, the whole family went, his parents, his grandmother, his older sister Maria and his little sister Leonor. The women sitting on the mules, the men on horse or on foot. They left at the crack of dawn and stopped in x-pich, a small ranch situated half way between Tok´tuunich and Chuum-Poom. They were 9 leagues along a rocky path that crossed dense jungle. Mainly clumps of Ramon tree and shade trees. They left from X-pich the next day, the jungle was dense and they went by the edge of two savannas a half league each one, in the evening of the second day of the trip two very long days or three normal days. Usually only Jacinto and his father went. They bought machetes, hatchets, cloth, colored thread and ribbons, that his mother used to make clothes. The sandals and hats were things that they couldn’t overlook in the purchases, and most important was the Santa Maria rebus for Jacinto´s mother when the harvest was good and if there were skins to sell or trade.
In X-ho´tsuuk, Jacinto´s father didn´t drink alcohol, because he had come to buy supplies. The "x-taabentun" wasn’t left out however; when they started the trip back, a couple of drinks were customary to stimulate the trip. They bought metal caps, gunpowder, ammunition and their cartridges and at least a load of patents for the carbine. These trips and when he went out to the milpa or hunting were the only times that he left the village.
One night, Jacinto´s godfather visited the house under the light of a full moon.
I have to go to the other side of the big river, beyond Bakhalal. Do you remember the last time when we went to visit my father more than five years have gone by. I don’t even know if he is alive and I want to see him again before he dies.
I think he’s more than 80 years old, the other time I saw him, he still cut the grass, his sight was bad, that’s why I want to see him again, it might be the last time I do.
Jacinto´s father answered.
To see your father again, the only way you can do it is to go visit him, at his age, every year could be his last. besides, I remember his promise not to come back to this side of the river. you must remember better than me his words and talking with him, will freshen the memories of everything that happened when they had to flee to the other side of the river, besides at his death you will be the head of the family here and he will tell you what he wants done with his belongings. I won’t be able to go with you -he went on.-I have many commitments, but why don’t you take your godson-Jacinto is almost a man, he has to start to walk on his own and he could start by visiting the family on the other side. The Ek aren’t just a few on the other side of the lagoon of Bak´halal. Jacinto is strong, he could accompany you in your long trip. Besides it’s time that he began to feel like a man. Let’s use this trip.
Ok compadre-answered the godfather I will take my godson and we will visit the family. I plan to leave three days from now.
Tell my " comadre " to prepare his clothes and his supplies and tell him to sharpen his machete and get ready.
It was the year 1926 when Jacinto Ek and Jose Cruz his godfather decided to make the trip of almost 80 leagues from Tok´tuunich to Belize.
The route to Belize was along the old paths that old ones had made in the pilgrimage to the south escaping from the white man . These paths and roads crossed the narrow way of the railroad from Decauville that from Vigia Chico, in the Bay of the Ascension, served to communicate the coast with Chan Santa Cruz, now Carrillo Puerto. The days of 8 to 10 leagues would let them arrive at the northern extreme of the lagoon of Bak´halal. Following a path along the western edge or sailing in canoes they could get to the river Chaak and by it to Rio Hondo.
Up river, the canoe would take them to the community of Pukté, passing many chicle workers and lumber camps, on each bank of the river from the village of Pukté, another day would bring them to San Francisco.
When the day came, they left the village very early, before dawn, Jose Chuc was already at the door with mule loaded down.
Jacinto could hardly eat, he felt his heart beating hard in his chest. The night had seemed endless, he hardly had slept at all thinking about the trip and the place he would see many times, he had heard the adults talking about the big lagoor of Bak´halal, with many colors of water and of how clean and clear it was. He had heard how the grandfathers of his parents had fought in the Great War against the tsuuloob, of the fort that was nearly destroyed and how it took the white people a long time to recover it. That and many tales of the old ones were passing through his imagination.
He picked up his pack, his bag and his "chuuj" and his newly sharpened machete and put them on the mule as his father had told him to.
The morning was partly cloudy the sun hadn’t clearly visible in first light of dawn until they were half a leagues from Tok´tuunich. The dew on the leaves dampened their pants and shirts from time to time.
The whole forest was music to his ears the "chichimbakal " the "x-kook" the "tsuulsay" the " chakts´fits´ib" let their gay and varied chirps be heard. Gradually the jungle was full of them; the "chachalacas" started their noisy chatter. Their gabbing sometimes surprised from a few meters away.
When the first rays of the sun began to filter through the branches of the trees, the path was becoming less clean, often they had to jump over a small trunk or cut some branches with their machetes: it had been a while now since they left behind the path or cut-offs that led to the milpas of the town. The quick and firm pace took them through the jungle, the tree were thick, Ramon trees " pukthes" " ja´abino´ob", "chacche", "zapotes", "moras" "rowood","granadillos". palms inter mixed with some dominating the others. The mosquitoes didn’t bother them much although they didn’t leave the mules in peace. Jacinto didn’t feel tired. his body was as light as a feather in the wind. The cool morning air caressed his face and arms and only after chopping away some branches with his machete did he begin to feel a little hot and sweaty.
His feet automatically adjusted to the irregularities of the rocky terrain, Jose Chuc went ahead of the mule and behind her, Jacinto brought up the rear. The only baggage that each one carried was a small "sabucan" hanging from his shoulder. In his right hand, Jose carried his shut gun, although he frequently changed it to his left hand and rested it on his shoulder. When the sun had gone a third of its course they had covered almost three leagues.
José Chuc was alert in his path and watched the trees. He was almost five "mecates" ahead and told Jacinto to catch up. The first "K’aambul" o "Tu ul", that appeared would be their lunch, soon, a shot; Jacinto hurried to catch up and caught sight of his godfather disappear into the long grass, in a moment he came out with a "K’aambul" and put it "jiich" over the mule and said:
-Jacinto, I know you’re tired, but we have to go as far as possible before the sun gets hot, then we will rest, we’ll clean the "Kaambul" and we’ll make it in "piib", it will be our meal for today.
Godfather – answered Jacinto – I’m not tired, if you want we can go on.
Well- replied José – we’ll rest further on ahead, if I’m not wrong we are near a cenote, there we’ll cool off, drink water and eat, and in the afternoon we can have a bath. We have to rest to be ready because the days travel is long. It is almost 40 leagues to Rio Hondo and it will take us counting the layover in the villages that we pass along the way.
Jacinto-asked-how many times have you gone to Belize? Is the lagoon of Bak’halal pretty? Is it true that in Belize there are people black as night and some of them are giants?
José was pushing 50, but not a gray hair or a wrinkled gave away his age, he was short like his blood brothers and had the strength of a young man. This was his fifth trip to the South. His first has been when he was just twelve along with his parents and his brothers.
Afterward, his father, worn out by so many struggles with the white men had decided to abandon the land of his ancestors and migrate beyond the Great River to where the tsulo’ob wouldn’t attack them.
Many of his companions had done it and some had come back to tell them about the security and peace to work and live in. His brothers had fallen one by one the terrible encounters of the "caste war". José Cruz’s father only wanted peace and quiet and bread for his children. The previous trip had let him learn the paths of the jungle and avoid contact with the white me who exploited the lumber and chicle. Only diseases, mainly the ke’el had slowed them down . His blood brothers, those who had accepted the dealings with the "white men" and had intermixed with them paid a high toll to the gonorrhea, not a few of them had the permanent scar of the "chicle-tree fly". The money they received at the end of the season was spent in getting drunk and smoking marijuana at Payo Obispo. Jose knew about it and he feared and hated it and avoided them. Jose was thinking about this and many other things as he tied the kambul to his mule. He could guess the emotions and feelings of his godson, he reminded him of this first trip with his father and mother and sister and brothers, he, Jose Cruz, might be visiting them for the last time.
-Your questions are many and the trip is long- answered Jose, and started off his march, followed by his mule and godson. Jose felt his legs slightly tired when the irregularities of the path or a fallen tree made him jump over. His firm and rhythmic pace showed that he was used to long hikes. He walked to and from the milpa everyday. Jacinto felt tired from the hike too and although he was strong and long walks were also a routine, his resistance was not as that of his godfather’s. However his desire to advance more and more didn’t let him ask for rest. They had walked more than a league from the place they had killed the pheasant. Many animals had been in their line of fire: the t’ul, the t’suuk, the tzo, the chachalacas, the tsuutsuyo’ob, the sakpakalo’ob and even a yu’uk that ran like a lightning after its surprise.
Jose hadn’t shot them because he only killed for food. The shouts of the sarahuatos and the chirps of the K’oocha’ob and the k’ili’ob, the strident noises of the baach that sounded the alarm for the rest of the jungle dwellers. Everything was like music for Jacinto.
Jose stopped for an instant at the foot of a tree, a "pi’ich", so broad that its branches covered more than a mecate. He recognized it by the mark in its trunk. He drew his machete, and going into the vegetation, chopping the branches, he said to Jacinto.Two mecates to the North, we will find the cenote, hang on tight to the mule, so that it doesn't get her rope twisted up in the bushes.
As they got closer the smell of fresh grass and the humidity stimulated their desire to drink water, they descended until they were in sight of a cenote that had traces of a centuries old cut stone stairway. One part still had its dome and ancient stalagmites pending from it. The Big ceiba tree around the cenote giving shade where their ancestor had quenched their thirst, it was there that Jacinto and Jose drank.
Is this the only cenote ? –asked Jacinto-
No to the east going toward the sea there are three more, towards the South we will not find anymore cenotes like this we will find the great lagoon of Bak’halal, but we won’t be without water because the land is rich in lagoons and water holes. The stone were cut by the old ones and not far from these waters there are "kuuyo’ob" and big stone buildings that they had abandoned before the tsu’uloob came, but these places are sacred and the spirits that inhabit them, the "aluxo’ob" live in them.
Jacinto listened to his godfather’s words with great respect. Something that he couldn’t understand makes him afraid, as if the inheritance of his blood, remembered the splendor of his ancestors.
José Chuc’s words took him out of his deep thoughts –gather woods to make a fire, while I unload the mule–
When Jacinto returned, the mules had been unloaded, and the feathers of the pheasant were scattered around; carefully he put the dry wood between three rocks, his godfather gave him a "jirich-hoop" his grandfather was skillful to light a fire with a flint- stone. Soon the dry leaves were burning, and with the vigor blowing of Jacinto the wood caught fire. José cut sticks, assembled quickly a tripod and a grill. In a few more minutes, patiently both of them turned the different parts of the pheasant over and heated their tortillas. It was a tasty meal, spiced with salt and chile.
Livening the bonfire with a lot of wood, they made their "beds" a few feet away.
Not only would the fire take away the cold of the night, but also it would keep the animals away.
-I was your age- José started to talk – when I traveled these roads; - then I was more or less as old as you are now. My grandfather was killed in X-hotoosuuk, when the people from Zaci took and burned our village in revenge because they had been expelled so many times. My father, swore, as did the others, to avenge the death of his people and from then on there was no rest for us. I remember the long walks and the long months when only the old people and the handicapped, women and children worked in the milpa. My father was almost always with us to cut down the milpa. Twice he was wounded by bullets, and only God knows why he didn't die; only his faiths and the herbs of the "J’men" sustained him. There were many years of struggle, there were few families that hadn’t lost all the men who could use a machete and a rifle. My father, as did many others, convinced them that the struggle was useless. Hungry and unarmed, were abandoning the town which they had won with their blood. We thought that on the other side of the Bak’halal lagoon, beyond the river, we could live and work in peace. They were many that traveled this road and many that never made it to their destination. My father made it, and since then he has lived there.He pointed his finger to the south. Jacinto was listening silently and respectfully; his lips didn’t open, not even once to interrupt the story of his godfather until he paused, José Chuc, asked Jacinto again,- Is it true that the land where we are going doesn’t belong to us and the tsu’uloob have blue eyes and hair like the sun?-Is it true?- insisted Jacinto- and that black people work for them?. . . and our people who live there. . . are they like us?.-
José thought about his answer, slowly he began his story again,
–You know that where we are going is called Belize, also British Honduras, but any name that they called it will not make us forget that it is the land of our ancestors, even beyond the three big rivers that go from west to east. To where we could never go – He pointed to the southwest horizon – the land belonged to the ancient Mayas and we are their descendants.
His eyes shined with pride. The men who enslaved us gave the land to the English to exploit precious woods, lumber and the resin from the trees and the "ink", but for us it is the same land that we live in.
After a brief pause, he continued- the English are taller than we are and their eyes are blue or green, mostly. They have all the important jobs and they are the owners of all the land and everything and they live off the work of the other people.
There are many blacks. They are called that because their skin is blacker than you can imagine, they are tall, much taller than we are, they have very strange customs and speak a language that we don’t understand. But they are like us because they have to work hard and they are very poor and don’t have anything, but we are free and they aren’t. When they don’t obey the white man’s law, they get put in jail and are hanged in a thing called the gallows. It is not the same with us, and although the English helped us by selling us weapons when the grandfathers rebelled, it is also true that they won because they took over those lands. Besides we have somewhere to go if we aren’t happy. But the blacks don’t. They said their country is very far, so far that we can’t measure it in leagues, and it is on the other side of the ocean, where the sun rises. They can’t go back to their home, and they have accepted it.
Jose stopped telling his story for a few moments.
Our grandfathers and our fathers fought for our freedom, and even though they almost wiped us out, we are free, we have our chiefs and our laws; our priests teach us the religion of our ancestors. Never forget our customs, Jacinto, they are the customs of our fathers and our ancestors.
The darkness was complete, only the light of the bonfire broke it. The "Kookayo’ob" chirped in the blackness of the bush, the buzzing of a bat passing near interrupted the noises of the jungle. The strident cries of the "sarahuatos" and the roar of the tiger were overcome by the sleepiness of Jacinto. Soon he was fast asleep.
He slept so soundly that he didn’t notice that his godfather had fed the fire and removed the rest of the pheasant from the fire so it wouldn’t burn, and had laid down on the palm branches, with his machete ready and his gun shot loaded at his side in case of any emergency. Soon they were both soundly asleep. At dawn, they would continue their march to the south toward Belize.
Jacinto and his godfather’s second day’s walk was six leagues. From dawn, with the sun to their left, until the evening, when it set, the two moved rapidly ahead over the old path.
They only stopped at midday while the sun passed over head, so not to feel its rigor as intensely. A herd of wild pigs made them stop, while it crossed the path a little while before the end of their day. With a sure shot, Jose bagged a beautiful specimen for that night’s meal, they prepared parts of the meat to roast and salt. So they would be sure to have meat for the whole journey.
On the third day, they crossed the road from Chan Santa Cruz to the Bay of Ascención, detouring slightly to the west to avoid the Savannah whose high grass and swamps would make the march difficult, they continued to the South.
On the fifth day of their journey, they arrived to the surroundings of the lagoon of Bak halal , There Jose would decide whether to continue on foot or by canoe along the east shore of the great lagoon, always toward the South, to Rio Hondo, it was a two day journey avoiding the chicle swamps.
The rainy season was over and the bright sun shone in its splendor. Jose decided to continue on foot after spending the night on the outskirts of a small ranch where a family gave them hospitality
Jacinto’s .amazement was limitless. The immense lagoon with its calm, multicolored water: blue, green and sometimes white, filled his senses. They refreshed their bodies near its shore. Jacinto ventured only about a mecate since he wasn’t an experienced swimmer. Jose Chuc watched calmly, looking at the horizon, letting his thoughts drift back to the first time his eyes had seen this beauty. He knew that his ancestors had lived next to these waters. A silent witnesses, many "Kuuyo’ob" were scattered along its shores especially near the fort of Bak halal. That was their day of rest. At noon they filled themselves with tortillas, beans, scrambled eggs, without missing the beaten red chile.
They rested all afternoon and at night, when the sun went down, they ate "pibinal", atole made with fresh corn and "is-waaj". The supplies were prepared to continue the trip in the morning. That night, when the moon came out, Jacinto stayed at the edge of the lagoon for a long time letting his imagination wander freely into the past and the future.
The sixteen leagues of the road along the lagoon form North to South were covered in two long days. Jacinto looked at the fort of Bak halal from the top of a ramon tree, in a small hill at the edge of the lake.
He knew the story of how his ancestors had fought in the stone fort, the same one he was looking at, as if the years had not touched it.
Jose didn’t want to go into the town of Bakhalal. So they went around it on the west side, going south one more day until they reached the Rio Hondo. Toward the East the Chac star guided them to a ranch near the lagoon of Waay-piix, Jose negotiated with the owner of a canoe, and he took them up river. On three occasions, they hid in the big three roots to let a small motor boat, that maintain the communication in the river, pass. Jacinto looked at them in amazement. The noise of their motor was a new sound to his ears. They overnight at the banks of the river during the day to rest and eat. At night, they would talk about the events of the journey, at the heat of the fire. Animals that Jacinto had never seen before received their names. What amazed him the most were the manatees. He was surprised by their size and their agility. More than once they discovered a tiger or a deer drinking at the water edge.
Flowers of shapes and sizes he had never seen delighted his senses, but what
he admired the most was the majestic tranquility of the river, whose bottom was
not visible. He was afraid to swim in it. Turtles and aquatic birds came out in
each curve of the river. Jose didn’t have difficulties getting a deer, or
pheasant, turkey or Jaleb, or pizote. Jacinto admired the abundance of animals.
He had never imagined anything like this.
At dawn, they continued up river, toward the Southeast rowing vigorously.
It was past noon when they abandoned the canoe, hiding it among the tree roots, and tying it. They took the path that led to San Francisco.
A brief journey, Jose and Jacinto arrived at the village of San Francisco located a league South of Rio Hondo. When they arrived at the outskirts of the town, Jacinto tried to imagine that it would be different, however with the exception that the vegetation was a little higher, the jungle reminded him of his homelands.
On the paths near the town they found the first villagers returning from their work in the milpas.
His godfather exchange greetings with them asking them about his father. The first news was to his liking. Now he knew that his father was alive and in good health. Jacinto noticed his godfather’s happiness and rejoiced in it. It didn’t take them long to arrive at the threshold of the village and when he saw it, Jacinto understood that the inhabitants were his same people.
He observed the yard, the walls, the house of palm leaves, sticks and mud, and arriving at the center of the village, he was surprised to see the women talking around the well. They interrupted themselves briefly to answer the courteous greeting that Jose and Jacinto directed to them as they passed close to them.
With firm steps, both went toward one of the yards located on the west side of the square, surely, thought Jacinto, it would be Jose’s father’s house. The surprise caused by their arrival, was soon erased by the happy reception of the old man and his family. In the face of the old man whose eyes shone with tears of immense emotion was apparent, Jacinto was moved by this emotional escene and thought of his parents who were so far from there, at his home in Tok’tuunich. In a few minutes the women of the house entered in feverish activity. They prepared the meal, while one of he women milled the fresh nixtamal, with a hand mill stone.
In less than an hour, the visitors had been refreshed by a warm bath and were sitting around a small table in the kitchen accompanied by the old man. When the meal was served, they devoured it hungrily, the old man watched them calmly.
Don Felipe Chuc, over 80 years of age lived a quiet life in the town of San Francisco. The main trunk of the family had lived comfortably with one of his daughters, and his son-in-law and the young widow of one of his grandsons who he had put under his protection two years before because he was left alone with two small children. His many relatives, who at harvest time gave the old man corn, beans, and money to help him until next harvest, supported him. Don Felipe wasn’t completely inactive and in his yard he took good care of the animals, the fruit trees and his seedlings of tomatoes, chile and other crops. This didn’t just keep him busy, but it also helped him in the family income.
In his work mainly the young girl who had the bad luck to be widowed two years before helped him. A "four nostrils" snake had bitten her husband. Don Felipe was a member of the village council of San Francisco, he enjoyed the respect and affection of the others and his yard was a place of constant hospitality for travelers.
During dinner they talked about everything they had to talk about. Jacinto listened attentively, the only thing that distracted him was the young girl with her beauty, more than once their eyes met and she smiled sweetly and discreetly. He felt sympathy and pity for her when he know that he was a widow. After dinner they went to sit in the doorway of the house in front of the square sitting on chairs made of deer hide. A gentle breesze cooled the evening while the conversation continued without interruption between Don Felipe and Jacinto’s grandfather. Lola, the young ma’asewaal, served hot coffee in white jícaras. Jacinto felt a little tired, slumber was dominating him as the first star appeared in the sky. When he thought that he thought that he could not hold out any longer, his godfather got up to go in to sleep. He said good night to the old man and a few minutes later he was sleeping soundly in the back hut, which had been prepared for him. He slept as he hadn’t slept for a long time.
A light noise interrupted the sound sleep of the visitors. It was just beginning to get light when the aged father of Jose Chuc gently pushed the door from the outside, entering the hut where his son and the young Jacinto slept. When he saw that the hammocks were moving the old man spoke –Good morning son, good morning Jacinto. Did you sleep well? Excuse me for waking you up, but after you went to sleep last night, some friends and family came to invite you on a "p’uuj" that they have organized in your honor. I did not want to wake you. I can understand you needed to rest so I accepted for you. I hope you won’t let me down. Their intention should be a motive of satisfaction for all of us.
Jacinto became alert as he listened to the old man. He really felt like sleeping more, but he understood that his godfather couldn’t refuse, so he got up quickly to fold up his hammock and get himself ready. His godfather spoke to his aged father.
It will be a real pleasure to take part in the "p’uuj", it will be dawn soon, we have to hurry.
In the main house breakfast was being quickly prepared, a few minutes later they were enjoying a hot meal. Then they prepared the shotguns and the gourds for water, the "mecapales" and the "pozole" for the battue, which could go on until midday. Lola gave Jacinto a "sabucan" with supplies and with a kind smile, she wished him good luck in the hunt.
The square of San Francisco was in a row before dawn. The beaters had already gathered when the morning star rose to top of the trees and dawn break. The dogs were restless and barked nervously as if they felt the adventure.
The aged Don Felipe went with his son and Jacinto to where the group was waiting for them. After the old man wished them good luck the group left in good spirits. An hour later the straight line of hunters and the "malixo’ob" moved rapidly away from the village toward the Southwest to a clump of ramon trees just a league away where there was an abundance of deer, wild pigs, pheasants and turkeys, that would soon be prey for the shooters. The march went quickly and quietly, interrupted only by some funny story of things that had happened in other occasions. Jose and Jacinto could hear some of the anecdotes, flavored with good humor and wit, and made them chuckle.
When the rays of the sun filtered through the thick foliage, the rhythm of the march was reduced. Soon the chief of the beaters stopped and gave the instructions signaling with his hands the way that the beaters should go and the area that they should cover. A little less than half of the group went into the ramon forest, each one calling the dogs, that followed them barking loudly. The men tried to keep the dogs quiet threatening and scolding them. A few seconds later the group of shooters entered into action, when they no longer heard the march of the beaters. Without wasting any time, they advanced toward the South posting themselves in places previously assigned by the beat leader, where they will receive the animals. Jacinto and Jose were given the best places since they were the guests. They placed themselves at a distance of 5 mecates from one another. In less than half an hour everything was ready for the battue.
Jacinto was used to this, he squatted, behind the trunk of a beautiful "chakaj" tree, cleaned his gunshot and after preparing he loaded it with a 5 deep.
He looked carefully around him recognizing every detail and getting oriented. He imitated a partridge. He whistled to the east, when he received an answer, he whistled to the west. He kept absolute silence and quiet and straining his ears, he tried to listen for the shouts of the beaters and the barks of the dogs in the distance. Meanwhile in his mind, he went over that things that had happened since he left his village Tok’tuunich. He imagined that he was in the woods around his village he observed the vegetation and mentally compared the songs of the birds, the chatter and the strident noises of the parrots. Suddenly all the creatures were silent as he heard far off, the clamor of the beaters extending through the south-east side.
For an instant the imagine of Lola crossed his mind, surprising him extraordinarily.
The barking of the dogs was getting louder, on and off, as did the shouts of the beaters, it seemed like they were going directly toward the middle of the line precisely where Jacinto and his godfather were. Then the clamor pointed toward the east, he wasn’t too happy about that because the sunlight would be directly in his eyes. He though that if an animal came that way, he would have a hard time aiming at it. The noise was coming toward them again. There wasn't any doubt, and calculating the distance it could be more than 10 or 15 mecates from them. Then Jacinto the loud flapping of wings over the branches of the tall trees from the noise he figured that it was a flock of peasants. He tried to distinguish among the high vegetation some siluette but he didn’t see anything. A few second later, he heard 5 shots fired almost simultaneously, with tensed nerves he was scrutinizing the ramon forest, when he saw a "habente", coming directly toward him, but still out of range of his shot-gun habente. He cocked his gun, but the deer detoured toward the east, and as he had feared, leaving him with the sun in his eyes. The shot from his godfather’s rifle and the sound of the animal thrashing in the brush, let him know the animal didn’t get through the line of shooters. Instants later, shots more or less nearby, guaranteed that the "beating" had been a success.
He hadn’t had an opportunity and was a little disillusioned, when the sound of flapping wings made him look up, where he could distinguish of beautiful "K’aambul". Carefully he aimed and fired. The animal fell to the ground. Jacinto breathed deeply with satisfaction at having bagged something. After a few minutes more of waiting, he realized the "beating" was over. Soon everybody was gathering, bringing the game animal two deer, seven peasants, one (tejón) and three wild pigs were the morning’s booty.
JACINTO AND LOLA
Before noon, the hunters were back in San Francisco with their loot, which was taken to the "Ripio" of the old Chuc. Some men cut up the pieces others brought the firewood, the stones and dug the holes to make the "piib". In less than an hour, it was all buried and cooking, and except for one man who stayed to look after the cooking, the hunters went to their homes to rest. The piib would be taken out in late afternoon, and the smoking delicious smelling meat would be shared equally among the participants.
Jacinto took a bucket and went to the well. From faraway in the light of the declining sun, he could see the silhouette of Lola at the spring where she was filling her clay pitcher. He hurried to get there. When she started to draw up the water and as she pulled on the rope, Jacinto put his bucket down. He felt his heart beat wildly.
They hadn’t said a word to each other all day. Then Lola spoke to Jacinto
-Did you have any luck in the "puuj"?
-I only killed a "K’aambul" I almost had a chance with a deer, any way the "puuj" was a success and we got a lot of animals.
-I saw them, when you arrived- interrupted Lola, then she went on –Tonight we’ll eat venison-thanks-she said smiling as she filled her water pitcher, and walked away gracefully carrying the pitcher on her hip.
Jacinto didn’t answer, and didn’t move for a while watching her walk toward the house. His heartbeat slowed quickly, as he filled his buckets and went to the house to take his bath.
While he was savoring the venison broth, Jacinto didn’t resist the temptation to look at the young girl. He blushed inside when their eyes met. He remembered that in his village, his young friends make jokes about his shyness with the girls. Until now, he had never felt attracted to any girl.
Since the young maasewaal girl, was older than he was, he saw her as out of his reach. Never had he felt anything disagreeable and lovely at the same time. His manly instinct, at its peak of development, made him admire the women. He enjoyed her nice, graceful smiles, her black, black hair the tone of her smooth skin, the firmness of her breast, and the sensually of her brown arms. The second night they hardly spoke. In the intimacy of the hut, while everyone was asleep, the young boy daydreamed, thinking about the beauty and loveliness of Lola, the young widow.
From the third day, Jacinto entertained himself visiting family, distant relatives now, descendants of the Eks who migrated to this zone in the last century after the Caste War. However, he didn’t desire anything more than company of Lola who in a few days had noticed how attractive she was to Jacinto. Her instinct, asleep since she was widowed, woke up at the innocent thirst of the young boy, and she desired his company as well.
She was ashamed of herself for her desire but her hot, young blood drove her toward the young man without remedy.
There were unforgettable days for Jacinto. He enjoyed them, as he never had, and not surprisingly, what he enjoyed the most was his relation with the young lady.
He feared the moment of his departure and when his godfather made commentaries with respect to the preparations for the trip, he felt a sharp pain in his chest.
A few days before, Jacinto was staring at the horizon when Lola surprised him at sundown, when the breezes began to blow off the Caribbean.
-Jacinto you are sad - as I am for your return to your home. I know that we will never see each other again, and that it won’t be long before you forget about me and about our days together. - The young man felt a knot in his throat that didn’t let him answer for a few seconds.
-Tell me- He finally answered- Why should I go, why shouldn’t I stay and be happy with you? - I thought it would be hard to say, I don’t want to leave you even though I know that I don’t have any right to stay with you. I don’t want to leave you alone and I feel very sad that I am not older so I could tell my father what I want- The boy stuttered slightly. The indian girl put her hand softly on the boy’s lips, to made him be silent, she put her other hand on his arm, tenderly pressing it as she interrupted him.
-Stop! You will make our separation more painful. You will forget me because you will find another woman who will be yours forever. As for me, I will never find anyone to love me like you do. You have brought me back to life. You woke me up from a dark nightmare in which I have lived since I became a widow. I will never forget you, even though we will never see each other again.
-I won’t go – protested the boy- I will speak to my godfather and if he tries to make me go back, I will tell your grandfather.
-You will go – said Lola-That’s the way it should be-
Jose Chuc’s arrival interrupted the dialogue. A painful silence was apparent as they separated discreetly.
That night, after dinner, Lola spoke to him at the first opportunity.
-Before you go to sleep, we will meet next to the ceibo, wait for me when your godfather is sleeping-
Jacinto didn’t answer,his heart was beating, too fast.
He laid down as if to sleep. He felt the time pass slowly as he waited for his godfather to fall asleep. When he was sure he was sleeping, he silently slipped out of the house, and went straight to the back of the patio.
There at the foot of the ceibo, Lola was waiting for him.
When he saw her figure in the half light, Jacinto could hardly move.
The young indian took the boy’s hands within hers and placed them on her breast. Jacinto put his forehead on her head as she let her soft tears slip onto his young shoulders.
Silent moments passed until Lola whispered to the boy.
-Hold me !, hold me ! –
THE RETURN FROM BELIZE
Jacinto didn’t remember the trip back to Tok’tuunich. Those days of crossing through the jungle passed vaguely in his imagination not even the sights around Baakhalal left clear memory. He vaguely remembered his godfather insisting that he eat, he felt sick. The memory of Lola didn’t leave his mind and in his dreams, with feverish excitement, he felt her in his arms as he did that night, before they left.
When they got to their village, everything seemed different. When he was leaving for Belize, he imagined that his return would be big moments for him. But it didn’t happen like that. He surprised even himself when he calmly answered the questions of his friends and talked about his adventures on that long trip.
Some nights later, at the door of his house, Jacinto’s father spoke to Jose about the trip.
-I see my son very changed he is sad since his return, tell me if I am wrong-
-You shouldn’t worry and if I am not mistaken- you should think about finding him a mate.
-Jacinto’s father looked questioningly at Jose- who answered the unasked question.
I think, compadre, that Jacinto needs a mate, he has left a part of his heart faraway, in the lands to the south, with a niece of mine. That’s why we came back a head of time, she wouldn’t be the right woman for him, she is older that he is, and she has two small children.
Do not be surprised by the way he is acting. If you understand me now you will agree that you must find him a mate as soon as possible.
Silvano meditated for a moment.
I guess you’re right, besides I was hardly his age when I married his mother. I will talk to him, the first chance I get.
Jacinto was already a man, in spite of his 16 years. His friends were mating, the boys at about sixteen according to the custom of their parents, and the girls at 13 or 14.
So it had been for two generations when they were almost wiped out by the war, the cruel jungles and the diseases. They had been decimated and reduced to a few hundred and the "nojoch" tata of chance Santa Cruz made them mate almost as children the peace, the isolation had work favorably they worked hard in the fields and when there was a good harvest, they had a good year. Chaak had been good to them for seven years in a row. The storage fat and the "primicias" and the feast were celebrated religiously.
The young maasewaal wasn’t surprised when his father told him that it was time to find a mate, and he had come to an agreement with the Báatab that his daughter Carmen would be Jacinto's woman. It was an honor for the family, it would be a motive of pride and satisfaction for both families.
Silvano Ek had visited the Báatab expressly in his house with his wife and offered in sign of friendship a bottle of Xt'aabentun which they drank from small white "jicaras" until they almost finished the bottle.
The Báatab was happy because the Eks were a well known family among them, were high ranking officials who had distinguished themselves in combat including a chief whose company fought at Tihosuco when the ts'uulo'ob took it for the last time before abandoning it . Many of them had settled on the other side of the Big River, preferring to flee than to be put down by the ts 'uulo' ob.
They agreed on the gifts to be given to the girl's family, and Jacinto would work 50 mecates for the Báatab as the price for the bride since Carmen was a healthy, beautiful and hardworking young girl, according to her father.
Carmen was little over thirteen years of age when her parent told her about the wedding and instructed her about the obligations and duties of matrimony.
Jacinto accepted without much interest because the memory of Lola was still fresh. But he was disciplined and obeyed the will of his parents.
The months passed quickly without and idea of exact time. He was occupied in the work for the Báatab and in the building of the house, along with his family. Soon it was harvest time, time for the wedding. The indian priest united them in matrimony. The wedding feast lasted all day with plenty of food and drink. Since the wedding of the Báatab's daughter was an event and friends came from the other villages.
On their wedding night, Jacinto thought of Lola. The bashfulness of his wife contrasted with his first love. But the youth of the couple made the memory of that adventure seemed confused and far away. In few days his interest was coming back and joy of life was invading him. Jacinto and Carmen became one more family in the small village of Tok'tuunich.
DAY OF THE HOLY CROSS
The heat inside the hut seemed infernal, although the sun hadn’t come out yet. The sky was covered with thick, low clouds that slowly moved toward the west. There was almost total calm. The branches and leaves were still. Even the animals were sleepy by the calm in hours, which normally were animated by the hustle and bustle of the village. In the woods around the town almost complete silence reigned. Some women, bare breasted and sweaty, were at the cenote pulling their pails to fill up their clay water-jugs.
Jacinto got up grouchily; he had slept badly, as had almost everybody else. He went out to the patio to a big "basin" where he poured a "jicara" of water over his head to refresh himself. Meanwhile, Carmen was sitting in the hammock, carefully combing her straight, black hair that flowed over her bare back and shoulders.
From outside Jacinto said, "we will begin to shuck the corn to seed the milpa, I’m sure it will rain and rain hard."
" Isn’t today, the day of the holy cross?" asked Carmen.
" Today is the day. Don’t you see the rain in the sky?"
" I hope to God it doesn’t fail because it would be a bad sign for our milpas, but I’m sure it won’t fail. So we should have enough corn ready to plant 100 mecates of "x-nuk-nal", we will also plant a little "x-mejen-nal" maybe 10 mecates."
While Jacinto thought out loud, Carmen livened the coals, which the night before she had buried in the ashes of the fire, using an old "huano" fan, yellow from the smoke of the firewood. She took the "comal" and after cleaning it, she took a "leek" with last night's tortillas out of a "sabucan", which was hanging from a rafter. In an old coffeepot, she put water to boil for the coffee. In a few minutes the breakfast of fried beans, coffee and plenty of toasted tortillas was ready.
Carmen and Jacinto sat around the small table. While she heated the tortillas they talked about the weather and the planting.
They spent the whole morning, removing the dry corn from the cobs. While the noon meal was cooking, they went outside to feel "the wind of the rain". In a few minutes, the wind turned into a heavy rainfall. It rained all afternoon and everyone was happy. Once more the tradition was fulfilled. It rained on the third of May.
In the following days, Jacinto and Carmen spend the whole day, almost from dawn until dusk, planting and planting. In less than a week the milpa was ready. There were good signs: it rained every afternoon, although not as intensely as it had done on the Day of the Holy Cross.
When they were finished, they took the meal for the "owners" of the fields, according to a tradition, which had to be kept so that their ancient gods would be generous and favorable. Corn atole, tortillas, "pozole", and chicken tamales were offered according to a rite transmitted repeatedly from generation to generation, from fathers to sons. After a few hours, the spirits of the milpa had tasted the essence; then the family ate the food.
A few days later, at the edge of the milpa, Jacinto contemplated the land and the burned rocks. He smelled the wet, humid odor, characteristic of the burned earth. He gave thanks to God for the planting and prayed silently that the milpa would yield a good harvest so they would have corn for the whole year.
Jacinto had planted 100 mecates of corn, and with the corn in each furrow at a half mecate, he planted seed of "x-mejen-kuum" and pumpkin.
Later on he would plant chile, sweet potatoes and beans in the appropriate places.
If the god Chaac were generous, he would have enough for them and feed for the animals; pigs, turkeys and hens, which gave them meat and eggs. With God's help, they could even trade with the merchants of X-ho´otsu´uk for cloth, thread, machetes, shells and other indispensable articles and utensils; and perhaps, ear-rings and gold coins as well.
That was the way it had been even before the "caste war" when they gave a share of their crop to their Lords and Priests. Later they traded their farm products with the English people in exchange for articles and guns and ammunition.
Jacinto cultivated his milpa with dedication and religious love with the help of his wife. Since his childhood, with his parents, his agile and callused hands had managed the planting tools and machetes, and had worked tirelessly during the planting and weeding seasons, as well as in the harvest and storage seasons when they removed the corn grain from the cobs for food or seeds. He did it as his parents had done and their parents before them since the most remote times, when nearby Koba and Tulu´um, now in ruins, shone in all their splendor. If there were enough corn for the whole year, there would be happiness, if not, there would be suffering.
From the moment of planting the seeds in the shallow soil, he was going to be aware of the rain, the sun and the plagues. He would watch the forest animals that were enemies of the milpa: the raccoon, the rat, the weasel, the wild pig and the insects which damaged his seedling, the "piich" the "kaaw" and the "kali" and other birds that destroyed the ears of corn.
For more than three moons, until they bent the corn stalks after picking the corn, their well being would depend on all of this. Everyday, not missing even one, he went over each piece and recorded mentally all the curves of the lot, each stone, and each furrow. Why not do so? He was dedicated to care for his land as a mother nourishes and cares for her little child.
From the corn, he would get the tortillas, "pozole", "atole" and seeds for the next planting. It was the basic staple of their every day life and it would feed all of their animals. And with corn, if the harvest was good, he could obtain after two or three long day’s trip to X-ho otsuuk, all the articles that he couldn’t produce. Holy waaj Ixi im. The holy corn bread, as his ancestors had called it for ages. And he, as his ancestors, would offer it as "first fruit" to the god of water and the winds. And to the one God of his adopted religion. His joy and his suffering depended on the corn. For this reason, what every milpa produced decided the future for the following year.
THE RURAL TEACHER
Jose Marcelo May was one of the first teachers to penetrate the jungles of Quintana Roo toward the end of the 1920’s, going in to the far away and isolated towns near the Caribbean coasts. Refuge of those Cupulo’ob, descendents of those who rebelled against the tsuuloob in the caste war in 1847. They fled to the eastern and southern jungles, to the south of the peninsula and even as far as the lagoon of Peten Itza, not far from the high mountains of Guatemala. Those Cupulo´ob who during almost 400 years had resisted, and were still resisting the white man. The presence of the teacher in those places initiated a cultural penetration whose effect was difficult to evaluate correctly at that time.
Jose Marcelo was ethnically mixed. His Mayan last name couldn’t hide the signs of his mixed blood. His height was notable among the indians and his dark green eyes, and beard betrayed the bastard origin of his Spanish blood.
His father, an old official of the National Guard, which during 50 years fought the southern rebels, descended from a family of the former slaveholders and conquerors of Valladolid. His mother, like all the young, pretty servants, had been forced to surrender her chastity to the "tsuul" owner of the hacienda. When he was born, since he was the bastard son of the owner, his mother’s family enjoyed certain privileges. His childhood years were spent in the hacienda with the children of the workers and it wasn’t until he was eight years old that he becomes aware of his bastard origin. His father sent his mother to serve in his ancestor’s house in Valladolid and a year later they went to live in the neighborhood of Sisal, to a small lot where they lived in a stone made house for six years.
When he finished primary school in his neighborhood school, his teachers recommended to his father that he should continue his education.
Overcoming his fears, Jose Marcelo studied to become a rural teacher. At that time, his relationship with his father was almost of limited courtesy. His father had never been affectionate and only had provided the indispensable. When he was nineteen years old, Jose Marcelo began the long process of paper work to get a job.
Thanks to the influence of his father and his father's family, he was finally assigned to the village of Tok tuunich, whose location on the map was not precise. He only knew that it was more or less a dozen leagues to the south east of the historic Tihosuco in the Maya zone.
In Merida, he presented himself at the Department of Education along with other young teachers. He remembered the words of the director at the end of the graduation ceremony.
"The government has chosen you to work in the Maya zone of Santa Cruz of Bravo. You will be the first teachers to penetrate these native groups, which until now, have remained at the margin of our cultural development. The importance of the fact of this penetration should not be ignored and you should be conscious of the great difficulties, the refusal and even aggressions, which you may be subjected to. You will be isolated for months, the ways of communication sometimes will be no more than paths that only the Mayas travel. Your classrooms will be rustic sheds, maybe a thatched roof hut. You will eat only what you can take with you, you will abstain from all the things which are now at your reach. Only your desire to do your job, your valor and your courage will make you successful. As a reward, we cannot offer anything more than the satisfaction of having done your duty".
As he returned to his beloved Zaci, the train slid slowly over the narrow rails. Jose Marcelo ruminated over the recent events and imagined his uncertain future. The whistle of the locomotive, arriving at some town, shook him out of his abstraction and sleep-producing effect of the wheels on the rails.
He opened his eyes and recognized the outskirts of Dzitas. When the train stopped, he observed the details. While some passengers got off, others got on. The sellers of snacks: tasty tamales; vaporcitos and strained corn, poolkano´ob and "x-maakulano´ob, fragrant jicaras of atole, coconut candy, mazepan; fruits: plums, saramuyos, and mangos, offered their wares noisily to the passengers and their relatives, who came to say good bye or to pick them up. These were his people, and he enjoyed them. In Dzitas, where the train stopped for quite a while, Jose Marcelo got off to rest from the trip. He recognized and greeted old friend who asked about his father.
He noticed a group of foreign tourists who were going to Chichen Itza by the old road. The heat was intense, so he found some one selling pozole. While the pretty mestiza prepared the refreshing drink, the admired the freshness of her dark skin, her black hair tied back at the neck, her beautiful slightly slanted eyes like his mother’s. How beautiful were this land and its women! How would it be in that world that was waiting for him beyond his dear Zaci?
The whistle blew several times to announce the departure of the train. With a friendly smile, he responded to the discreet look of the pretty mestiza and boarded the train again. He lay back on the seat expecting to doze until the next stop. The monotonous sound of the wheels on the rail soon produced the desired effect.
After the stopovers in several towns and the flag stops he finally arrived in Valladolid. The station was full of people, as has always been since the arrival of the first train to Valladolid, who had come to pick up their friends and family. The arrivals and departures were a daily social event, which all the social classes enjoyed. Adults, children people from the haciendas, merchants, politicians, housewives, young men and young ladies who used the occasion to talk to their suitors, the town’s people mixed to break the daily routine. The noise of the steam whistle of the train, the shouts of the sellers, the porters, and the children who offered their services to carry luggage, the bags, and other loads, the mules, the noise of the carts and any other sounds gave life and a distinct regional flavor to the station.
Jose Marcelo saw the figure of his mother waiting for him a few steps ahead. Her expression showed her anxiety to hear the details of the trip. Marcelo hugged her and kissed her affectionately putting his bag on the ground.
"They gave me the job, mother," he said before she asked him. "In a few days I must report to work; but first tell me how have you been? What’s new? What has been going on while I have been away? He picked up his bag and they mixed in with people going to the San Juan park, and from there to the west to the street leading to the convent of Sisal, near where they lived.
" Jose Marcelo' -said his mother, "Your father is expecting you. He sent a message that he wants to speak to you as soon as you arrive. It is very important, I have heard that he is very sick. I don’t know what to tell you since I haven’t seen him in a long time. But don’t forget that he is your father and you have an obligation."
" Don’t go on", answered the son, " you know I cannot forgive the way he has abandoned you all these years, and how you have had to work to support us; doing other people’s laundry, ironing, mopping floors and so many other thing that it is hard to forget. If I accepted his help, it is because there wasn’t any other way I could go to school. I don’t forget. Thank God I can support you now. You won’t go without anything."
"You are right, but I repeat, he is your father, you should respect him. "Do you want me to have peace? Go and see him".
Marcelo ruminated briefly, " I promise Mum," he answered.
That same night, Jose Marcelo went to his father’s old mansion. It had been four years since he had gone there.
He remembered that his mother took him there when he was still a child; and that from the door, he could see the spacious halls with their colonial archways. The grand ball room, the beautiful colonial patio, the old balconies with iron banisters, the black and white mosaics of the main hall. He remembered everything perfectly well.
When he arrived, the servant opened the door and led him to the bedroom where his old father was resting. Wasn’t there anybody else in the house?
The old officer of the National Guard rested in his hammock, which was hanging on one side of a wide colonial style bed, half covered by a large mosquito net. As Jose Marcelo entered, the old man opened his eyes, which he had slightly closed. Jose Marcelo was surprised by the paleness of his face and by his sad expression.
"Sit down on the edge of the bed, here, near me", indicated the old man, raising his hand to indicate the exact place.
"Surely your mother has told you I am very sick; the doctor has told me the truth, and I don’t think that I will live much longer. We need to talk, I don’t know if we will have another chance'. You know that for two years now, I have been living practically alone except for the servants. My wife has been dead for more than 20 years. About your two sisters, one died long time ago and the other one, is an old woman in a religious convent. You will understand my loneliness and that’s why I have called you. I have decided that this house will go to your sister. The hacienda that belonged to the whole family will be in your hands. I have made arrangements with my brothers and now it is registered in your name."
After a long pause, he continued "The hacienda is only a shadow of what it was in your grandparent’s time. Part of the house doesn’t have a roof, the chapel is falling apart, the corrals are destroyed, the old pump still works, but it needs to be fixed and the fields, the woods, the stables and the orchard are practically abandoned. Abandoned for years now; only your mother’s family still live there and they look after it. You are my son, you should keep up the old place ".
Jose Marcelo listened to his old father distantly. His weakness reflected in his face and the effort that he made to talk made Jose feel sympathetic. He couldn’t feel the resentment accumulated over the years, when he found out that he was a bastard son. A mixture of pity and respect invaded him. In silence he listened to the old man until fatigue and effort made him stop talking. After a long pause, he recovered his breath and continued.
"I know that you don’t feel any affection for me, perhaps you feel anger, and I have sensed that for years, in your eyes and in your attitude. You may be right; I don’t know. I only want to tell you that when you were born, your mother was a little more than a young girl and I was a lonely old man.
I am almost 85 years old. I feel like my time has come and whether you believe it, or not, I want to make amends as well as I can; the damage that I did to your mother, and I hope God will forgive my sins".
Marcelo remained silent. He never thought about interrupting the old man. After another long pause the old man continued. "There, on the dresser there is a box. Bring it to me, please."
Marcelo got up without saying a word. He picked up the box and put it in his father’s hands.
His father, with obvious difficulty opened it, and took a key out of it. He gave to his son as he said.
"Open the wardrobe", with an outstretched hand, he pointed to an old piece of furniture on the corner, "On the top shelf there are several boxes, take the little chest on the corner and bring it to me".
Marcelo obeyed. When he felt its weight he guessed its contents. He put it in his father’s extended hands, as his father indicated.
"Here", he said as he unlocked the box, "here you have what I have destined for you and your mother. It’s enough so that she won’t have financial problems, and so you can start to fix up the hacienda".
The old man showed him the contents of the safe-box: family jewels and antique coins of silver and gold.
"Dedicate yourself to the hacienda, build it up, make it what it once was with this inheritance, with your effort and your youth I am sure that you can do it".
Marcelo contemplated his father. He noticed that his hands were trembling at the effort he made to lift the box and Marcelo saw the anxiety in his expression
"Take it son, I know that you have scruples. I appreciate that and I can understand; after all I am your father. If you don’t want to take it, think of your mother then".
. Marcelo extended his hands and took the small safe box and put it on the edge of the bed when the trembling of the old man’s hand increased.
"You haven’t said a word since you came in my room".
"What else can I say, Sir, in a few words you have said everything. I don't have any right to judge you. Since I was a child, my mother also taught me that I should respect you. Only she can judge you and forgive what many would never forgive. Her life has always been lonely since no other man wanted to form a family with her. She was your property".
The old man’s eyes moistened to the point of tears. "-Will you do what I ask"-the old man interrupted.
"I will do it if it is your wish"
"What will you do about your career, I know that you have finished your studies , and I know you were a brilliant student. Your teachers, that I have spoken with, have told me."
Jose Marcelo wrinkled his brow slightly. Had he ever thought that his father cared about what he did?
"They had just given me my position. I have received the documents that commission me to the town of Tok´tuunich".
The old man’s eyes brightened.
"Do you plan to work in that place? Do you know what you are exposing yourself to? - You don’t have to. Now you can dedicate yourself to the hacienda".
" Teaching is my profession, I plan to dedicate myself to it. I will do my job, the first one I have been given".
"Jose Marcelo"- the old man broke in, "don’t rush off without thinking of what I have told you".
"I have thought it over now. I assure you I will do well".
"May God want you to come back soon, now if you want to go I won’t keep you any longer. I feel very tired. Come and see me whenever you want, don’t forget me".
The old man closed his eyes. The visit was over. Marcelo got up and went to the bedroom door carrying the little safe box under his arm.
On the way out, at a prudent distance he saw the old servant waiting. The young man spoke-"How long has he been like that?"
"More than two months. He is getting worse every day. He doesn’t get up anymore. He doesn’t want to eat. He has been asking us, or sending us to ask whether you had come home".
"And his sisters and the rest of his family?"
"They always come to see him but the only one he wanted to see was you. He was afraid that he wouldn't see you again".
In a few minutes, Jose Marcelo was leaving the old colonial mansion, walking toward his house in the neighborhood of Sisal. His mother was waiting for him anxiously.
"How is he?" she asked.
"Let me tell you", mama, let me tell you".
TRIP TO TOK’TUUNICH
He remembered the visit that he had made to his father the night before as he reviewed the list of materials and equipment that he had bought with the savings he had accumulated in four years working in the school store; as well as some basic supplies that would keep him for a short time: notebooks, pencils, fabric for a blackboard, basic school material, and even though he didn’t smoke, some packets of cigarettes to use to win some friends rather than for his own satisfaction. Everything was ready, the axe and machete were things that he could not go without.
The trip from Valladolid to Tihosuco would only be possible if he could join a caravan of merchants, which not too frequently traveled to the southern towns: Tixcacalcupul, Tepich and farther south to Tihosuco. He should be able to get there without problems. Beyond that point it would be an unknown.
He spent a week trying to get there, and finally the day came. The trip was two long day’s journeys and once in the town, in a rustic store, beside a ruin of a colonial house in front of a majestic convent that showed, as if time had not passed, the traces of the bloody encounters of the caste wars, the young man was talking with the storekeeper who had given him a place to stay since he arrived.
"Teacher: two men from Tok'tuunich arrived yesterday afternoon. They came in to buy supplies, and they told me that they were going back tomorrow morning.
If you would like to talk to them, although I don’t think it will do any good, you can find them in Don Pablo's house on the other side of the church, more or less two blocks on the road that goes south. Maybe you can convince them to take you to that blessed town, where I don’t think, as far as I know, any white man has ever gone. They are afraid that the southerners might kill them".
"In any case" -answered the teacher, "I will try, I don't imagine how I could get there unless I went with someone who knew the way". He said good bye to the storekeeper saying: "If it works out I will come for my things"
The teacher left the store quickly. He went around the church and with a quick walk he went toward where the storekeeper had told him.
When he arrived at the house, he saw the mules tied to two posts.
"Good morning, are you Don Pablo?" He spoke to who looked like he was, judging by his appearance and dress, the right person. Without waiting for an answer he went on. "I was told that I could find two people from Tok'tuunich here". -Inside the house he could see two indians whose features and manner of dress clearly revealed their identity. One was over fifty years old and the other more or less Marcelo's age.
Don Pablo with certain mistrust asked.
"What is it that you want?"
As the teacher entered the house, the young maasewaal directed a quick glance at him. In an instant he examined the new comer. He noticed the color of his eyes and his height. He was at least a head taller than they were. He looked at him with the mistrust that all the "southerners" looked at the "ts'uul. When the teacher spoke to Don Pablo in Spanish he didn’t understand anything. The teacher spoke to the group in Maya, and briefly explained his reasons and his need to go to Tok'tuunich".
Jose Chuc listened with attention. - "Who was this white man who spoke his language? -Why did he want to go to the village?"
A brief silence followed the teacher's explanation. Jacinto Ek and Jose Chuc exchanged glances. The pause seemed endless. The teacher anxiously waited for an answer; a negative response would mean a prolonged stay in Tihosuco. He didn’t have a lot of money and besides, How could he go back? What would his boss, his family and friends say? The older of the southerners spoke expressing himself slowly in the Maya language.
" It isn't possible for us to take you to Tok'tuunich. We don't have mules and you would never make it on foot. Beside we could only take you with the authorization of the "baatab". He doesn’t want strangers among us".
Jose Chuc turned his back on the visitor trying to give him the impression that the dialogue was over. Jacinto was listening and watching the scene. He knew his godfather perfectly well. Although he expected that answer, he was a bit upset. The expression on the teacher's face made him feel sorry.
He understood his people's feelings, he was conscious of the refusal to accept the whites. But this one liked him because of this honesty and sincerity. Although he spoke Maya, he didn't intervene on his behalf, even though his feelings were pushing him that way. The teacher blushed slightly but he said firmly.
"If you let me I will go behind you. I don't want to cause you any problems with your chief, you can be sure of that. If I knew the way, I wouldn’t bother you. You are my only chance. I have to get to your town to teach how to read and write, that's why I am going".
Jose Chuc looked to Professor May straight in the eyes and said, "We won't take you with us".
During the day, the two indians bought and traded in the main store of Tihosuco. They drank a couple of shots of "X-tabentun" and ate in some friend's house. They prepared their supplies for the journey and carefully packed their merchandise. After feeding and giving water to their animals they went to sleep early. They would leave at sunrise. Even before that, they would have packed the mules.
The next day, they had covered 10 mecates on the path, which would take them to Tok'tuunich when Jacinto saw the professor standing with his backpack of clothes and a small bag in his right hand. The bag contained the most indispensable supplies of a rural teacher: a blackboard, chalk, pencils, notebooks and a few books. He had left the rest of his luggage with the owner of the main store, who he promised to come back for them.
Jacinto didn't stop the mules; behind him, his godfather had noticed the presence of the intruder.
"Keep going"- he said to his godson. They went pass him. They didn’t say a word nor even looked at him. Jacinto had an impulse to look at him, but he refrained himself. He was sure that the teacher would follow them on the day's journey.
When Professor May left the store he was sure that the two Indians wouldn't change their minds. He had been told that the people of the town where he had been assigned would reject him. But, What the hell! -He thought, he would go even if he had to walk.
He didn't know the exact distance but it was two or three days journey of four or six leagues which he could resist well.
He remembered the long walks and his days in teachers college, when he had to come and go to towns and ranches around in his field practice. How he had complained then and how thankful he was now for the training he had gotten in the field, this wouldn't be the same but that experience had strengthened his spirit. Now it was decided. He would go after those who had refused his presence. He would show them that he would complete his mission.
At dawn, when Jacinto Ek and Jose Chuc started the first day of their journey home, they found him standing in the woods. Professor May saw them come with their mules. He didn't expect them to speak; and when they passed, he saw how they pretended not to see him. He thought that the younger one had glanced at him for a second but he wasn't sure.
He had prepared only the most indispensable for the long walk. Leaving almost all his clothes and utensils in the care of the owner of the town's main store.
"If you could do me the favor of keeping these things for a few says I would be very grateful"- he had told the storekeeper- "I can't take them now because I couldn't get an animal and it looks like I'll never get one".
"Professor," answered the storekeeper, " let me give you some advice go back to where you come from. The way to Tok'tuunich is long, it is cleared only part way, and its a rocky road. You will need a lot of courage and resistance to get there. Besides, who can guarantee that those indians won't kill you? More than one traveling salesman has never returned from those places. Think over what I am saying I am not trying to scare you".
"Thank you for your advice, but the die is cast. I will come back in a few days for my things".
The two indians had gone more than 20 meters when the professor picked up his backpack, putting it firmly on his left shoulder. With the other hand he carried his small bag. In a few minutes, he noticed that it wouldn't be an easy task to follow them, besides -damn it! - It seemed like that since they had noticed him that they spurred the animals. How was it possible that animals loaded down like that with merchandise could be able to maintain that pace!
When the rays of the sun filtered through the thick branches of the big Ramon trees, the caobas and the palm trees, he felt his pack and bag weighed a ton each.
He was sweating a lot and his clothes stuck to his back. He couldn't take his eyes off the road because it was so uneven. He tripped frequently. Only because his boots were strong could they take the sharp rocks without coming apart. He made sure not to lose sight of his leaders. If that happened, he doubted that he could go forward, probably he wouldn't be able to find his way back either. A small gourd of water hung from his shoulder. He would save it since he didn't know where he could get more; he was sure that there would be a cenote or water hole along the way. They wouldn't give him, he thought, even a sip of water.
It must be noon the sun was over their heads and only the shade of the trees protected them constantly, he was soaked with sweat, he didn't feel tired anymore; his legs were numb and his arms were too. How many leagues had they traveled? He calculated that it was at least six, and those fools -he thought, didn't have any intention of slowing down.
The mosquitoes didn't bother him very much, but the horseflies did, and with his hands full, he could only shake himself when they stuck to his face.
Jose Chuc had decided from the moment that he saw the teacher on the path not to show him mercy even if the animals gave out. He calculated that if the intruder resisted the first day's journey, he wouldn't be able to get up the next day.
The two men walked for thirsty minutes each hour, in order to give some rest to the animals and while they slowed the pace, they drank water, on the go. Although they were in the habit of stopping for their pozole at mid-day, they didn't stop so as not to give a moment’s rest to the stranger.
Jacinto understood the situation. He respected his godfather and was aware of his intentions. Would the tsuul resist the hard test? He doubted it. He was in a bad mood, and he attributed it to the exhausting and monotony of the trip. He thought he would feel better when the sun passed over their heads.
They walked more than 8 leagues during the whole morning. He hadn't said a word to his godfather. When he had a chance to see his face, he noticed the expression of disgust and worry at the same time.
He hadn't turned even once to look at their follower. His fine ear let him hear the footsteps on the rocky path.
Finally, they stopped before dark. The animals were showing signs of exhaustion. When they began to undo the straps and unload the packs, a noise made them turn instinctively toward their follower. The professor was kneeling on the path, breathing heavily with his head on his backpack. He looked at them serenely and then closed his eyes softly.
The mosquitoes fed themselves with Marcelo’s blood during the first hours of the night. An intense itch on his back, his face and hands woke him up. A few meters away, were the two indians sleeping at the heat of a small fire. The smoke from the still green wood repelled the aggressive insects as they slept peacefully next to the fire.
Marcelo felt the muscles of his calves and thighs tense and painful. Sharp pains in his back, his waist and shoulders made it hard for him to move.
Gradually, he stretched out; he loosened his boots and a sensation of relief invaded his sore feet. In the weak light of the fire, he collected some dry twigs and branches to make his own fire; after a few minutes, the heat and smoke chased the insects away.
Jose Marcelo ate hungrily from a can of sardines with crackers, he felt like drinking a cup of hot chocolate or a nice coffee, but he had to be happy with what he got He wasn't carrying plates or spoons. He took a few sips of water from his small gourd, when he noticed that they were the last drops. If those indians didn't stop someplace to replenish their water, he would be in trouble; but that wouldn't be possible, he thought, the animals would have to drink water, because if they didn't they would give out.
Marcelo calculated that the journey on the day before had been ten leagues. He was almost right. The maasewaal hadn't estimated his resistance well. He was worn out but he was sure that he could take another day like the last one. He was only wake for a few minutes when his two neighbors woke up. The light of day was visible among the shades of the trees.
Jacinto immediately put some logs on the fire to liven it up, he put a small kettle of water on the bar of the tripod and in a few minutes the coffee was steaming. It's aroma came to the professor, stimulating his desire for a few sips. Jacinto heated some pimo'ob with lard and chile for the first meal of the day.
When they finished loading the animals and tying down the merchandise, Jose picked up his shotgun and walked off in the direction of the chattering that livened up the dawn a few mecates away.
Minute later two shots interrupted the noise. Jose came back with three wild birds without saying a word, both of them plucked, cleaned and roasted the birds; these would be their lunch. Then they started on their march. The professor watched, with interest.
&#Was it possible that they had watered the animals during the night? He had been so sound asleep, that he thought it could have happened without him even noticing-resignation- he thought- it was going to be a long, thirsty day.
"Jacinto" - said José Chuc to his godson, "I don't have the least doubt that this intruder will get to our town, he has shown a lot of will power and resistance, frankly, I didn't expect it. We will make another day’s journey, and at nightfall, we will be in Tok'tuunich. I have thought about what I'm going to say to the baatab. He will decide what to do".
" Godfather, answered Jacinto, " Although his eyes and his hair are not like
ours, his language is the same. I'm not sure what he was talking about in the
X-hotsuc, but if he comes to live with us, I don't see how he can threaten us or offend us, or hurt us. He doesn't have any weapons unless he is hiding them in that box that looks so heavy, and he cares so much. Do you think the "Tata" will throw me out of town? And if he does, will they send armed soldiers against us? Didn't you say that now we can live in peace since General May made the treaty with the "Tata" of the whites in Santa Cruz?".
" You ask a lot of questions, Jacinto", answered Jose Chuc -" and some of them are true, but whether that intruder stays or is thrown out, it is the decision of the chiefs. We should be calm. We didn't bring him; we did everything we could to lose him.
I can not kill him, unless that is the decision there in the village". A brief silence followed the dialogue.
The professor followed painfully along the path behind them. For moments he lost sight of them. It seemed like they were talking for the first time since they left Tihosuco.
The animals stopped, what was going on? Marcelo smelled the humidity. He noticed that the terrain inclined slightly toward the east.
He heard the chatter of the wild birds and the noise of the "kalies".
There wasn't the shadow of a doubt. They were near a water hole. He hurried not to lose sight of his companions as they disappeared into the bushes.
The braying of the animals guided him through the thick brush. At a few mecates there was the edge of the water hole. Jacinto and Jose filled their gourds, while the mules drank thirstily.
Jose Marcelo felt a great joy, as he filled his gourd, he no longer had any doubt about reaching his destination.
ARRIVING IN THE VILLAGE
It was approximately 4o'clock in the afternoon. Marcelo was sweating hard, soaking all of his clothes. He no longer felt the weight he was carrying because of general exhaustion. He didn't think that he would last another day. For moments, his legs gave out and his sight got cloudy. Could he be wrong? The barking of dogs reached his ears. There wasn't any doubt. After about two minutes he heard them clearly. Until then, he hadn't noticed the path was lined with small milpas with the corn uniformly tall. It was time of gleaning. It must have rained recently because the crops looked healthy. A little farther and he would be at his destination. He had wondered a lot about how he would be received, now he only wanted to get there.
When he finally saw the first stone fences, and the first huts, his heart raced excitedly. The dogs came out after him barking furiously and more than once he had to stop to pick up a rock, or pretend to, to scare them away. He was waiting to see some people. The doors of the houses were closed, however he was sure that he was being watched from the beginning. Finally, he arrived at the main square of the village.
It was a small clearing where a beautiful willow tree grew, and gave his inviting shade; about 60 meters of it, almost in the middle of the clearing a large stone signaled the mouth of a cenote in its rustic form.
There wasn't even a rope in the pulley. The square was deserted; a little boy, completely naked, ran crying toward the kitchen of some neighboring house. A far off scolding in Maya made Marcelo smile.
He went toward the trunk of the willow where, after setting down his load, he sat down, laying back on the thick roots. A sensation of relief invaded him as he closed his eyes. From one minute to another someone would come out to speak with him. How much time had gone by? Few minutes, but it seemed much longer. He looked slowly around the square, examining the houses. They were all the same. Palm and mud huts, with white washed stone fences, plum; huayas, ramons, avocado and lemon trees were everywhere. The chickens, turkeys and pigs wandered peacefully all over the square. In one of the houses, the door opened and four men came out. Two of them naked to the waist and only short cotton pants with a frontal cloth. When they got close, he recognized the other two as his traveling companions. He calmly waited for them to approach him, and then he stood up.
When Jose Chuc and Jacinto came into the village, the first neighbors came out to greet them. "A "tsu’ul" is coming behind us" They repeated over and over, the news scattered like dust. They went quickly through the streets that led to the main square toward the chief's house. The women who in that moment were fetching water from the cenote hurried to pick up their ropes, pulleys and buckets, putting their water jars on their hips, left quickly. Their backs and bare chests shone in the sun, their gold chains with their coins and medals sparkled. The earrings adorned their ears and their black hair beautifully pulled back at the neck in the style of their ancestors. In a few minutes the cenote was completely empty. The mothers called their children who were playing in the square, putting them in their houses and closing the doors and from inside they all peeked out from between the slats of the rustic doors or woven vines. When the professor arrived, there wasn't a single soul on the streets of the town.
Jose and Jacinto had gotten off their animals in front of the ""baatab’s" house; a young man took charge of the mules, leading them to Jose's house.
The chief had already heard about the "ts'uul" and when they arrived he was waiting for them in the door with the "j-meen" (shaman) of the town. Without saying a word except for a greeting of respect, they went into the hut. They were offered a jicara of "pah-keyem" to refresh them. After a couple of swallows Jose spoke to the chief.
"You have been told already that a ""tsu’ul"" is coming behind us. I will begin by telling you what he told us in the town of Tihosuco and how he got to our town". Briefly, he narrated his encounter with the teacher and their trip. When Jose finished his story the ""baatab"" said, "we will talk with this ""tsu’ul""
The group went out heading to the place where the professor was resting. When they were near him, they looked at him aggressively.
Marcelo looked firmly and squarely at his new acquaintances. He hardly even looked at Jose and Jacinto. He had a hunch that the one in the middle was the leader and he spoke to him in a courteous manner.
"Good afternoon", a slight pause while he waited for an answer that never arrived.
" I suppose you are the lord of Tok' tuunich".
"Jose told me what you told him in X-hodzuc" the chief interrupted, "he explained how you followed him, now I want you to tell me who you are and why you have come here in spite of the warnings of Jose. You must know that until this day, none of your kind has come into this village and you have come without our permission; before anything else, we will listen to you".
The chief's words and his ceremonious accent made the professor aware of the gravity of the moment. He untied the baggage before the eyes of the four indians and from the pages of a book; he took out a sheet of paper and presented in to the chief.
"On this paper, my superiors let you know that the Government is sending me to your town to open a school. Surely, you know that there are schools in all the main towns, and where there aren't, they are opening them so the children can learn to speak Spanish, and to read and write. And I will teach them more things that I have been taught; and are useful things to know. Take this paper, it is for you".
The chief listen attentively, hardly glancing at the official notice that the professor offered him; he didn't try to take it, nor did he want to take it since he couldn't read.
"Tonight," he said to the professor "we will talk to you" "you must stay here in this place until you hear from us when I let you know my decision. Don't try to talk to anybody. If you do, I won't be responsible for the consequences".
Marcelo decided to rest on the voluptuous, old roots of the big tree.
The square began to come alive; the children came out to see what was going on, the men coming home from their milpas looked at him
Strangely, The women went back to the cenote to go on with the task of getting the water.
They went by silently, apparently without looking at him. In a few minutes, he could hear the chatter mixed in with the squeaking of the ropes and pulleys that groaned under the weight of the buckets full of water.
When the last rays of the sun illuminated the square of Tok'tuniich, the main leaders of Tok' tuniich had met in the home of the ""baatab"". He commented briefly and asked for the opinions and advice of the old men of the group.
"There are only a few years left for me to live, if this isn't the last "said the oldest. "I still remember when I was just a boy. " I fought with machete against the "tsu’uloob"; there were many years that we were persecuted like wild animals in the jungle, only because we dared to fight from our freedom and to take back the land that our forefathers had left to us.
For many years now we have lived in peace with our customs and our laws, happy without the "tsu' uloob". If we let one of them live among us, behind him will come more and they will be the leaders of the town and they will change our laws and take our harvests, animals and everything we have away from us again.
I say that the white man should be thrown out of town, it is better for us".
Jacinto listened attentively to the old man. He remembered the stories of the elders of the town. He thought of the teacher whose attitude and decision he respected and even admired. As hard as he tried, he could not imagine how this man alone could hurt them. He thought that his own ignorance was confusing him.
" The tata " is right"; agreed Jose Chuc, "we have to kick him out, put him back on the road he came on, he will survive, I am sure of it, because he is a man of character, but he will never come back".
One after the other, they all expressed the same opinion. At the end, the chief spoke calmly to settle down the old man who were beginning to get out of control.
" Many of us have talked about this moment, with the other chiefs of all the Maya people. We have seen through the years how the "tsu’uloob" have advanced, more and more toward the south and east. X-hodzuc is no longer ours, it was one of the first to fall to the south of Peto, almost all of the towns are occupied by the "tsu’uloob".
Chan Santa Cruz is no longer our sanctuary. Those who fought for it were killed or punished; we are free only because the jungle protects us.
You are right; the "tsu’ul" must be expelled but I ask my self, " how much time will pass before they send more and more? Will we do the same? Will they come with weapons to make us accept".
The "baatab" was quiet; absolute silence prevailed and all of them deliberated.
" We have heard the experiences of the older ones, Jose, who the white man come following, has expressed his opinion. Although he has no right to speak, I want to listen to Jacinto; he is young and without malice, he will speak from his heart. He knew the "tsu’ul" as did Jose.
Jacinto was surprised. He knew that the town counsel was the only old ones who had a voice in the management and matters of the town. He had been called as a witness of the event.
The eyes of old men were fixed on him: the chief with a nod of the head ordered him to speak.
" What can I say that my godfather hasn't said already about the "tsu’ul"? I heard what everybody here has heard. My parents and my grandparents have told me the story of our people and I have never found anything wrong in what they have taught me. They have taught us not to trust the "tsu’ulo'ob", but I have thought about it a lot and I can't imagine that this "tsu’ul" have come to hurt us.
He is alone, he has no weapon; he only brings his clothes and the things in his bag, that are to teach us to speak Spanish, according to what he said. I don't know what hidden intentions, he may have. Only what he said. I believe in what I have seen, his courage. His way of speaking is like ours in spite of his being a "tsu’ul". One thing I am sure of you will have to drag him out or kill him because obviously he is a brave and determined man. You, the older ones will decide. I don't believe my words are important".
Time had gone by without anybody noticing. It was already very late when the "baatab" spoke to the counsel.
" We should retire to our home to rest," he directed, " I have heard the reasons of each one of you; tomorrow when the sun comes out, we will meet again and I will tell you my decision."
One by one, they went out the door of the main house and went home.
RETURN TO TOK’TUUNICH
Leonor, Jacinto’s young sister, was delighted with the white and sweet smelling foam of the soap in her hair, which caressed again and again at the wooden washboard where she was washing it. Marcelo had brought the soap from far away Zaci. As she played with her softened hair, bending slightly over the washboard, her thoughts returned to the days when her brother Jacinto and Marcelo traveled far away.
On several occasions, while she was serving the meals in silence, she had caught sight of the penetrating look of the "tsuul". The look of his eyes made her nervous, and she had to look away or close her eyes, feeling and intense heat in her cheeks or a slight tremor in her whole body. When he said good bye or simply spoke to thank her, her confusion was greater. She had spoken briefly to him in just a few occasions, although he served him every day since his return from Zaci. During his absence she was sad, a feeling never felt before and that she was not able to understand. Her life was happy again when they returned
How long ago had Marcelo arrived? It was when the corn was teaseling, when the forest was green and its splendor, when the branches of the trees were covered in colors, when the rain stopped and left the distinctive smell of wet dirt. She remembered the day he came like if it were yesterday. From then on, everything changed for her. She remembered her initial curiosity like everybody else’s in the village, when her brother brought him to the house for the first time and the anguish and fear that her family would be rejected by the rest of the people. She remembered the hateful glances when she went with the other women to fill their water jugs. She also remembered the first time the "tsuul" looked her with those clear eyes, she remembered the long hours of conversation in the evening at the door of the house with the whole family, conversation which on nights of full moon went on until very late. And she couldn’t forget the calm and affectionate look in his eyes.
How could he hurt them as many, including his parents, said he would? Her friends did not bother her anymore with questions or remarks, or when they did it was out of simple curiosity and not out of malice. They asked her what they talked about; why he had come. How was it that he spoke their language? If it were true that his mother was like them, if it was true that he did not have a woman in the town, since at his age nobody could be single?
What was it that she felt when she thought of it? Why, while he was away during so many days, she thought that someone in Zaci could be waiting for him? It was until her brother returned that he mentioned that his mother was living alone while he was not at home. When Marcelo return from that long trip, she knew for certain that he did not have a wife and she was happy and her thoughts were clear. She thought of him wanting to notice her. Her feelings were a mixture of terror and desire since she felt that he would never look at her like a woman. Leonor was lost in her thoughts while she washed her black hair, delighting in the aroma of that gift that Marcelo had brought her from Zaci. The sudsy water ran down her back and her virgin breasts dampening her white underskirt.
When Jose Marcelo arrived in Tok’tuunich, Leonor had just turned 16. She was single because when she began to mature, she suffered several attacks of yellow fever which the J’meen was not able to control. Only when her brother and father brought those medicines from Tihosuco weeks later that she had gotten better. The disease damaged her body and two long years passed before she began to develop as a woman again. Her girl’s body was just beginning to change, when Marcelo arrived in Tok’tuunich. She had seen girls her age get married and have babies. Her worried parents had promised her to a widower in Chuum-poom when she recovered.
Fortunately, she thought, because of her apparent weakness the matrimony hadn’t been formalized. She was in frank recovery when the "tsuul" arrived and her life changed. But it wasn’t until now when he came back from Zaci that she understood her feelings toward him and she was afraid that as she was healthy now, somebody would notice her. That some young man might asked her to marry him. Her parents would not think twice about marrying her off as soon as possible. And she thought, with heartache, that Marcelo would never ever notice her.
Immersed in her thoughts, she didn’t notice that the young man was coming toward her until he stopped at the backdoor of the house when he greeted Jacinto’s wife, who was grinding nixtamal on the stone. Leonor rinsed her long, black hair vigorously and began to dry it with a white, fine, cotton cloth. She gathered it, little untidy, on the back of her neck, like the women of her race had done for centuries, and covered her naked shoulders and breasts with the same cloth.
She went inside the house to change her underskirt and put on an huipil, which she usually used in the early morning or at night because the mornings were usually cool the first days of the year. Jose Marcelo saw her as she went by and they exchanged a brief smile, He couldn’t help admiring the freshness of her skin, the beauty of her body and her black, long hair.
"Did you like the soap my mother sent for you? She says it is the best. She uses it herself to wash her hair". He spoke to her in Maya so that the conversation would be more fluent, although he liked to speak in Spanish to help her to learn that language.
"It is the best I have ever used" She answered. "When my father comes from
X-ho’otsuuk or from Belize, he brings soap, or when somebody goes to those places they bring it to sell. This one reminds me of the night flowers"
"Teacher ..." said Leonor, when she was interrupted by Jose Marcelo.
"I don’t like such formality" he said " I have told your that you can treat me like one of your family, with confidence and trust"
Leonor lowered her eyes, at the words of Marcelo.
"Forgive Leonor, but almost six months have gone by and you still treat me like a stranger" He spoke more gently to the young indian girl who went on fixing her hair, carefully tying it at the back of her neck.
"What do you do that you are prettier and more lovely every day?" I imagine that you have a boyfriend or something"
"I don’t have a boyfriend"- She said obviously angry.
"What about that boy that I saw you with at the cenote?"
"He is not my boyfriend, he is my cousin and he is married, if it is what you want to know"
"Don’t get mad, I didn’t mind to offend you, forgive me if I upset you"
Leonor did not answer. She walked out of the kitchen and went into the house.
Jacinto’s wife had overheard the conversation and smiled as she went on with her work.
"What did I do wrong?" He said to her, with surprise.
Jacinto came in the front door just then, The conversation changed. However, Marcelo kept on thinking about that dialogue
The heat was terrible although two moons before the sun had made all its force felt. The grain was ripe and dry, ready to be harvested in Jacinto’s milpa. It was a very dark night and not even the stars could be seen through the dense clouds, which coming from the East were covering the dome of the sky. Soon the north winds would come again to bring cold air; the clearing of the milpas would begin to prepare for next year. In a few days, they would harvest the crops and store them in the storage sheds, before the forest animals and birds could damage the corn.
This morning, I saw the tracks of a large deer" said Jacinto to Marcelo during lunch- "He surely came in last night. Today I am going to be on the outlook for him. Do you want to come along?"
It had been a long time since Marcelo had gone hunting, more than a year, since vacations before the last, when he had gone with some friends from Zaci. So he didn’t have to think too long.
"I would like to, but I don’t have a lamp or a shotgun"
" I have already thought of that. I will take my father’s and you can take mine if we both go, we will be more sure."
Marcelo said no more, he was enthused at the idea and this is the emotion that the Mayas felt for hunting the deer. The Maya knew the deer as he knew himself. For centuries, its meat was the basis for their diet. There have always been deer in the forest because in the east and in the great savanna of the coast it found a natural refuge. In its migration back to the deep forest, when the mating season had finished, they penetrated the plant fields looking for beans and sweet potatoes, which were their favorite food. Jacinto knew, as did everyone of his people. It was the season of the "chucbac". The milpa was high and they couldn’t shine their lights.
At evening Jacinto and Marcelo left going toward the milpa, taking their supplies and a gourd of water, and of course a "mecapal". One hour later, they were at the chosen site.
"Look Marcelo- he pointed with his index finger toward the corn stalks- Look that fresh track, it must be a buck, judging from its size. A few steps farther on, he stopped to point out a recently bitten leaf. After a few seconds of inspection, Jacinto decided,
"Climb up that burned post, from there, you can dominate this piece" – he turned around marking with his extended arm the zone he could cover with the lamp. "With this shotgun you can shoot for two mecates" –he said indicating the 16" carbine, aim well and don’t miss, take these three metal cartridges. I’ll be about five mecates over that way in case he comes in on the other corner of the milpa; good luck."
"Good luck to you too, Jacinto, I hope you get him, I am afraid I’ll miss. It’s been a long time since I’ve fired a shot" – Marcelo raised his voice as Jacinto almost disappeared into the milpa on the way to his outlook. He didn’t waste a minute and he climbed up a tree and settled down for what could be a long wait.
It had been more than an hour that Marcelo had been almost motionless on his post. Few feet from the edge of the milpa there was complete darkness, only once in a while a star could be seen shinning through the thick clouds that covered the sky. His body was a bit numb despite of the frequent changes of position in order to be more comfortable.
Occasionally, he would hear a noise, in the brush, a fruit falling would break the silence, nothing more. Would the animal come soon? Meanwhile, Marcelo reflected on his time in Tok'tuunich. A slight rumbling made him tense. The rumbling got clearer. It was the wind, whose freshness brushed his face. His muscles relaxed in his cramped position, and once again he was thinking about Jacinto’s sister. The image of her face repeated in his mind. Once with a discreet smile, or when she greeted him, or thanked him. He remembered her graceful walk with her water jug at her waist when she came from the cenote. Her back, golden from the sun, her virgin breast adorned with golden medals, hanging from around her neck and her black hair, gathered at the nape of the neck or loose almost to her waist, over her delicate shoulders.
He thought of her and he enjoyed this new feeling of attraction. In other circumstances, he might have let himself be controlled by his feelings and instincts. With her he would have to be formal and serious. He was reflecting on this, the desire to smoke was strong because of the tension, but he abstained because the smoke could ruin the waiting. Jacinto had luck on his side. When Marcelo heard the footsteps of the deer, he felt his pulse race; he could feel it in his whole body. A few minutes of silence, and then the steps were going away, he calculated that it was out of reach so he didn’t light his lamp. If it wasn’t frightened off it could go back to where they had found the chewed leaves. If it went beyond that, then Jacinto would hear it, and the piece would be his, then Jacinto’s lamp got his attention. The lamp moved only a few seconds, then stayed still. A shot was heard then the sound of the animal trashing, made him light his lamp and climbed down his tree almost at the same second he heard a whistle. He answered as they had agreed to and he went toward the sound. Jacinto’s voice called in Maya excitedly -the deer has fallen!
With the deer firmly tied in his mecapal, Jacinto followed Marcelo down the path that lead to the house. They didn’t speak in order to save some energy. The animal must have weighted at least 60 kilos, a buck with two beautiful points, a "putznak" at least three or four years old. Marcelo lit the way and he went cutting some branches that could cause Jacinto problems.
"We’ll skin it and clean it when we get home" said Marcelo, "It’s early and if we bury it in the "piib", tomorrow we can have a tasty meal of venison salad for breakfast"
"I prefer a venison stew now to recover from exhaustion of the load"- said Jacinto.
"Let me help you, I’ll take it for a while"
"We’ll be home in half an hour"- said Jacinto, "I’ll let you know if I get tired"
Few minutes later, they came to the main path where they could walk more quickly and soon they arrived at the house. The fire was still burning brightly. Carmen and Leonor had just gone to sleep and got up to receive them. While the women were preparing the water on the fire, both men began to sharpen their knives to skin the piece. One hour later, they were waiting patiently for the venison stew to get cooked and to enjoy a bowl of good broth. Later on they would bury the "piib" and then go to sleep peacefully.
WINDS OF REBELLION
Some nights later, Jacinto waked Marcelo up. Something unusual and unexpected must have happened, because it was very late. It must have been about two or three in the morning. The teacher reacted quickly. Jacinto's voice made him wake up quickly.
"Get dressed quickly, and let's go to my house....hurry !, for God's sake" -shouted Jacinto.
"What's going on"-answered the teacher, "Did something terrible happen?...Is somebody sick".
"Let's go, there's no time to lose, I tell you on the way. We have to act quickly. If I'm not wrong you are in grave danger let's go quick...let's go!"
Marcelo began to get more and more apprehensive as they advanced carefully toward Jacinto's house.
"What the hell you don't want to tell me? " "Why don't you explain?"
"Quiet, Marcelo, we are almost to my house. As they entered the house, Marcelo distinguished a vigil light, dimly lightning the shapes of Leonor and Carmen, standing and with deep worry reflected in their faces. Before they could ask, Jacinto said
"A few moments a go, a man from Chak-che arrived. The bataab had ordered that everybody in town must be awaken, and that we should be ready to leave for Chan Santa Cruz within the next hours. We are supposed to assemble the companies from all the towns en "Señor", I think, or close by, to be a day away from Santa Cruz. We're supposed to take our weapons and supplies for two weeks. Everybody is getting ready to go. Something serious happened, the elders are talking about revenge and about fighting again against the "ts’uulo’ob". They say the soldiers leveled the town of Chak-ché with bullets; that many died, including women and children. ...How can there be so much evil?...There is a rumor the lieutenant Yam had ambushed some white peddlers and killed them two leagues from the town and took the coins and gold that they had gotten selling in the towns around".
"They say," -Jacinto went on in a tone of anguish, "That when the guard went into the territory, they put up resistance, a gun battle broke out, and the town is surrounded; that's what they say. -And they have taken the lieutenant and many of the men and they are going to put them before a firing squad in Santa Cruz. Many escaped, and made it into the forest, and have spread the word in other towns where the companies have armed themselves and are hiding in the forest waiting for the orders of the "General". All the men over fifteen years old are to be ready to march to Santa Cruz . That's what they are saying."
Turning to the teacher he said.
"They'll come for you, Jose Marcelo, I have no doubt, that's why I went for you. We have to leave for X-hootsuuk, directly, or by taking a round about route. If we leave soon enough they will not be able to catch you. If there's danger, we'll go all the way to the coast, there we could get a fishing boat to Cuzomil or Payo Obispo."
Jose Marcelo listened to his friend silently. He imagined the situation.
Jacinto became silent, thinking about his next steps, before the baatab's guards came for his friend.
"For the moment they haven't thought about you", he continued, " but, don't doubt it, in a few more moments, somebody will ask about you if nobody has already. I fear for your life Marcelo, I am really afraid"
"Jose Marcel scrutinized Jacinto's face and then turned to look at Leonor and Carmen: he thought he saw tears in Leonor's beautiful eyes.
He felt a mixture of gratitude and fears before he spoke.
"I can well understand the seriousness of these moments and I thank you, you don't know how much, for what you are doing for me. I am sure they will be here in a few minutes, and whatever happens I don't want you to be hurt even a little bit, on my account. This is my problem and I have to face it alone. I beg you not to get mixed up in it. I am going back to the school, where I should be, there I will wait for them to come for me. God will decide".
Jose Marcelo turned around, heading to the door, but Jacinto, with a cat like jump, stood in front of the door, as he exclaimed:
"You won't leave, whatever happens. I promised your mother that I would protect you and I will keep my promise for as long as I live. They will think about it more than once before they come. I know what I am talking about."
At the firmness of the noble native, Marcelo hesitated, when he reacted, it was already too late. The sound of voices was coming closer every second, and it was getting stronger. A few instants later they were at the door. Jacinto didn't wait a second, he jumped two steps and got his "30-30" from the hook and cocked it; and loaded it with cartridges. Leonor, who was trembling, grabbed a machete. Carmen stood frozen in surprise and confusion. Marcelo raised his arms to stop them and the same time he was shouting energetically.
"For God’s sake! Don't you understand that what you're doing isn't going to solve anything? If they come for me or to kill me, they will do it in spite of anything you can do to help me. Please Jacinto, put your gun away, and you, Leonor, drop the machete, if they see you armed, they'll be madder than they already are".
Without waiting for their reaction Jose Marcelo went to the door and opened it at the same time as some of the men outside came forward, guns in hand to take him.
With a calm, firm voice the young man confronted them, speaking in Maya.
"You don't have to come for me that way. I will go before the baatab to see what this is all about. You don't have any reason to come into Jacinto's house".
The tall, strong silhouette, his calm tone of voice and his decisive gestures, as he advanced toward them, made them open a path, while he gently separated them. He walked directly to the baatab's house followed by the group that had stopped shouting. When they arrived at the house, the light of several candles lit up the inscrutable face of the baatab and the hard expression of the town elders. Speaking slowly, the baatab reproached.
"Your presence has been unpleasant since you arrived to our town. We have tolerated you, but things have happened that have filled us with indignation against the "tsu’ulo’ob" and you are one of them; that is why we have to talk..... The spirits of our grandfathers have spoken to us of revenge, to take revenge not only for those who fell many years before but also for those that died a few days ago in Chak'che from the soldiers bullets.
" The hatred -continued the severe voice of the baatab- and the shadow of death have extended through all the territory of the Cupulo'ob, and it will extend even beyond. The "nohoch-tata" has called for all the men who can carry a machete or an arm, the companies are preparing to march on Santa Cruz the way we did before you were even born.
Many of our people have been arrested and are there, their families tell us.
If they don't free them, we will have as a guarantee all of the "tsu'ulo'ob" that are in Maya towns, if they are hurt while they are captive, we will kill all of you."
Marcelo listened very attentively. What could have happened in Chak-che that made the troops use arms against the town? Why did they arrest the chief and his family? The indignation of these people was real, in their faces and in the hatred in their eyes their decision was reflected, and Marcelo did not doubt that something very serious was being planned.
The elders of the town were watching silently. The rural teacher in apparent calm contrasting with his inner anguish answered.
"I can understand how all of you feel, your indignation, your thirst for revenge, but even at the risk of making you more angry, I will say what I think. I know that you alone will not decide what all of the Mayan towns will do, that are marching or are going to march against Santa Cruz.
I know that there is a superior council and that the "nojoch-tata" will be who will have the last word. But I also know that your voice as "Baatab" of Tok'tuunich will sound louder if you speak what is right and this can stop the slaughter of many of your brothers like what happened many years ago when General Bravo closed your access to Santa Cruz with trenches. I am sure that something terrible happened in Chak-che because many people were killed and many others was been taken prisoners, so we must act calmly, now more than ever, if we are right. Twenty years have gone by since Santa Cruz was returned to you. The ones that govern us now in the whole country aren't like the ones who destroyed your trenches with cannonballs and leveled your towns and swept your people with machine-guns, and those who profaned, with their orgies and wild drunkenness and crimes, the sacred temple of Balam-nah, bloodying its walls and floor, those men are no longer there.
The government doesn't send soldiers with guns and bayonets, they send teachers with notebooks, pencils and books in our hands to bring knowledge to you the descendants of these people who were so great, who constructed Coba, Tulum, Uxmal, Chichen and many other town whose vestiges are found all over.
Why don't you ask your brothers in other towns? Why don't you ask if you are acting correctly or not? How are you going to hurt the "tsu’ulo’ob" if we don't have anything more arms than our hands and we have only the neighboring towns and ourselves".
Marcelo was silent for a minute while everybody listened. His silence and expression were eloquent, so taking the floor, he continued.
" Am I more tsuul than máasewáal, because my skin and eyes are lighter? my mother is "cupul" like you. If you doubt it, Jacinto has seen her in Zaci. We are of the same blood, and so are many of us of the great people "cupul". Ask those who have been there if they have been mistreated."
A short pause followed the words of the teacher. Those of the council listened without changing a muscle, or the stiffness in their faces.
"If you were right"- continued the teacher-, "Do you really expect the prophecies to be fulfilled and the English people will help you against the Tsu’ulo’ob? Do you think the moment has come to rebel and fight again? The time has passed, the time of the Mayas has finished, and these are other times, another era. We shouldn't fight because now nobody wants to enslave the only slavery that there is now comes from ignorance. We have to take our children out of ignorance, and give them knowledge and science as the old ones gave to us, the great Maya People. We must accept the change. Those who don't will become more and more behind and miserable. We must prepare ourselves to defend our land our customs, our forests, our children, and above all the memories of our grandfathers. But we have to prepare ourselves with knowledge and not with guns and machetes in our hands.
"Sir" -finished the teacher- "let me go with you, let me help you, I have the right because of the indian blood that runs in my veins, Cupul blood. If you don't believe me or think there is a lie on my lips, you can kill me at any time or right now."
The baatab remained silent for a few seconds before he spoke.
" You can go to your home now. In a few hours you will be ready to go with us."
Two days later, when the sun wasn't yet ablaze with the heat of mid-day, the company of Tuk'tuunich advanced amid the first gardens of the semi-abandoned town where all the companies of the Maya people had been concentrated. It was only four leagues from Santa Cruz. The numerous groups of "maásewáaloob" rested in the shade, with the mules tied up to ramon trees or willows. It was a small village, with its half-destroyed temple with traces of battles of the Great War. Its streets were full of weeds, and its stone fences broken down. One and another roofless house were scattered around the center of town. In small groups at the heat of the small bonfires the máasewáaloob warmed their food. They hardly lifted their eyes even when they were surprised to see Marcelo.
The arrival of the company was hardly noticed by the groups, occasionally old friends and distant relatives greeted them.
The company of Tuk'tuunich was formed by forty-six men, from young man of sixteen years old to some almost too old but still vigorous.
Their weapons were old English hunting shot- guns, some 30-30 rifles and machetes for cutting the chicle. On the mules, they carried supplies and food enough for two weeks.
Marcelo was alarmed although his face didn't show it. " My God, " he thought "I think all the Mayas of the center of Quintana Roo are here". He remembered the stories of his grandfather on his mother's side about the assaults of the town and the battles with the "tsu’ulo'ob", from where they returned with prisoners, many of them, women and children. He remembered what his teachers and the old men said about the caste war, about the fall of Valladolid, the evacuation of his native city, about the destruction of the temple that had been occupied. He remembered the dead, the mutilated, the hunger, the rapes that the old men of Tok'tuunich talked about.
He thought about the stories, the legends in all the towns, the abandoned fields, the ruins, the indians sold as slaves, the women and children whipped, he thought about all of that, while he looked into the faces of the "máasewáal'ob" on his way to the center of the town.
Now that he felt the reality of these men, angry and fearful at the same time, far from their homes, their wives, their children, their parents, he could understand better and fear more than an uprising.
What would happen if these hundreds would try to fulfill the ancient prophecies that someday they would again fight against the "tsu’ulo’ob" and that they would go back to Santa Cruz again, and from there, they would govern their own people from the sanctuary of Balam-nah? Had the elderly forgotten the cannons that had broken them into pieces on the way to Santa Cruz thirty years ago?
Will the pride, and the rebelliousness of their race pushed them one more time into a fraticidal fight?
The square of the town was almost completely occupied by the "máasewáal'ob". The companies of all the towns had arrived or were about to arrive. How many would there be in all? .
The baatab of Tok'tuunich with his main escort went to the house where all the chiefs were gathering to wait for the "General" who would arrive at any moment. Marcelo and Jacinto watched and worried.
"How long would the council take?"- Marcelo asked Jacinto while they stopped in the shade of a small oak, only five mecates from the site of the meeting of the baatabs, "Where are we Jacinto? What is the name of this abandoned town? Isn't it Kampokolché?"
Hours later a far away clamor outside of town was becoming more intense signaling the arrival of the general. The confused voices, the shouting for revenge, the heat of the alcohol, the insults toward the "tsu’ulo'ob" seemed to Marcelo, foreshadows of dramatic events. He went forward with Jacinto, mixing discreetly with a group who asked for the attention of the chiefs going to the main house. The guards held back the on lookers as the group disappeared into the house. Both walked away with the others of Tok'tuunich, to a place where they would rest after the long day.
The hours passed slowly, day and night. They slept outside, looking at the blue sky and the stars. Jacinto and Marcelo hardly spoke, each one deep in his own thoughts. Meanwhile, Marcelo watched, in his mind, all that his grandfather had told him about the Caste War three generations before.
The morning was almost over and both were returning from the cenote where they had bathed, when a messenger presented himself before the company of Tok'tuunich with the order that "the tsu'ul" come before the council. Marcelo hurried after him and a few minutes later, he was standing before all of the chiefs who silently were trying to penetrate into his deepest thoughts. The one who had been identified as the main chief broke the silence of the moment. He said to Marcelo "We want to hear you. Tell us about what you have said, without any fear, we will listen to you"
Marcelo forced himself to concentrate, putting his ideas in order. Although, he had thought about this possibility, he was afraid he wouldn't be able to convince the council, but he knew that his words might moderate the wrath of the group.
After a few seconds he spoke in Maya "I fear for those who might fall and for those who stay back there in the towns without fathers, without sons, without husbands. Also I am sorry because I know my words will hurt more than a bullet in the chest or the blade of a bayonet but I hope that before you decide to fight, we will think about what could be justice for all, "tsu’ulo'ob" and "máasewáalo'ob".
I see that the companies have gathered and I see in all their faces indignation, hate, spite, and desire to fight for want they consider honorable and just.
I can see that with one order they will all leave and die, if it is necessary. Maybe a great injustice has been done to those who have been arrested and taken to Santa Cruz - but I ask myself. Are you sure that an injustice has been done?
Have you heard the reasons of the authorities of the government for having done what they did? If we are just, we must listen to those who we accuse before we judge them. If they are to blame and have committed an injustice, then we should appeal and demand that things be done according to the law.
I know that this is painful for all you to accept the law of the white men. But the law is made for everybody, not just for them, and if there are bad white men, there are also honorable white men. If they have broken the law, we will talk to the governor and he will do us justice.
Our Government does not want anymore fighting between brothers, and we are brothers all of us, "tsu’ulo'ob" and "máasewáalo'ob". Our government doesn't send people with rifles to conquer the Maya people. Our Government sends teachers, many of us have the same blood as you and want to make ways to communicate with each other and finish this centuries-old isolation.
We must forget our differences and also the prophecies.
The English men will no longer come to help the Mayas with rifles and ammunition and fight without any more benefits to themselves than the chicle and the ink and our wood. That is a thing of the past. It is painful, but it is the truth.
Speak with those of the Government of Santa Cruz, they will listen to you, I am sure, and if they don't, go farther to Payo Obispo. If you think I am lying; aren't I in your hands?"
" You have spoken your truth" answered the baatab, "you can leave now".
The faces of the elders of the council remained unchanged, as unchanged as they were while Marcelo spoke.
As he left the house, he saw Jacinto waiting a few meters away with visible anxiety. The teacher walked toward him and both of them hurried away towards their company. Before Jacinto could ask, the teacher said nervously, "I don't think they listened to me".
"I think they did, Marcelo, just the fact that they called you before the council is very important. But let's not despair, in a few more hours, we will know what is going to happen. It is late, almost noon. We'd better rest and feed our animals. I am sure that by dawn tomorrow, we will be on our way to Santa Cruz."
In Santa Cruz, the town’s people were tense and worried about the recent events. The chief and relatives of Chak-che were prisoners at the Headquarters and the guard had been doubled; the situation had been reported by telegraph to Payo Obispo from where they expected reinforcement for the company of territorial guards. Many of the country people spoke of movements that had concentrated at four leagues from Santa Cruz, and to the south of town, they had blocked the road to Payo Obispo, and that they would attack the jail at any moment to free the prisoners.
These rumors caused fear and anxiety, and many planned to abandon the town.
One day before the reunion of the council, a strongly armed section of the army had arrived in Santa Cruz under the command of a captain. They had rapidly taken their positions and deployed guards on the principal roofs of the town, including the Police station and the center, fearing that from one moment to the next, the attack would begin.
The representative of the government called all of the authorities to a meeting to consider the situation, and to take emergency measures.
They knew for certain that Santa Cruz was surrounded and the roads cut off by the "máasewáalo'ob" who watched carefully over the roads and footpaths. The same troop that had marched from Payo Obispo to Santa Cruz had noticed the presence of sentinels hidden in the jungles and communicating between other another with bird calls. They felt their presence without even seeing them, revealing, themselves only by the strident call of the "pap" when it discovered them.
The scouts advanced with rifles ready to fire and the small column felt the tension during the march. The commander didn't feel safe during the last day of the march until he was inside Santa Cruz where he rapidly took up the positions. He informed the Representative that by the instructions of the governor, he would be in command of all the forces and that he would establish military control to avoid surprises. An emergency meeting was held, and it was decided to ask for a high official to come to negotiate and to say what to do with the prisoners. This was telegraphed to Payo Obispo while they remained alert and ready.
The sun had hardly risen when the emissary received word from the commander that a group of unarmed indians had arrived at the edge of town, and had asked to speak to the authorities. He went quickly to the police station where he found the indians in the company of a white man waiting for him. He went directly to the group as the commander and his assistant approached. Some of the employees of the offices came near out of curiosity. The white man who was with the indian greeted them courteously.
" Mr. Representative of the Government? I am professor Marcelo May of the town of Tok'tuunich. I come as an interpreter for the representative of the towns of the zone who want to dialogue with the authorities about the incarceration of the brothers of Chak-che."
" With pleasure professor", answered the representative, please come in to the office."
Inside the representative's office there was an expectant silence while the visitors sat down on chairs and benches, which were being brought in quickly. Behind the desk the representative, the commander and some employees and in front of it, the teacher and the small group of "máasewáalo'ob".
" Mr. Representative," began the professor, "I think we are all aware of the gravity of what could happen at the least incident or mistake. I will try to be clear and precise, and if you let me speak first about the matter".
"Go ahead please", answered the representative .
"Several hundred indians are around the town waiting for news of their companions who are prisoners here. We have heard of a massacre in one of their towns and that a grave injustice has been done. Their spirits are very exalted, although for the moment, they have been convinced of the need to clear the issue and obtain all the information about the incident, the antecedents, and what course it will take and what solution you think about the problem. They think that the action against them has been arbitrary, but they agreed that if there are guilty parties, they should be punished, but only the guilty should ones should be punished.
"A council of all the towns of the area has been held " continued the teacher, "and they have listened to my advise not to precipitate and make decisions, without knowing all the facts; so they would like to hear both sides, the authorities and the accused.
In a few words that is the situation. My personal opinion is that we should be very careful, and clear to avoid misunderstandings and the shedding of blood and anything else we have to regret"
The representative of the government and the lesser authorities listened to the young teacher’s words. The commander of the troop, an experienced officer, nodded in agreement on several occasions agreeing with the teacher. After the brief explanation, everybody turned to look at the representative waiting for the answer; they didn't have to wait long.
"Thank you very much, for your effort, professor, I can imagine that it wasn't easy to get them to listen to you. I want to explain through the Justice of Peace, who speaks their language very well, what happened and what has happened since the beginning and why we requested the aid of the military.
He is going to explain the whole thing in detail and in order, but I would like you to tell them that we haven't been arbitrary or unjust. We put them in jail in order to be processed, and until we can prove them either innocence or guilt, we can not sentence them or let them go.
They have not cooperated and they have refused to talk, and that has made everything more difficult and has slowed down the investigation. They are being held for armed resistance.
We don't even know for sure if they are the individuals accused of robbery and homicide. But let the judge explain things to them."
Marcelo briefly explained to the "máasewáalo'ob" and asked them to listen to the judge.
The judge talk for almost a half-hour, the whole time he was not interrupted by the "máasewáalo’ob" . Marcelo listened and was taking notes that would help him before the council of the Towns. When the judge finished his explanation, the teacher asked if there were any questions, the "máasewáalo’ob" remained silent. So, thanking the authorities for their attention, he left with them as quickly as they came.
A large number of on-lookers on the outside of the Police station, waiting anxious and fearfully, saw the group cross the small square and go to the east corner of the Baalam-nah heading North by the old road to Tihosuco.
"Señores", said the commander, "There's nothing we can do except wait and trust this young teacher whose good sense is evident and to whom, I have no doubt, the tatiches" will listen meanwhile, we should be prepared for any contingency."
Jacinto and a group of máasewáales from different towns waited less than one kilometer from Santa Cruz, when they sensed without even seeing them that their friends were coming back, their nervousness increased, especially Jacinto's who was worried for his friend, Marcelo.
Moments later, they exchanged greetings and continued walking fast, since they wanted to get back to the place of the council before the sun-set. There were five leagues ahead of them, and they had to hurry even though they were tired from the journey of the early hours of the morning.
Jacinto didn't ask any question waiting for a rest period when they would drink pozole. Marcelo's serenity gave him hope.
It was getting dark, when the group arrived at the outskirts of the town; in a few minutes the committee entered the house where the general and members of the council were waiting impatiently.
Marcelo informed them in detail of the meeting in Santa Cruz. He was interrupted several times to clear something up or to ask for his opinion. When he finished, he had renewed hope. He knew what it meant that they had listened to him. It was a good sign from any point of view. When he left the council, it was already late. He found Jacinto who had already heard about what had happened in Santa Cruz
He felt that there was hope for an arrangement, which would be honorable and acceptable to both sides. Completely exhausted and sleepy, he only exchanged a few words with his friend. Few minutes later he was deep asleep in the open air between two beautiful ramon trees where he had hung his hammock.
The general decided to suggest to the authorities in Santa Cruz an arrangement with the personal representative of the Governor. The teacher would be there as a translator. The decision made Jacinto and Marcelo very happy. This presented possibilities never seen before. Marcelo felt great satisfaction and renewed strength that encouraged him to keep on trying.
Three days later with all the transcendence of the encounter, the general and his council came into Santa Cruz Police station where they waited for the representative of the Governor and the other authorities.
The talks were laborious and difficult; finally they came to a satisfactory agreement. The Government exercised its authority with the acceptance and in the presence of the council and representatives of the town Chak-che. The ones who were found guilty were punished, and the innocent were set free. The sanctions were in agreement with the decision of the General and the council who could in this way exercise their authority. Those who didn't agree had a chance to manifest their grievances and norms were established to proceed in the future. The government in an act of good will, offered a sum of money to the families of the wounded to help them recover.
LEONOR AND MARCELO
Marcelo couldn't get to sleep in spite of his fatigue. He spent the first hours of the night tossing and turning in his hammock. On the floor, a small fire fed by small sticks smoked slightly, just enough to chase away the few mosquitoes that bothered him. But that wasn't what was keeping him awake. He was tired and his muscles were sore. He thought about the events of the past days, his anxiety and fear of arriving in Santa Cruz. His anguish at the thought of an uprising and the repercussions it would have for him, for the people of Tok'tuunich and the other towns and what if hostilities had broken out; he and many others would have surely died. Then he thought about Jacinto's family and about his mother in Zaci. The figure of Leonor appeared again and again in his mind.
He got out of the house-school. The sky was clear and full of stars; the Milky Way was clearly visible in all its beauty. The "three martyrs" shone in their entire splendor. His memories went over everything that had happened since he arrived in Tok'tuunich. He saw Leonor in causal encounters, in Jacinto's house when she and Carmen served the meals, in her comings and goings every day to the cenote, he remember how she would look away from his glance, and how sometimes he caught her looking at him. "What beautiful eyes she had".
The turbulent, recent events had made him understand that he was in love with her, and that he needed her every moment more and more.
He no longer had any doubt. As soon as he could, he would talk to her and her parents to ask for her hand in marriage, and Jacinto, Would she accept that? Would her family?
Thousand things occurred in his mind. He thought about his mother-so far away who couldn't know about how he felt. With all these thoughts he could hardly sleep.
At the first light of dawn, he woke up, and tried to put his ideas in order a few minutes later, he was washed and dressed, ready to go to Jacinto's house.
When he got there breakfast was ready- while it was being served, he thought about the moment when he would talk to Leonor. However, it was more convenient to confess his feelings to his friend.
After breakfast he spoke to Jacinto. "Don't go yet, I have to talk to you alone, go with me to the school".
Jacinto nodded. On the way to the school Marcelo said to his friend.
" I have to tell you something that you probably don't expect and it will surprise you" -after a pause he continued- "I am in love with Leonor and I want to talk to your parents to ask for her to be my wife.
I am telling you first after thinking about it for a long time, I don't have the slightest doubt, and I believe, and I hope to God I am not wrong, that she feels the same for me. I haven't said anything to her yet; I didn't want to until I have spoken with you and your parents.
Help me, guide me, tell me what I should do to speak with the family."
Jacinto looked deep into his friend’s eyes with an expression that Marcelo couldn't define. For some instants, Marcelo's heart beat fiercely at the fear of rejection.
"For quite some time, I have seen you watching her, at first I confess, it bothered me, but as I have gotten to know you, I realized that you have honorable intentions toward her. It is natural, you are young and you live alone. I have seen the same feeling in Leonor's eyes. I have never seen anything like it in her, and I am sure that you are not mistaken when you say that she feels the same. However I am surprised that you want to talk to my parents now. I thought that more time should go by.
I do not doubt your words or your feelings; but have you thought that perhaps Leonor would be afraid of leaving us when she marries you?
Because someday you will surely leave our town, we don't know when, but you will go, and may never come back".
Marcelo tried to interrupt him, but he stopped at Jacinto's gesture.
"Haven't you thought that perhaps there in Zaci your family and your people won't accept her, like our people didn't accept you here?"
"I have thought about all that over and over again and the answer is always the same: there is no obstacle that we can't overcome if she accepts me as her husband".
"She will accept you and you will marry if my parents agree; they will have the last word. It is our way and nobody can change it and so it will be".
After a short pause, Jacinto smiled to encourage him saying,
"Count on me because I am sure of your intentions and I know that Leonor loves you."
Marcelo breathed deeply. He felt a great sense of peace.
"I didn't expect any less from you. I thank you from my heart".
That same afternoon when Leonor came back from the cenote, Marcelo approached her near the house. The young girl smiled as she had done many times, with a quick glance. She noticed that the teacher was coming towards her. It was not his custom.
"Leonor, I need to talk to you a few words, I beg you to listen to me before you go into the house".
Without stopping Leonor whispered.
"We are almost there".
"Leonor, I have to tell you something serious. I have told Jacinto that I want to marry you, but I won't speak to your parents until I know what you say. Forgive me for telling you in this way, but in the house we can not speak alone"
Leonor felt her heart jump and her cheeks burn; she wanted to answer but she had a lump in her throat, she felt her knees shake, she was making an effort to keep walking, when she felt the gentle but firm hand of the young man who took her arm.
"Forgive me for stopping you, but I need to know your answer, even if it is a single word before we go into the house, otherwise I can't ask your parents for their consent".
Leonor lifted her eyes shining intensely with tears, and after a few seconds of anguished silence, the young máasewáal whispered words that could hardly be heard.
"Are you making fun of me?"
"Do you think I would lie to you".
Before he could say anything else Leonor start walking faster, going into the house before the teacher could react.
"What happened, Leonor", asked Carmen,
"I called to you when you came in, but you didn't seem to hear me. Did something happen? You look very strange".
"It's nothing, it is happiness and fear; happiness because Marcelo told me that he will speak to my parents to ask for my hand in marriage; and fear because I can't believe it is real. He told me that he wants to marry me".
Carmen's surprise changed to joy, hugging her, she said.
"I knew this was going to happen I saw it in your eyes and his.
I'm glad he didn't wait too long. Will he speak with your parents?"
"He was only waiting to speak to me first. Do you think my parents will accept?" A chill ran over her body at the thought of a negative.
"They will accept, why shouldn't they? Isn't he a friend of the family? I don't see how your parents could refuse ".
Leonor caught her sister-in law optimism.
When Jacinto and Marcelo went in Silvano's house he already knew the motive of his visit. In the morning, his son had told him that the teacher wanted to talk to him about his intentions towards Leonor. Silvano had suspected his daughter's interest in the young tsu'ul. Knowing the nobility of the young man, he hadn't been worried, however, he had not expected that the young man would speak so soon.
"Don Silvano", began Marcelo after greeting him, " I have come to ask you to let me speak to you about your daughter, but first, please accept this gift as a sign of good will. I don't have anybody to accompany me, except your son who has been like a brother to me since I arrived in your town. My mother is too far away, in Zaci. I would have liked her to be with me in this moment but that isn't possible.
"I want you to let me visit Leonor because I want to make her my wife"
"You will have to wait two or three days to talk, Jacinto will advise you" -answered Don Silvano. The teacher left and Jacinto stayed in his parents' house. Surely they would be talking about it. He would have to be patient and wait until he was informed when he should return. When he passed in front of his friend's house, he saw Leonor's silhouette in the doorway looking at him. He stopped for a minute to look at her, and with an almost imperceptible hand sign, he let her know the reason for his visit to her father's house. He walked on to the house school thinking about his immediate future.
A week later Marcelo and Jacinto went to Jacinto's parents' house taking presents that the Maya ritual established to formalize the marriage with rustic solemnities. They delivered the gifts and between drinks and drinks of liquor that Marcelo brought, they agreed on the gifts for the bride, and the obligation that Marcelo would have to Leonor's parents during the time of cutting down, burning, planting and harvesting and the milpa.
The wedding would be celebrated by a priest from Chuum-poom two months from the day of the visit, that should be enough time to build their own house, get the indispensable utensils, as well as the cloth and colored threads for the bridal "huipil" which would be embroidered by the bride herself.
They decided on the jewelry that should be given and the conditions for Marcelo to visit his bride to-be in the meantime.
Two weeks later the young teacher left for Valladolid to buy what he had promised and to visit his mother. The trip went without incidents, Marcelo knew his way well from his two previous trips.
He only stopped one day in Tihosuco and from there he took short cuts through the roads that led to the town around Valladolid.
His arrival was a pleasant surprised, for his mother since she didn't expect him until summer, in vacation time. When he told her about the reasons for his trip, she was very surprised, since she wasn't expecting anything like that. When she listened to the news and saw the enthusiasm in her son, she was a little afraid that his decision had been sudden. His conduct in the following days made her understand that her son didn't have any doubts and that he had thought his decision over well.
A day before his return to the village, Marcelo's mother asked him during the preparative.
"When do you expect to come back?
I would really like to go with you, but I realize that you are right. It is a very long trip. I can't go. But tell Leonor that I would have liked to meet her and maybe when you come back in vacation time, maybe you can bring her with you.
She is young, I don't doubt that she can do it. Marcelo, "said his mother," You haven't asked me about your father".
"Forgive me but the truth is I've only been thinking about my wedding" -with a sense of guilt, he asked- "How is he? I suppose his servant has brought you news"
"One week after you went back to the village, they told me that, he was very sick, that he couldn't even talk. The doctor said that he had had a stroke, later they told me that he was better and that his brothers were visiting him every day to see that he was being taken care of. It seems like about a month now that he hasn't gotten better or worse. Why don't you go see him?"
Marcelo sensed his mother's plea in her words.
" I will go to see him tonight, I promise".
Marcelo remembered the little strong box that he had given to his mother when he had come back from the last visit to his father.
" Where do you have the money and the jewels?"
"It is my trunk, it's locked. It's the safest place. I am afraid to leave the house empty. Isn't there a safer place?"
Marcelo smiled, "Who could ever imagine that you keep a capital so big here in this house? Come on. Don't worry, mommy".
"It's not mine, neither is yours, my son. By the way, why don't we pick something out for your bride to be?"
She didn’t wait for an answer then she opened the trunk and took out the
jewel box, She opened it, and put the jewels on her lap. She took a chain with a
medal of the Virgin
Mary and said "Isn't this pretty? Give it to Leonor as a wedding gift".
Marcelo looked at it, and putting aside his feelings against his father said, "If you want to give it to her, Leonor will love it ".
"They are yours, son, your father left them to you".
"They're yours, mommy, I told you that when you need something, all you have to do is to take whatever you want from the box".
"Not more words" -added Marcelo- "I will give it to her as a gift from you".
That same night, Marcelo visited the old colonial mansion. When he got home, he told his mother what she wanted to know.
Ï don't think that I will ever see him again, I'm not even sure if he recognized me".
Marcelo noticed the tears shining in his mother's eyes and on her cheeks as she listened to his words.
There were only a few days left to go until the celebration of the religious ceremony. While he was walking to Leonor's house, Marcelo was going over mentally the probable unfolding of the ceremony that would take place in the small, rustic thatched roof church. He repeated in his mind the instructions of the priest of the "Cross".
A lightly noticeable smoke burned his nose and eyes with its spicy smell. It was the unmistakable smell, characteristic of dry chile pepper being toasted. It made him sneeze and cough because of the irritation it caused in his nose. When he entered the house, he heard the noisy gobbling of the turkeys, destined for the wedding feast and the snorting of the pigs for the roast pork. "Would it be enough? What more did he need? the"x-tabentun" ?, The "baalche"?. He went over the list in his mind.
At the door of the kitchen he saw Leonor sitting in a chair made from deer skin doing her handy work of "xoc-bichuy" or embroidery work on the wedding dress.
Silvano Ek, the father of the bride, didn’t greet him, but he said.
"The priest from Chuum-poom sent me word that he will arrive the day before the wedding with a few of the principal people from there. Maybe even General Vega will come. I believe that everyone that we have invited will be there.
Also, some friends from other towns will come. Your marriage is known over the region". His face didn't hide his pleasure.
Marcelo smiled spontaneously, he knew the customs of the people well. He remembered the feast on his father's hacienda when he was a child and also when clinging to his mother's hand he mixed in with the people in the streets of the neighborhood of Candelaria in his beloved Zaci, during the days of the "fiesta" and other towns.
As if he was coming back to reality, he answered to Silvano.
"It will be as you have planned, may I speak with Leonor ?".
Leonor was listening to the conversation without looking up, she concentrated on her embroidery. She was thinking about her wedding. It would be soon now when she heard Marcelo's question, she looked up, and her father gave his consent with his look.
"Is everything ready?" the young man asked.
"I never imagined that there was so much to be done for our wedding, nor that they would be so complicated, but now it's all ready, isn't it?"
"Can we see the house again?" Leonor agreed happily.
The young couple went toward the house they had build at the back of the big yard, Marcelo, with Jacinto and the men of the family in less than a week, working in the afternoons.
They worked hardly talking among themselves, each man on his task. Some carried the sticks and others peeled them, some planted the corner post and tied on the "grid" where the palm leaves would go. Everything was said and done quickly and well.
Soon they arrived to the house and went inside, then Leonor pointed out.
"We only have to level the floor. They will have to bring more white lime stone powder to level it so it will look pretty, don’t you think?"
Marcelo remembered his mother's little thatched-roof hut where he lived in Valladolid.
"It will be perfect, don't worry and the kitchen, what will we do?"
"We will eat where we always have, you know that, later we will have our own yard, and we will build everything you want", said Leonor.
And after a moment, "You would like it if your mother could be at the wedding, wouldn't you? You don't know how much I would like to meet her".
Even if I had gone for her, it would have been almost impossible for her to come because of the distance and the difficulty of the trip for a person who isn't used to it," answered the young man.
"Beside I don't think she would have come anyway because my father is very sick. No, she wouldn't have come"
Marcelo changed the conversation as he took the hands that Leonor timidly extended toward him.
"You don't know, Leonor, how much I wish for the moment of our wedding".
Leonor almost inaudibly whispered. She was glowing, and her beautiful eyes were shining,
"Me too, Marcelo, me too".
The day that the young couple had been waiting for finally arrived.
The people of Tok'tuunich and the guests from the surrounding town were inside the little church, and many more were outside because there wasn't enough room. They listened to the prayers and religious songs of the priest of the "Cross" and his assistants.
The sun was half way up the sky and a soft breeze cooled the intense heat.
Suddenly the singing stopped. Inside the church, the priest finished the ritual, and turned toward Marcelo and Leonor who were kneeling before him, and spoke the words in Maya. The crowd followed the ceremony in silence and with great respect, the soft smell of incense of copal gave the atmosphere a touch of primitive solemnity.
With a small wooden cross, he blessed them with the sign of the cross.
The wedding night was completely different from what the young people had imagined. During the feast, that had begun at mid-day when the religious ceremony finished, Marcelo could hardly speak with Leonor because of his commitment with the guests and the men from his town and from the surrounding towns.
The guests, were merry with the drinks of "x-tabentun" and the refreshing tiny jicaras of nice soft "baalche". One after another toasted him to desire him happiness in his new life. As abundant as the liquor was the food. Everybody drank and ate until the early hours of the night, before withdrawing in small groups or in pairs, almost all of them under the effect of alcohol. The women helped the men who could hardly stand.
The next day, before dawn, Marcelo woke up in the half-light; he couldn’t remember very well. A terrible headache and general aches and pains didn't let him concentrate.
He had never gotten drunk before because he usually drank only a drink or a beer in the parties or "fiestas" of the town or in family feasts back in Valladolid. He felt ashamed to find himself half-naked in the hammock of his small hut and smelling of alcohol. He couldn't hear any sound. It was just starting to get light, isolated and timid the first songs of the birds broke the silence of the night, the crowing of a rooster was heard in the distance.
Leonor... Where was she? Had she stayed in the main house? He stopped worrying when he saw her at the threshold. Before he could speak he heard her quiet voice.
Did my husband wake up? How are you this morning? Her voice was festive, a few seconds of suspense and she continued, "How do you feel? You have been sleeping since night fall". She came closer, and went on
"Here, drink this tea of orange leaves. It's hot. It will settle your stomach" -She extended the steaming tea toward him, served in a white jicara. She smiled at him in a mixture of innocence and sensuality, looking at him with infinite tenderness. The young man without answering took the jicara, and drank, raising his eyes, he said shyly.
"Forgive me, I feel terrible. I don't usually drink liquor and I never get drunk. I don't remember and can't ever imagine things I did. I hope I didn't make you mad, "- His tone was at the same time an apology and a plea.
As an answer, Leonor took the young man's face in her hands, and raised it slowly to her breast with soft tenderness.
"You could never hurt me and nothing you could do, can make me mad."-The young man put his strong arms around his wife's slim waist and buried his forehead between her breasts. There was no more conversation. The young woman got up and went to the door to shut and lock it.
The two young people gave themselves to each other in the intimate half-light of their new home, as if they desired to hide the sun with the happiness that overwhelmed them.
Leonor and Marcelo were enjoying nature semi-naked, he was swimming all over the lagoon, and she was near the shore because she didn't know how to swim.
Their laughter and splashing were blending into the virgin jungle.
They were having a pleasant time. Occasionally, they could hear the wings of a pheasant flopping in the bushes nearby. Surely it had been startled by the presence of the young couple. The breeze was blowing softly but continually from the east.
Everything was in harmony with nature, when suddenly Marcelo felt something strange. He wasn't sure what, but it made him restless. Leonor signaled to him. There was absolute silence, except for the quiet sound of the soft breeze in the trees, then he understood. The animals had become quiet at the presence of something.
He remembered what Jacinto had once told him. With all his senses alert he listened, trying to hear something.
He motioned to Leonor to come close to him, as she was already hurrying toward him. Quietly she told her young husband.
"Let's get out of here, Marcelo, something is coming. Have you noticed that there isn't any noise in the forest."
Silently, they got out of the water. Leonor put on her "huipil" and tied back her long hair with a ribbon. Marcelo looked around the shore of the broad lagoon trying to see some animal, suddenly three mecates away toward the east; he distinguished the form of a jaguar that was cautiously coming to the shore to quench his thirst. Just then, the neighing of the mule whose restlessness accented the sense of smell of that beautiful feline, made the cat lift its head.
For an instant, it stood motionless, and then moved back to the shore, it advanced cautiously avoiding the water, mixing in with the high grass.
Marcelo guessed its intentions, surely it was circling around to attack the mule. It didn't seem to have noticed them, because these animals usually ran away from the presence of humans.
Leonor was terrified she grabbed her husband's arm and said:
"You saw it, didn't you. I am scared".
Marcelo motioned for her to be still. Alert, he watched the place where the jaguar would certainly appear. He was right. Suddenly it appeared less than a mecate away. The mule jumped instinctively. The jaguar stopped for an instant, as it perceived Marcelo.
He raised his shotgun, aiming carefully at the cat’s side behind its fore leg. At the shot, the animal gave a tremendous jump and fell thrashing and convulsing painfully.
Marcelo reloaded, but he didn't have time to shot again. The wild animal got up and lost itself in the tall grass. A few minutes of expectation and Marcelo said to his wife.
"Let's go, the animal is wounded. We'd better get back to the village".
Leonor tried to calm down. She hurried to pick up their things, and few seconds later they were riding away. The shock was over. Leonor held on to his husband's waist and rested her forehead on his back.
The return to the village was fast, because of the tension caused by the accidental encounter with the jaguar.
The first moment was the most agitated Leonor didn't loosen her hold on her husband's waist and leaned against him so she wouldn't fall off the mule as they galloped along the narrow path. Marcelo was thinking about the beautiful wounded animal, which was certainly going to die soon.
"I have never imagined that someday I would kill a tiger and much less under these circumstances. Don't you think it will die? - Said Marcelo.
"We should go back to track him down; today or tomorrow at the very latest, if we don't it would be a pity. Its hide will decompose in two or three days. Won't it?’’
"When we get to the village, we will tell my father and my brother, they will come right away with dogs to track it. They will find it. It would be a pity not to. The skin can be traded in X-hodsuc for ammunition and powder, which are so necessary'' -Commented Leonor.
"You are right, we'll do it today".
When they arrived home, Don Silvano listened to their story.
"It is better to let a day go by. Tomorrow at dawn, we'll be at the water hole. It isn't far. That way, it will be enough time for the animal to get numb, if it is still alive. It is better to take it dead or cold. It is very dangerous to try it when it is wounded".
The next day, Marcelo; Don Silvano, Jacinto and Jose Chuc and their dogs arrived at the water hole. Jacinto went ahead with Marcelo to the place where the animal had been shot. The dogs, tied in packs, were restless because of the odor of the wild animal. Jacinto bent down and easily distinguished the traces of blood, and the yellow hairs of the beast, which had pulled out when it was thrashing on the ground. He moved a few more steps and the stopped. He turned to Don Silvano and said.
"Here is the track, it goes that way" he said pointing to the North. "Let the dogs go, Papa".
Immediately, all of the dogs were set free and followed the smell. The men went behind them with their guns ready to fire. They knew it wouldn't be long before they found the animal.
The dogs went in to the grass after the traces. Some minutes went by, everybody's eyes and ears were alert. Then, they heard the distinct bark of "Box-ni" the leader of the pack.
Then the barking spread and went farther away. The men had to run so that they did not lose sight of the dogs. For a few moments, puffing from the effort and the excitement, Marcelo thought they would lose they prey. Jacinto made sign for them to separate a little to cover more territory. The barking became stronger, madder, undoubtedly, the pack had cornered the prey.
The mad barks, the painful howls and growls of the wounded animal mixed together and were clearly audible. Jacinto stopped in front of the view. The wounded tiger from behind a big chicle tree truck tried to defend himself from the attack.
One of the dogs was on the ground, motionless with the neck torn open from the claws of the cat. Other dogs, though bleeding, were attacking fiercely.
"Marcelo, you have the right to kill it before it hurts itself more or kills another dog" said Jacinto.
Marcelo raised his shotgun, but didn't fire. Jacinto raised his, understanding what Marcelo was feeling, pointed carefully at the animal's head and pulled the trigger. The animal fell down dead. The dogs ceased their attack some bleeding and breathing hard from the effort.
Don Silvano told Jacinto. " You and Jose will take it, cut a stick to carry it by its feet".
Turning to Marcelo, he continued- "It is a beautiful animal; it was a pity to let it suffer. It is your first tiger, isn't it?"
"And I think it will be the last... if Leonor hadn't been in danger, I think I would not have shot it. It is a pity".
Don Silvano and Jacinto looked at him puzzled.
Two months have passed since the encounter with the jaguar. The skin tanned carefully with bark of the tzalon tree and the chicle tree, hung stretched between slender skins of the mainmast inside the hut. Some weeks later, they would roll it up and wrap it in deer hide. He planned to take it to Valladolid to give to his mother as a gift to make a chair.
Jacinto came to the door and asked, "How is Leonor? Is it true that she isn't feeling well?"
"She is a little sick in the mornings." answered Marcelo. "The women say that she probably is pregnant. She gets dizzy and sometimes she throws up. She said that your mother says that's what it is. What do you think?"
" You are worried, aren't you. It is natural. Marcelo couldn't hide a big smile "The truth is I hadn't thought about a baby, but if that's what it is, that's fine. She is very happy about it, but she's so young".
"At her age, Marcelo, the women have had at least one child".
"I know that, but she is so fragile, so delicate, and now with the loss of appetite. She doesn't want to eat right, only sour things and that's not nourishment, I have told her to eat eggs and meat, but she doesn't feel like it".
"Soon she will start to eat, you will see. Do you know what? We want to go to the coast, near Tulu'um, there's good hunting around there and when we get there we can eat a lot of fish. Many of us have never tasted fish. The older ones say that walking north, and West we will come to some very ancient ruins, and following a "sac-be" to the east, we will go directly to the sea. Will you go with us? I have told the other that if you go with us you can explain many things that we don't understand and don't know. How old is Tulu'um? The old ones say that nobody knows how old it is. That our ancestors lived there; that the "sac-bes" coming from very old and faraway cities like Chichen go directly there and over them the ancient Mayas traveled; that they adored other gods, and that the "aluxo'ob" now watch over the sac-be.''
Marcelo listened with interest:
"The history books talk about Tulu'um.- he answered- It was one of the first places visited by the Spanish when they came to conquer Yucatan. But it was already abandoned. They say that the Maya who sailed along the coast rested at the ruins when they came back from their commercial trips. Not far from there to the North, is Xel-ha. Have you heard of Xel-ha? The Spanish made their first camps there, The called it Salamanca de Xel-ha but they abandoned it because of the sickness and deaths that they suffered".
Jacinto was interested in everything, and he exclaimed.
"Tell us everything, Marcelo"
" I will tell you when we get there. When do we leave ?," -He expressed smiling.
A few days later the line of máasewaalo'ob stopped when the guide raised his hand. Marcelo took the shotgun off his shoulder, putting in an oblique position in front of his chest, while with his left hand he took a cartridge out of his shirt pocket. For a few seconds, he watched how the leader whiffed the air, which hardly moved a few of the highest branches of the vegetation Surely they were near the coast because frequently now there were puddles of water in the land and they saw the first mangroves.
"I believe we are close to the sea, Don't you hear the noise? He pointed while he rested his a shot-gun on the ground, and got rid of the "big sabucan, which contained the food that had been prepared for the journey from the village to the sea"
"There is not much breeze, the insects are going to torture us."
Jacinto strained, trying to hear the sound of the sea. He didn't hear it.
"I am sure, Jacinto, when we were going to Sisal from Hunucma, that I heard from far away the sound of the sea. If there were more breeze, I'm sure we would be able to hear it clearly".
"How far away to you think we are, Marcelo?
"No more that 20 mecates, the vegetation is strange here. Generally in Yucatan, the land near the coast is swampy and the vegetation is different. Near Celestun there are big mangroves and spots of thick woods zapotes, "tahuches" and many other kinds of trees near the sea, here I can't say but I think I can smell in the breeze the odor of the sea".
The guide, an old máasewáal who had gone to the coast sometimes before, pointed out.
"So it is, professor, I believe that we are near the sea. Let's rest a while and wait for the sun to go down a little more, if we walk in a straight line with the sun at our backs, we'll be there in a few minutes. We will have to pass through brush and lagoons and puddles; but I am sure that before, much before the sun goes down we will be at the sea. Then we will continue to the south along the shore, and early tomorrow we will arrive in Tulu'um. The town is a little bit inland, a league more or less. It has been many years since I have been here."
After they rested for a moment, the group prepared a fire where they heated the "primo'ob", especially prepared with plenty of lard, salt and chile pepper and they refreshed themselves with a big "jicara" of "pah-queyem" sweetened with honey. They chewed some pieces of dry, salted venison, which they had brought from Tok'tuunich and finally, they laid down under a leafy tree, whose shade sheltered them from the hot sun.
Two hours later they took up their march again. And just like the old máasewáal had said, they were putting their feet on the white sand of the Caribbean coast. The sun was low on the horizon. It would be dark soon.
After preparing the wood to keep them warm in the night, all of them refreshed themselves at the seashore completely naked.
Jacinto and Marcelo didn't speak. Both of them near the fire were looking up at the sky, each one lost in their own thoughts. They felt in complete harmony with nature. Later on they both slept soundly, while the old maasewáal fed the fire.
The next day, after enjoying a bath in the sea, the group reunited to leave for the ruins of Tulu'um .
A small breakfast prepared them for what they calculated would be a short trip. In single file, at the edge of the sand hardened by the waves that lapped it intermittently, the men advanced toward the south. The soft, sea breeze refreshed their half-naked bodies. Jacinto enjoyed the view and remembered the quiet waters of the lagoon of Bak'halal, where years before, he had traveled to Belize. A quick and blurry memory, the face of Lola, the girl who had been his first passion came into his mind. What would be of her?
"I was talking to you, Jacinto, didn't you hear me?"
"No" he answered, " I was thinking about the lagoon of Bak'halal. You haven't seen it, it is very beautiful, but this sea is different. I cannot even imagine the other side."
"You would never be able to, the tsuulo'ob who conquered our land, took months to cross it to get here and, you know something else? The old ones also sailed and not just close to the shore, as many believe ."
"The Mayas, Marcelo ?" -asked Jacinto- as if trying to affirm his imagination.
"The Mayans; Jacinto, our ancestors sailed here in their big canoes, bringing and taking merchandise to the south to where we now call Honduras. They took cotton cloth, corn, cocoa, henequen and many other things, and they exchanged them with the Aztecs, there in the south of Tabasco; and from there they brought many things; stones like jade and colored feathers from many different birds that we don't have or are scarce in our land"
"So big is our country? The older ones talk about our brothers of Belize, of Guatemala and Peten Itza, but I didn't know that out people extended so much."
"When we get to Tulu'um I will tell you what the books teach about it. Many things will surprise you, let's keep walking. I think we're almost there".
From far away, at the limit of their vision the group noticed, at first not clearly, the shape of constructions of stone on a slight elevation of the coast. The waves broke near the shore.the sea was stirred up by a strong breeze that came from off shore. The foam crowned the crests that lost themselves in the white sand.
Jacinto hurried, going ahead of the group. Minutes later, the profile of the tall buildings was defined more clearly on a back-drop of sky blue. He stopped to wait for the others, trying not to miss a single detail of the beautiful view.
When his companions caught up to him, he began his march again ahead with his inseparable friend, Marcelo.
Both men were in silence, each one in their own thoughts. Stopping in the edge of the ruin, they contemplated together without saying a word about the majesty of the buildings facing the sea, like constant monuments since the immensity of times.
Marcelo remember the drawings of Mr. Caterwood had made on his visits to the ruins of Uxmal and other such cities of the Mayab, and that he had seen in books during the time he was studying in the library of Merida.
Jacinto absorbed in the contemplation of the impressive constructions eroded by time, compared them with other buildings, ruins and mounds that he had seen in his travels among the towns of the Cruzo'ob. He had seen many and had heard of the ruins of Chichen Itza and Coba, but he never imagined anything like this. The silence was interrupted by the guide's voice, the oldest one who had traveled this coast before.
"Let's find the entrance to the city". He said as he cleared the way through the vegetation with a machete.
In an instant, all of them drew their machetes, clearing away the branches that blocked their way. A few meters ahead became less dense and a few trees were growing; in their shade, they cleaned weeds and advanced parallel with the fallen rocks that marked the limits of the platform on whose upper part was the wall that limited the constructions.
With difficulty, slowly, carefully, they went on until they arrived at on open space in the upper part, they stopped to contemplate the monument in ruins and beyond, in the elevated part, the construction which had defied the sea forever.
Their admiration had no limits. The richness of the worked stone, in columns, in the walls the edges of the roofs, the shapes, the Mayan faces, the wood which held up the rocks over the doors, all of this caused admiration and surprise.
"Let's rest in the shadow of the buildings"-said Marcelo. "Look, there are rocks that will be good for making a fireplace".
The group went toward the rocks placed on the ground that been used for a fireplace to cook food, surely fish, or maybe game meat. They put their load down next to the walls and opted to rest a while from their short walk. Marcelo and Jacinto slowly penetrated the inside of the building to make a brief inspection.
"Be careful Marcelo, the ruins and the "kuuyo'ob" are good places for the "tzan-can", the "koh" and other snakes. They like shade and moisture" he said as he looked around on the floor and the corners of the construction.
"Bats?" -asked Marcelo, pointing to the marks on the walls and the dry Ramon fruits scattered on the floor.
"Bats"-answered Jacinto " You know that caves and abandoned buildings are their favorite places. Look there in the corner near the roof there are some."
Marcelo looked up.
Jacinto said, "Let's make a lot of smoke to make them leave and then we'll clean the floor. We can spend the night here inside. I think it will be a little bit cooler than on the beach where we slept last night."
"Ok, let's do it".
The two friends left the building to rejoin their group.
Jacinto said: "Well, you said you would tell us what you know about these ruins. This is a good time, while we're resting. Later, we will cut firewood, and try to catch some fish here near the shore. Over there in the rocks, where the sea comes in would be a good place, don't you think," without waiting for an answer, he said to group.
"Who wants to go fishing with me? Will you go, Marcelo? You know more about it than we do. The others will go for firewood and to try and bag some pheasants or any animals to have enough food for the time we're going to be here. Come here, in the shade, we are going to talk about our ancestors that built this city and many others.
The group sat down near the building, some leaning up against and others sitting on the ground.
Marcelo started to talk.
"When the Spanish came to this coast, more than 400 years ago, hundreds of years had gone by, maybe a thousand, since our cities started to be built. Here in Tulu'um and more to the west Coba, Chichen Itza, and to the south Uxmal and other cities more. Mayapan was destroyed more or less a hundred years before the Spanish arrived. The worked stones that we see in all of these ruins and in all of the ancient cities tell the story.
A few years after the conquest, the religious leaders destroyed the ancient writings in Mani. The history could scarcely be recovered through the oral tradition that tells us where our ancestors came from. Several books have been written from the tradition. They are called the "Books of Chilam-Balam"; I am trying to remember many of the things that are said in them, things that I read when I was studying.
"In that time the count was made in months of 20 days and in a group of 20 years that were called "katunes". About a thousand years ago, a group of men called "Itzaes" carriers of the Maya culture came from the South, certainly from the regions of the neighboring country of Guatemala. They arrived at Bacalar, in ancient times known as Ba'akhalal in the present territory of Quintana Roo. From there, this group migrated and settled during 10 katunes, that is to say 200 years. During their journey from Bacalar to Chichen, another three katunes, or 60 years. Without explaining why, the Itzaes abandoned Chichen Itza and went to Chakamputun where they arrived, according to some versions in the year 700. For many years the Itzaes stayed in Chakamputun, returning to what was Chichen Itza around the year 900 or 1000 of the Christian Era.
It seems that in all of the Yucatan Peninsula, in the northern zone there where no other peoples until the Itzaes went back to live in Chichen Itza. After the year 1000, they think that other people from far away, the people of the Chichimecas or Toltecs, came into to Yucatan in the era of Quetzalcoatl, the god of the Aztecs and Kukulcan god of the Mayas. It was Friar Diego de Landa who destroyed the parchments, destroying everything that was written on the skins. The history of our people explains all of this in the oral tradition that comes down to us from our ancestors.
They think that Tulu'um was founded by the same group of people that founded Chichen and Coba, as well as other cities of the area, and later the city of Mayapan, which as I told you, was destroyed about 100 years before the Spanish arrived. It was at the beginning of the 1500's when they began to arrive in our lands.
It is said that the first Spaniards who arrived on our coast, was a group of shipwrecked sailors. The carabela, that's what they called their ships, had been caught by a summer storm, and some men survived. It is said that most of them died and only two men remained alive.History has recorded the exact date of that event. When they arrived at the coast near these ruins it was the year 1511. The two men who survived were: Gonzalo Gerrero, who according to the story married the daughter of the chief of Chehtemal, and the other was a priest named Jeronimo de Aguilar.
These two Spaniards lived among the Maya for 8 years, until the one who had conquered the Aztecs, Hernan Cortes, arrived here in front of Tulu'um, on the island of Cozumel. When he came he was told that there were two white bearded men who were living here, and he sent for them. Of the two men only one wanted to go to him, Jeronimo de Aguilar.
By that time he spoke Maya perfectly. He became very valuable, very useful for Hernan Cortes when he began the conquest of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan, which is now called Mexico city.
Jeronimo de Aguilar, knew an Aztec Princess from the region of Maya putum, which is a region of Tabasco, and bordered with the Aztec lands. This Princess was called "Malinche".
She spoke two languages "Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, and Maya.
Jeronimo de Aguilar translated what Hernan Cortes said, explaining it to Malinche in Maya, and Malinche translated it to Nahuatl to the Aztecs, and then translated what they said back to Jeronimo Aguilar.
It was a very valuable co-incidence, very valuable, for Hernan Cortes."
Marcelo paused to put his ideas in order and Jacinto asked:
"What happened to Gonzalo Guerrero, the other Spaniard who stayed here? "
"Gonzalo Guerrero stayed in the province of Chetumal with the princess, daughter of the chief, they had several children. We know this from a letter that he sent to Cortes by way of Jeronimo Aguilar when he saw him in Cozumel when Aguilar was on his way to the land of the Aztecs.
Cortes didn't take long to conquer this country. In 1519, a few years later one of Cortes' captains, Francisco de Montejo was appointed by the King of Spain to colonize and conquer these provinces. That was in 1527.
Starting in 1527, the Spanish came back to try to dominate our people. They tried several times. The first time after a fruitless effort they managed to establish a small colony in Chakamputun, now called Champoton.
There was where the first big battle occurred, a combat where many Spaniards died, and for that reason it was called the "Bay of the Bad Fight" but that was in 1517, which is to say before Cortes came to this land.
In 1517 the first Spanish captain who explored the Yucatan coast came from Cuba disembarking in Champoton and there the Mayas fought against him causing many casualties. The captain himself died of his wounds in Cuba. Two years later there was another expedition that went to Tabasco, and that was when they discovered the southern part where the Maya people lived, the ones called Mayas-Putunes."
"In 1519 Cortes, with his great fleet arrived in Cozumel, there he found Jeronimo de Aguilar. One of the captains that came with Hernan Cortes, Francisco de Montejo, was who began the conquest of Yucatan, but many years went by, about twenty before the Spanish were able to establish definitely. During this time, they encountered great resistance from the Maya people.
Gonzalo Guerrero, in the south of Chetumal, which we now know as Honduras, died in 1534. His body was found after a battle and the Spaniards recognized him.
Our ancestors never surrendered.
In 1546, three years after the foundation of Valladolid, the Cupules, taking advantage of the absence of Francisco de Montejo, and his nephew and son who had gone to Campeche to greet him, made an uprising recovering almost all the towns that had been given to Spaniards. They killed many of them, they sieged Valladolid but they couldn't take it. When the Spaniards came with troops from Merida and Campeche, the Mayas were defeated. They had to take refuge in what is now the territory of Quintana Roo. Actually, the Cupules never surrendered.
The Itzaes, the group that had abandoned Mayapan when it was destroyed, had immigrated to their place of origin, to a place called Peten at a lagoon whose name is Peten Itza. The Spanish dominated them in the year 1697."
The teacher paused, and in this interval, Jacinto asked.
"Haven't you heard of the rebellion of Jacinto Canek?"
"Yes, Jacinto, he who was named as you are, about the year 1760, rebelled and so many of our people died.
Who among us does not remember the caste wars started by our ancestors around the year 1847?
That is the history of our people."-Marcelo was quiet for a few seconds.
"I understand why we are the way we are", interrupted Jacinto,
"Are we the last Cupulo'ob? We are the descendants of the Cupulo'ob of these towns."
"Yes, we are"-answered Marcelo, "We are the descendants of the last Cupulo'ob."
There was complete silence. Only the noise of the waves that broke over the rocks below the platform could be heard. A soft breeze cooled their faces.
"Enough of history"-said Marcelo, "Let's separate, each with his weapon, and who ever wants to fish come with me, we have to fix our food and prepare a place to sleep before the sun goes down. Let's go."
In the light of the fires, the group sitting in circles enjoyed the meat of wild animals and the grilled fish; the flames of the fires illuminated the faces carved in stone in the walls of the ruins and old temples situated on the platform.
In the sky, the crescent moon shone and at the heat of the fire someone said.
"Tell us more about the rebellion of the Mayas after Zaci was founded."
After a few seconds, Marcelo began his narration.
"Many years ago, after the foundation of Valladolid, in the old town of Zaci which was the capital of the Cupules, four years after the foundation of Merida, of Campeche and of Izamal, these cities formed a square in the peninsula. Inside this square the conquered people lived as prisoners. The "conquistadores" thought that they had finished their job and could rest, exploiting the slaves.
In 1546 Francisco de Montejo " the young" and his nephew, the founder Valladolid, went to Campeche to receive Don Francisco de Montejo "The Father". The conquistador was coming back to the peninsula after almost ten years.
The Mayas began to conspire to upraise against the Spanish while they were gone.
The chiefs, the old princes and priests were the main leaders of the Cupulo'ob whose lands had been taken away by the "conquistadores".
"The conspiracy was plotted in secret, by all the peoples of Yucatan. The conspirators had noticed that the Spaniards went regularly from the cities to their "Encomiendas" to collect taxes. When Montejo Senior arrived in Campeche, and the Spanish leader went to receive him, the cities were some how defenseless. The Cupules set the rebellion for the full moon of November, which fell on the 9th, on this date they revolted simultaneously in different parts of the old Cupul territory. In a town North of Valladolid, the Spanish landholders were surprised by an unexpected attack and since they weren't carrying weapons to defend themselves, they were taken captive alive by the conspirators.
History tells us what happened then. Some of them were captured alive and tortured to death; some of them escaped and ran to warn those in Valladolid. The Spanish began to prepare a defense, and after the slaughters by the Cupules, who didn't just sacrifice the Spanish, but also the slaves they had brought from Mexico, the Maya gathered in front of the town in great number. The inhabitants were in danger because they say there were only 22 of them, 18 Spanish had been sacrificed in their "encomiendas". Those under siege had with them some mexican Indians who had been brought for the conquest and several servants whose faithfulness had been proved. These helped in the defense. All the soldiers from Merida and Campeche were organized to help Valladolid, and all the Spanish cavalry marched. Don Francisco de Montejo "the young" had orders from his father to try to pacify the Cupules without using arms.
The rebels resisted bravely the first efforts of the Spanish. They said that Spanish and Maya fought all over the provinces, in the land of the Cocomes, and in the far off province of Huamil-Chetumal, where Bacalar was founded.
"In few weeks, the Spanish were able to dominate the Maya. The killings were very big. The repression was extraordinary cruel. The Spanish didn't just kill them but they also mutilated them because the Spanish thought that only by teaching the Cupulo'ob a lesson and by place fear into them, they could be dominated."
The teacher stopped his story. His companions remained silent. Marcelo contemplated their stony faces; his imagination was full of the thousand scenes that he himself had described. Then he began again.
"These are the things that I remember from what I have read in the books that tell of the first big rebellion of the Maya people.
The scholars know all the history, but most people don't know what happened. The caste wars began in 1847. This is something that is better known, surely because it is more recent and what happened has been told to us by our grand father and fathers. The fight by the Mayas in 1546 only lasted a few months. The Cupulo'ob were dominated very quickly. In this same land of the Cupulo'ob where the caste wars started as you know in the towns of Tepich and Tihosuco. The rebellion of our grandfathers lasted for many years about so, our ancestors, those who escaped into these land managed to keep at the fringe of the Spanish conquistadores, you know that better than I do. It finished with the intervention of General Bravo in 1900.
"30 years have passed since then, I think, I am convinced that the Cupulo'ob who formed those towns of the Cruzo'ob can not go on being separated. That time is over."
Jacinto got up, he took some wood to liven up the fire that was dying out, and looking at his companions he said:
"Let's go to sleep, we have to rest because, tomorrow early we have to go fishing. We will try to fish enough to take home.
For two days the group enjoyed the sea and the fishing. At mid-day the hot sun made them seek refuge inside the old building. At night at light and heat of the fires, the stories, the legends and the jokes were told.
The night breeze cooled their burned skin. They slept deeply each one with his own dreams. Those were days deeply enjoyed. One day, with plenty of fish dried from the heat of the fires, they decided to go home to Tok'tuunich. The return trip was calm, without problems. When they arrived, their families enjoyed the abundant fish with them and listened to the tales of their excursion.
LIFE AND DEATH
The teacher was deeply worried. He had thought about this moment many times. He was never convinced that Leonor should have the baby in the village. But, what reasons could he have? Every time that there was a chance to go to Zaci so that she could be attended by a doctor or an experienced mid-wife, she didn't want to go. Since the first time that they talked about it, although he tried to be delicate, he realized that nothing could change his wife's attitude. And it was natural. Didn't all the women in the village have their babies right there? By themselves, with the help of only one or two of the old women of the town. That's the way it had always been and that the way it would be. His worry wasn't only because of the circumstances; it was more because of Leonor's frailness during the last part of her pregnancy. After that persistent fever that during more than two weeks had caused a noticeable deterioration of her health, and a weakness from which she hadn't really recovered.
Leonor had already been in labor for almost a day, and according to the old woman, it would still be a while until the baby was born.
Sitting in the back of the little kitchen, he saw Jacinto coming, who sat down at his friend's side and asked
"How are things going, Marcelo?"
"I don't know, I can't see, but I have the impression that it isn't going very well.
Don't you think that her labor has gone on too long?"
"Don't worry, everything will be fine" pointed out Jacinto. "I remember when my first child was born. I had the same fear as you do, you'll see everything will be all right. I remember that when the first one was born, it took along time. Jacinto talked quietly trying to calm and give confidence to the young teacher
"But your wife isn't just young, she is also strong, on the contrary, Leonor is very delicate, as you can see", answered Marcelo, "the truth is that I can't relax and I think I made a mistake in not taking her Valladolid."
"Do you really think that you could have done that?" said Jacinto,
"Even if Leonor had accepted, the long trip would have been too much for her, especially when it was so close to her time, don't you think?"
Marcelo heard a quiet groan from inside the house.
He got up, crossed the threshold and went to the almost dark house. The flame of a candle let him see the shape of his wife on the floor with her knees spread. She was held on each side by the strong hands of the midwives. A look of pain and the pearls of sweat on her forehead made him feel a sharp pain in his chest.
"What are they doing?" What are you doing kneeling on the floor?"
"Professor," said one of the old women "You'd better leave so she can help us."
The pain in her abdomen had stopped Leonor felt her muscles relax. She opened her hands, closed from the effort, and looking at her husband said,
"Leave the house, if you don't, I won't be able to do this. Don't worry everything is going to be alright."
Marcelo approached his wife and dried her sweat from her forehead.
He twice caressed her hair. He tried to make her feel the calm and confidence he didn’t really feel. The expression on Leonor's face made him fear the worst.
The old women looked at him indifferently until one of them with a movement of her head indicated that he had to leave. He knew that in a few seconds the pain would come back, and they would have to concentrate to help the young mother push out the baby.
The teacher was leaving the room when he heard the repressed cry of his wife in her new effort.
Jacinto watched the anguish of his friend. The repressed moans of his sister made him understand that the decisive moment was near.
The whole night, every time he approached the house, he noticed the restlessness and nervousness of his friend.
At first he wasn't very worried, but as almost a whole day wore on, he too felt the same worry and anguish.
His parents had left only to eat. His mother didn't want to leave, but she obeyed Don Silvano and had gone to rest for a while. He thought that he would have to spend another night in vigil.
Marcelo thought about the time that had transpired since his union with Leonor. Almost a year, in which except for two trips to Zaci to visit his mother and buy merchandise and utilities, for his house and for the school, he had not separated from his young wife. Including the trip to Chuum poom for the baptism of Jacinto baby son, when he was the godfather, he had tried to postpone not to leave his wife who was just recovering for her sickness.
He tried to think of something and forced his memories into the past so not to think about this terrible moment. Jacinto shook him of his thoughts.
"Marcelo, I asked you something. Didn't you hear me?"
"Tell me and forgive my distraction" he answered.
"I asked you if you had chosen a name for the baby, if it's a boy, what will you name him? And if it's a girl?"
"If it's a boy, he will be named after me, and if it's a girl, it will be named after your mother and your sister, Maria Leonor what do you think"
"Give it your name, "he answered we have that custom with the first boy"
"We do too, we have thought about it but there will be time, for the others, won't there?
Jacinto smiled. He was pleased.
"It will be dark soon, Jacinto, I hope to God the baby will be born soon," Marcelo came back to the subject.
Jacinto didn't answer. From inside of the house, a repressed, prolonged cry made both of them to jump up. Seconds later, it was repeated. Marcelo tried to go in, but Jacinto held him back.
"Let me go in, Jacinto"
"You mustn't do it, you will only be in the way, I know what I'm talking about," a few seconds later, and a sustained and terrible cry made Marcelo break away from Jacinto. He went into the room at almost the same time as the mid-wife was coming out visibly upset.
Marcelo didn't stop, forcing his eyes he saw Leonor in the hammock, exhausted by the supreme effort, the last of the birth. The other old woman was wrapping the purplish body of the newborn in the cotton cloth. He went to his wife and caressed her face. She opened her eyes and looked at him. Her pale, but peaceful face changed when she saw her husband. With a weak smile she asked in whisper "Is it a boy, Marcelo?"
The old woman holding the baby in her arms nodded.
"Is he alright?" She asked again.
The crying of the baby calmed her fears
"Leave, please," said the old woman coming back into the room with more clothes and rags in her hand, " We haven’t finished with her yet. Go, so we can finish".
"Don't go Marcelo," begged Leonor, "Don't leave me alone." But the old women insisted "I'll be right back, I am right here in the door don't be afraid".
As he came out, Jacinto and his parents asked him silently
"I think she's alright. The baby is crying. Don't you hear it? It's a boy; the mid-wife made me leave, because they haven't finished yet. I haven't had time to see him. It's very dark in there. Can't we get more candles?
"I'll be right back with more candles," said Jacinto as he turned to go to his house.
"Don't take too long, I'm going back in as soon as they say I can. Leonor didn't want me to leave. Why don't you go in, Doña Maria, I'm sure they let you in."
Jacinto's mother went in.
"How are you, my daughter?".
Leonor answered, a suave sensation of relief invaded her body. With her eyes closed, she heard her mother. She half opened them in the semi-dark. And turned slowly toward the mid-wife who was holding her baby.
"Let me see him," she said quietly "bring him to me, put him in my arms."
The old woman put the baby in Leonor's right arm. Wrapped in a soft cotton cloth, which she had embroidered with her own hand. An intense feeling of well being invaded her. All her suffering was behind her. How happy Marcelo will be! I always knew it was going to be a boy"
Leonor closed her eyes letting herself taken by the lovely sensation of sleep. She was so tired. The effort of the last hours had been exhausting. She let herself go completely and in a few seconds she was sound asleep.
Almost an hour had gone by, Marcelo calculated, since minutes after his baby's first cry when he went in again to see his wife and left again because the old woman had sent him out because she was asleep. When his sister-in-law, Carmen, came out of the house. Marcelo got up to go in before asking. Is it all over...?"
Carmen's tears alarmed him "The placenta has come out, but she is very weak."
"She is only asking for you since she woke up," Marcelo went in.
He entered quickly. He took her hand while he kneeled next to the hammock. One of the old women took the baby again, while the other changed the rags soaking with the new mother's blood. Marcelo noticed this ... "Would that be normal?". How do you feel, do you feel alright?" He asked his wife.
"I am only very tired, I am very sleepy. Have you seen our baby?" she quietly whispered.
Marcelo put his head next to hers while he caressed her hair. Leaning over he gave her a soft kiss on her eyes
"Why don't they change the candles?" asked Leonor. "They are going out, I can hardly see." He could hardly hear her voice. Marcelo was frightened the flames will lively and strong, "Was it for her weakness?"
He felt the pressure of Leonor's fingers on his right hand.
Leaning over, he buried his face in his wife's shoulder. He felt her soft hair and cold skin of her cheeks.
Both of their tears mixed together in their light embrace.
"Don't cry Marcelo, I want you to promise me something..." her voice was scarcely audible in her husband's ear.
"Tell me that you will never leave our son. When you leave here, promise me you will take him with you... and that you will be always at his side."
Marcelo held back his sobs that closed throat, his tears, he couldn't hold them back any longer.
"I don't have to promise you anything"- he said to his wife-
"You will always take care of him"
"Hold me tight, Marcelo, I am cold" said Leonor with her last breath.
Marcelo felt a slight pressure of Leonor's fingers in his hand...
Then, the pressure ceded until the hand was lifeless.
He separated from his wife's face and in the candlelight, he noticed the relaxed and tranquil face of his wife. Marcelo couldn't hold back his sobs, he buried his head in Leonor's cold face.
A few steps away Jacinto and his family were witnesses to the scene.
Doña Maria cried in Don Silvano's arms, Jacinto felt the tears that slid down his cheek. It had been years since he cried, many years.
The death of Leonor affected Marcelo profoundly; his enthusiasm, his young idealism, his spirit to fight crashed with reality. The next days after her death passed through his mind as images hidden in deep fog. Not even, his son, nursed by and under the care of Carmen, could change his thoughts. Jacinto watched him and with delicate respect to his sentiments and silence, tried not to distract him from his thoughts.
He understood and felt in his own flesh the pain of his friend because of the death of Leonor.
Days later, at nightfall, he went to the teacher's house. He found him resting in his hammock, hiding in his own silence and solitude.
"Have you eaten? Don't you want to go to my house? Carmen prepared atole and tamales... Let's go. It's time to eat"
"I thank you, but I'm not hungry" answered Marcelo.
"That's what you always say when I come to invite you to eat; you have to eat... you can't imagine how much weight you have lost. You hardly even eat. If you keep on like this you are going to get sick."
Do you think that only you have felt the death, of Leonor? What about my mother? and us.... Do you must think of your son?..."
Marcelo listened to his friend. After a few seconds in silence he answered.
"Don't worry Jacinto, I know what happened are things of fate. It is a blow we didn't expect. When one suffers is when he understands what it means to lose his most beloved person. I remember when my father died. I felt pity, but not pain. I have been thinking a lot in these days, in my son, in you, in myself, and also in my mother in Zaci.
I have decided now. I will stay here until the next vacation. My son is in good hands with your wife. Then I will go to prepare things to come back for him, when he is a few months old, then he will be able to travel"
Carmen will nurse him until I take him to my mother. She will take care of him. I don't think there is another choice. I don't think I will ever come back to Tok'tuunich. It will be very painful for me to leave, but it is more painful my life here with my memories, besides my mother is alone, and I can't leave her to take care of the baby alone."
"If you want to leave the baby longer, we will have him as if he were our own son"-interrupted Jacinto.
"I couldn’t do it, Jacinto, besides I promised Leonor in her last moments, when she felt her life escaping that I will never, ever forget."
Jacinto didn't answer. His silence was the tacit acceptance of his friend's words.
Weeks went by until the day of good-bye arrived.
The school year finished and the teacher made the preparation for the trip to Zaci.
Minutes before leaving, in Jacinto's house, Carmen's tears moved the teacher.
"Take God care of him, Carmen, I'll come back soon for him."
With a prolonged hug, Marcelo said good-bye to his friend. Both of them were aware that this separation would be definite.
When the teacher come back for his son, the days that they would be together on the trip and his stay in Zaci, wouldn't be the same. Both of them knew that from then on, their paths would be different.
When the teacher came through the little square guiding his horse toward the road to Tihosuco, he watched the children, who stopped their games to look him in a silent good-bye.
Some parents, in the doors of their houses, dared to lift their hands timidly to say good-bye. They knew that other chapter had closed in their town.
When Marcelo entered in the jungle, a few minutes later, the days lived in Tok'tuunich passed though his mind.
His thoughts turned to Zaci and to his mother who didn't know anything about what he had just lived through.
Jacinto was already one of the leaders of the town when general Cardenas came through Santa Cruz, the small town which during the first dozen years of the century had been a place of exile and a prison for the opposes to the Porfirian regime. It was an opportunity for the government and the margined indians to meet each other. Cardenas, of rural roots, was particularly interested in the indians of the country among them the Maya of Quintana Roo, auto segregated since the caste wars of 1847. The old men fought against change. The young men did not so much. Only the influence and authority of the old men delayed the integration, which although, slow, discontinuous and incomplete was invading the main towns and far away places. The rural teachers made great efforts to stay and struggled against the rejection of the communities.
The contents of the convocation made Jacinto feel that this was an opportunity to break down many barriers.
One night, the leader and the baatab deliberated one more time over what they would say to the authorities during the encounter.
"It is necessary, Jacinto had said, to tell the General about the needs of teachers and schools."
"The children have to learn to read and write, and to speak Spanish. I think s the first thing that we should ask for."
"It is more important to ask them to respect our land," disagreed the baatab.
"We have to be more and more alert so that they don't invade us. Remember the chicle cutters that came into our land to the north. Many of our towns are being invaded by those who exploit cedar and caoba trees. Already near Chetumal they are opening roads to exploit the forests. The day will come, when we will have trouble, even in our cornfields. The forests are being wiped out, and the animals are going farther and farther away."
"And our religion?" Interrupted the indian priest. "You can see that the tsuulo'ob do not respect our beliefs. They come from other races and religions to teach our people, to convince them to deny our saints, we have heard of many churches that divide our people with new beliefs."
"Remember too," added José Chuc, "that their justice isn't ours, the law is not applied in the same way to the tsuulo'ob as to us. They punish us and pardon themselves for the same infraction."
The counsel went on for a long time. Finally, they agreed to send a representation of 10 leaders, including the Baatab.
Jacinto would speak for them since he was the only one who spoke Spanish. Jacinto's mind went back to the memory of Marcelo, that time in Santa Cruz, years ago, when thanks to his intervention and courage as the voice of the Maya leaders, the revolt had not continued. Who knows how many people would have suffered and died if it had.
Since then, the contacts, although sporadic, had broken the isolation of the people of his race, however Tok'tuunich was one of the most stubborn and only the teachings of Marcelo had changed their way of thinking. But that was limited and temporary.
What would be of his friend? And about Leonor's son? He hadn't ever heard from them again after Marcelo took his baby to Zaci after Leonor died. The voice of Carmen who was nursing their youngest son, almost a year old, broke his thoughts. "How many days will you be in Santa Cruz?"
"I don't think any more than necessary to rest from the trip," answered Jacinto. "Most likely a day or two at the most."
"You should take advantage of the trip to buy some things, don't you think?"
"I will take some gold coins to exchange or sell, what would you like me to bring back."
Carmen listed the things that she wanted or needed. Jacinto listened hard, trying to memorize the list. "I will buy two axes, and two machetes, and some shots for my gun, I think 2 or 3 coins should be enough."
"Don't let them trick you, Jacinto," emphasized Carmen, "you know what each English coin is worth, the tsuulo'ob are very clever, they value our gold coins more that anything because they are getting more scarce every day."
"I know, I am not a fool. When I get to Santa Cruz I will go to different places to find out how much merchandise they can give me, or how much they will give me in Mexican money for them. I am not going to give them away."
Carmen didn't go on, as she had noticed the severe tone of voice of her husband. The conversation was over.
When the committee arrived in Santa Cruz, the little community was full of people from the Maya towns who had come to the meeting with General Cardenas. From the out skirts there were groups sitting in the shade next to the stone fences, some were refreshing themselves with pozole. Closer to the town center, 2 or 3 blocks away the stores were full of activity invaded by the maasewaalo'ob who were mainly buying or selling some coins to have the current money.
The presence of a strong guard in the government building got Jacinto's attention, well-uniformed soldiers with modern rifles.
They crossed the street that bordered the church from east to west and going south, they headed for the Cenote which for along time had guarded the Holy Cross, mother of all Crosses of the Cupulo'ob of Quintana Roo.
Near the site so sacred to them, they set up camp, tying their pack animals. A few minutes later, they joined the "baatab" to go together to the center of town to present themselves to the authorities.
General Cardenas arrived in his vehicle over the bumpy road that led to Chetumal, caused great excitement among the Maya groups from all the towns of the center of the territory of Quintana Roo.
Jacinto, with his group, went ahead to the location of the Delegation of Government where the candidate was speaking with the cruzo'ob. As they come close to the vehicle, they saw the groups mingling in a disorderly fashion. The assistants and the soldiers cleared the area and held them back.
A few seconds later, Jacinto saw a man descend from the vehicle. He seemed to be the candidate, because of the posters and signs. He noticed his stern look, his long face, and his thick black moustache that contrasted with the color of his skin, tan and sweaty from the sun.
When he least expected it, one of the employees of the government signaled him to come forward. The guard at the door stepped aside to allow him to go inside where some of the Maya chiefs were already.
The baatab of Chunón said to him in Mayan. "You speak good Spanish, you will be one of those who will speak with General Cardenas."
When his turn came Jacinto stood up. The General raised his hand to greet him. This gesture gave the maasewaal hope. "Where are you from, young man?"
"From the town of Tok'tuunich."
"Tell me, What do they think in your town? They tell me that you people don't want the authorities and teachers to enter you town."
Jacinto answered. "Only a few, general, most of us feel that it should finish. We want teachers, we have only had one for more than five years. We also want our land to be respected. Other people have been cutting our lumber and taking our chicle without our permission and without any benefit to the towns, we also want our customs to be respected, as well as our form of justice and we want our religion, Sir. We want to be treated as the other people are."
The candidate listened to Jacinto's words. The other maasewaalo'ob in the room manifested their agreement with Jacinto's petitions.
"When I am president, I won't forget what you are telling me. The same as what I have heard in other states of the Republic. Have faith in me."
The group shook the candidate's hand and left the room to give the others who were waiting in the halls an opportunity. When he was leaving Jacinto made general comments to his companions.
Afterwards, they all went to the center of town to the big stores to buy the things they needed. That same afternoon, they started back to their hometown.
THE FLIGHT OF A CUPUL
Almost nine years had passed since the presidential candidate came to Santa Cruz, General Cardenas was no longer in the Government. During those years, on two or three occasions, Jacinto had accompanied the "baatab" on his trips to Santa Cruz to deal with matters relating to the exploitation of lumber and chicle.
The things got more and more complicated because of the greed of the bureaucrats who wanted to take advantage of the illiteracy of the Cruzo'ob in the payments and accounts. The invasions into the indian land were frequent, so they had to keep watch continuously from the beginning of the rainy season, when the sap of the chicle tree began to rise.
Rumors came that the country was at war with Germany, and soon they would begin to recruit young men to defend the country. Jacinto didn't understand why, he thought as did the others; that these were only rumors or pretext of the Government to take them into the army. The old men remembered what had happened during the Caste Wars and how they had forced the young man to go to war.
Also, after the revolution, the governor had formed battalions of Cupulo'ob from Kanxoc, Xocen, Chichimila and other towns around Zaci, as government troops.
One day, a sergeant came to the town with two soldiers to take a census of the young men over eighteen years old, single or married. They informed them that there would be a lottery to choose two or three of them to be incorporated into the army.
The town rejected the idea and said that not one of their boys would go to war. There were no explanations that could satisfy them.
The military men never came back. Probably because of the distance and the difficult access to the town.
From then on, only a few rumors from neighboring towns over something that had never happened before: the flight of airplanes.
Every time they heard the sound of the motors, the people ran outside to see the airplane flying high in the sky.
The roar of the motors of an airplane, passing over at about the height of the trees, shook the houses of the town violently.
The morning had been quiet until some of the town people, mostly women and children who were at the edge of the cenote heard the deafening roar above their heads.
Astounded, without reacting, they saw the plane that, in a fraction of second disappeared behind the branches of the trees that circled the village.
They heard how the noise was diminishing until in the distance, where the plane disappeared, they heard the explosion.
"The plane fell down" -shouted one of the girls in the group.
Although for some years now they had been able to view airplanes high up as they flew over the town from the east, they had never had a chance to see one close. This one that almost scraped the house of the little town, caused amazement all around. Some of them said they could swear that they had seen somebody make hand signs.
In less than an hour numerous men and women had gathered in Jacinto’s house commenting on the incident and speculating on the certain crash of the plane.
Jacinto, at the age of thirty-five was now the highest authority. The council had named him when his father in-law, the former "baatab" died.
"We have to locate the remains," He ordered. "There is no doubt that the thing crashed and not very far from here, to the east, by the noise. We have to mobilize ourselves right now, I don't think it could be more that half a league from here. Everybody will go, two by two. If we find it, it should be today, before nightfall, otherwise, we will continue tomorrow until we find it. I don't think there could be any survivors judging by the explosion we heard"
The groups left before mid-day. The intense heat didn't discourage them. With hatchets and machetes, almost all of the men participated. The dog packs were also taken with, as was the custom when they went into the forest.
From mid-day almost to nightfall the search went on, but they couldn't find any trace of the plane. The groups were turning back, to avoid to be caught by the night.
Arriving at the square, they gathered at the cenote, they were worn out by the effort, and they were cooling themselves off that they drank and rinsed their faces and necks.
Jacinto approached the group; he was one of the last ones to abandon the search.
"Tomorrow early, we will start out again, we will go father east. I think that they may have tried to reach the savannas beyond the cornfields.
The maasewaalo'ob retired to their homes to wash and rest. Tomorrow it would be another day.
In the first hours of the next morning until mid-day the search continued without success. They were becoming discouraged and were losing all hope of finding survivors.
Some groups went to the savanna; they thought as Jacinto had supposed that the plane had been able to reach it.
Once they were in the clearing, they scrutinized the horizon from the top of a tall tree. They couldn't see anything.
They decided to go over the field when the rest of the group got there, meanwhile, they sat down to wait in the shade of the big trees.
When everybody arrived, Jacinto gave the instructions.
"We will advance to the end of the clearing, we go in a line at a distance of two mecates each, that way we will cover the width. There we will come together and see what we will do"
When they reunited almost an hour later at the far edge of the savanna Jacinto had decided that only a part of the group would go on with the search. Some had other things that they had to do.
"Who's missing?" asked Jacinto"
"David and the ‘Chueco’- answered one of them.
"The Uicabs and the Tuns aren't here either"-said somebody else.
A little later, while the group waited, David and ‘Chueco’ appeared.
"We found it, it's about ten mecates from the edge, to the north, it's in pieces and some of the parts are burned. We didn't see anybody inside.
"Let's go and see," -ordered Jacinto-. In a matter of minutes, the entire group was at the crash-site.
They stood amazed looking at the wreckage
"There must be more pieces around; let's look."
A little later, excitedly, one of the maasewaalo'ob began to blow on the barrel of his shotgun like a trumpet. It was the signal that they had found someone.
Guided by the sound, they soon found the site.
A bloody dead body, disfigured by the crash had been found in the bushes.
"Keep looking,"-ordered Jacinto, "there might be another one around here.
Distant voices were calling. They hurried toward the sound.
There, they saw "Pil" sitting next to a Tsuul lying unmoving on the ground. "He is alive, Jacinto, he's still breathing."
Jacinto looked at his chest to see. He bent over, and carefully opened the tsuul's eye lids. There was no sign. He put his ear on his chest to listen for his heart.
"He's alive, prepare a stretcher to carry him and you guys" -he said pointing to a group, "wrap up the dead body and take him"
Minutes later the "máasewáalob" were taking both bodies to town.
The airplane crash caused a great commotion in Tok’tuunich.
Most of the people gathered at Jacinto’s house. It was a relevant event. The people silently watched the wounded man, who was being carried, unconscious, in a stretcher.The dead body was wrapped and carried hanging from a pole.
On his way to town, Jacinto thought about the steps to follow: Was he going to bury the body or will he take it to town? What about the wounded man? He was obviously in bad shape, probably he wouldn't live. The cadaver wouldn't make the three days at least they would need to deliver it, it would certainly begin to decompose. With these thoughts, he arrived in the village.
"We will have to bury him." Said one of the maasewaalo'ob. It is already beginning to smell bad"
"Where should we put the injured one? He isn't doing too well, he's hardly breathing" commented the other
"We must go for help. Their clothes look military," said a third.
Jacinto ordered "Prepare a grave to bury him at once. Take his clothes, and whatever else he has on him, so that they can identify him."
"You,"-he went on, "prepare to leave tomorrow morning, the trip will be hard. We will need at 15 or 20 to carry the injured man on the stretcher, that is, if he lives, we cannot even give him anything to eat nor water until he recovers. Before nightfall they were ready.
Carmen and her children did everything they could for the injured man. They cleaned him. They took off his clothes and boots, and they were alert to any reaction.
It was late when he opened his eyes, and babbled a few incoherent phrases.
Carmen, Jacinto's daughter, woke him up immediately.
"He is talking, papa, but I can't understand what he's saying."
Jacinto reacted and went to the injured man who was looking at him expressionless.
"Give him a little orange leaf tea, little by little, but try to give him as much as possible, but don't force him"
His wife and daughters boiled the tea and when it had cooled off, they gave it to him, carefully moistening his lips and mouth. A few swallows gave Jacinto hope, which they would at least be able to find out who he was.
During the night, at intervals, he was given more tea, in his sleep, the injured man moaned from the pain of his wounds and injuries.
Long before the sun came up, the maasewaalo'ob were ready for the difficult trip to Santa Cruz.
Jacinto was trying to communicate with the injured man.
"We have to take you to Santa Cruz or Chetumal so the doctors there can help you. Don't give up. What's your name? Where is your companion?"- Jacinto didn't tell him that his companion was dead.
"I'm Lieutenant Pulido, My companion's name is Jose Sanchez. Is he hurt bad? We crashed because the engine was failing. We were going to Cozumel, to assemble. Please, advise the authorities."
Jacinto didn't answer. He took note of the information and briefly commented .
"Don't worry, we are on our way to the doctor now."
The wounded man closed his eyes with a painful grimace.
Jacinto left the house.
"Are we ready, let's go, the sooner the better. We will only stop for a short rest. Tomorrow we will be in Santa Cruz."
"That's impossible!" -somebody said.
"No, it isn't, we'll walk until late at night. Bring your lamps!"
The group left town, duly supplied for the difficult journey.
There were two long days, with a rest of no more than three hours.
Long before dawn the group went on with the intention of getting to Santa Cruz as quickly as possible. They were almost exhausted when Jacinto gave them another short rest.
"Tuyub" he said to a strong young man, "go ahead as fast as you can, take only water so you can move fast.
When you get to Santa Cruz tell them that we need help with an injured man."
The young man left, carrying only a gourd of water.
A little while later, the group renewed the forced march.
When the group came into the square of the town, they were already expected in the Government office. There were great expectations for their arrival.
The ones who were carrying the stretcher stopped in the waiting room. The injured man had lost consciousness again.
"Take him to the doctor. He is waiting for you," said a government clerk."
" The plane is ready"-said a young man," we are only waiting to see what the doctor says"
While the injured man was being examined in the doctor office, Jacinto informed the authorities about what happened. He gave them the piece of paper when he had written the information given to him by the sole survivor.
"And the dead body," he asked when he finished.
"I think we'll have to wait for the authorities to decide. They will tell us what to do. Probably, they will want to exhume it and take it to Chetumal," said the clerk.
Half an hour later they were ready to take the injured man in the plane. Because of the gravity of his injuries the doctor recommended that he be taken to Merida immediately. The doctor would go along.
"Don Jacinto, will you go to Merida? I believe the authorities will be very interested in what you can tell them personally.
Jacinto meditated his answer.
"Is it really necessary? "
"Yes, Don Jacinto, all the details will help them know what happened to the airplane"
"How will I come back"
"In the same airplane, or in another that carries merchandise and chicle."
After another, longer pause, Jacinto answered. "I would like to come back by way of Valladolid. But, I have to ask you to pay my expenses, because I didn't come prepared.
I didn't bring either clothes or money."
"Don't worry about that Jacinto, you will have what ever you need."
The small plane took off from the run-away of Carrillo Puerto for Merida.
The injured man and the doctor went in the back of the pilot in the cargo area that had been conditioned for them. Jacinto sat next to the pilot, in front of the instrument panel. In spite of his courage a sensation of fear of the unknown made his hands sweat.
Holding his breath he saw the tree at the end of the run-way coming toward him. When the plane lifted, he felt a void in his stomach and a slight vertigo minutes later the plane flew at a low altitude over the dense jungle around the town.
Jacinto contemplated flabbergasted the immensity of the green jungle that disappeared in the horizon
An hour later, the airplane slid on to the landing strip of the Merida airport.
An ambulance was waiting to transport the injured man. Jacinto was taken to some people who took his statement while the secretary typed it.
The report was completed with a great number of questions, which Jacinto answered satisfactorily.
Jacinto, with his characteristic manner of dress, stood out among the clerks.
Once the formality was finished, one of them, who seemed to be in charge said:
"Do you want to go to Carrillo Puerto? The train will be leaving in a hour."
"No sir, I am going to Valladolid, but I don't know how. It's my first time in Merida. If you can explain it to me, I will be much obliged."
The officer liked the simplicity of Jacinto. He gave an order to one of his subordinates.
"Take Don Jacinto to the railway station, but first- do you need anything else?"
"No, thank you."
"No problem, they will you take to the railway station to go Valladolid. If you can't go today, you'll have to wait until tomorrow."
He was taken by car to the station, crossing the center of the city.
He admired the streets, the traffic, and the business of the city. He would never have imagined it. It wasn't anything like Valladolid. He jumped when three airplanes passed over his head; military, according to what the driver said. A few minutes later, they arrived at the station.
Marcelo went up the stairs that lead to the hall of the main house of the Hacienda that belonged to his ancestors. Sweating from the intense noonday heat, he untied the big red bandana that protected his neck and shoulders.
He took off his wide brim straw hat and took off his leather boots to rest and cool off his tired feet.
As he sat in the ample deer skin chair, his mother crossed the room to him.
"How's the milpa, Marcelo?"
"It's ok, but not as I would like, If God sends us rain on time, it will be enough corn."
"And the cattle, I have worried about the bull"
"That stud animal that cost so much, is not functioning, we need time and care for it to get used to here, anyway that's what I think.
"It will all work out, with God's help. Marcelo sends you greetings in his letter." Said his mother.
He was thoughtful.
"I'm worried about him being so far away, there in Merida, but you know Cristina isn't comfortable with him around." Said Marcelo.
"Of course, he's not her son" she answered in a hard tone.
"It's natural, mother, you must understand, besides in Merida, there are better schools. When he finishes high school, he can go to the university. He wants to be a doctor. I hope he does."
"Don't you want to drink some cold pozole with ice?"
"No, mother, I will rest a while before I eat, what did you make?"
"Beans with salted pork, rice and beans and tomatoe sauce, and...
"Stop! You're making me hungry."
That same afternoon when he hadn't even finished his customary siesta, his mother woke him up.
"Marcelo, there somebody here to see your you'll never guess who."
"Don't tell me that it is Cristina.."
"It's Jacinto, he just got here on foot"
"From Zaci?" he couldn't believe it "How long had it been?" more than ten years since he had heard from him. What was happening?"
He went out of his room, and crossed the big hall. There in the entrance hall, sitting in an armchair, was Jacinto smiling at him.
They went toward one another to hug each other warmly. Neither of them said anything. Each one was in their own thoughts.
"Well, Marcelo, I'm glad to see you."
"Come in Jacinto, you look tired."
"I am. These have been unusual days, I am coming from Merida."
"From Merida?," Marcelo was surprised.
"From Merida, it's a long story"
Is something wrong? Tell me, you have me worried, but first would you like something? Have you eaten?
"Don't worry, let's talk first."
Jacinto began to narrate the events of the last few days.
When he was finished, Marcelo asked, "what did you think of Merida?"
"What can I say, I only was there for a couple of hours and while I waited for the train to leave, I didn't go far away from the station, compared with Valladolid, it is enormous, and very pretty and there are so many locomotives and trains and people, there is a park nearby."
"The Mejorada" interrupted Marcelo.
"I slept a few hours before the train left. I could hardly see the towns on the way. Yucatan is so big, so pretty.
Marcelo smiled at Jacinto's expression.
"What about you Marcelo, How have you been?"
"I have been married for more than 10 years. I have a daughter. I am here most of the time in charge of the work. You can't imagine how much there is to do. The planting, the horses, the cattle, the orchard, the up keep of the house. It was abandoned after my father died. You can imagine."
"Yes, I can imagine." said Jacinto.
" My wife lives in Valladolid. I go there on Friday and I come back on Monday. Sometimes, I stay away all week.
My wife is very young. She doesn't like to come into the country, there isn't any electricity here, no ice, and no more than what I bring. I am thinking of buying a gas refrigerator. You know to live in the country, you have to like it.
She is a city girl, an authentic Tsuul.
Jacinto smiled a little.
"Let's go so you can eat, the dining room is over here" indicated Marcelo. "Let's go into the kitchen where your mother is," answered Jacinto.
In minutes, Jacinto was eating the beans with pork with a good appetite.
Marcelo didn't interrupt him with the disordered questions that jumped into his head.
"Your children... and Carmen... I want you to give them my love.
"Your god-son is almost a man my daughter Carmen is already married.
You know how kids grow; the youngest, Dol, is very active."
"How is the school"
"The teachers don't stay very long. It's unusual if one stays two or three months... they don't come back, or stay away for a long time.
However many people now speak Spanish, and they can read and write"
It’s something anyway."
"And the others?"
"Nothing special, we still have problems with the chicle and the lumber also, with the young people defying our authority; there is a lot of rebellion."
"Did they recruit people for the army for the war against Germany and Japan?
"Not one, they came to town two years ago, and then they never came back."
"You haven't asked me about, Marcelo, Leonor's son"...
"I thought he was in Zaci. I didn't have time to ask there in your house. The servants only told me that you were here in the hacienda; they told me how to get here... you know the people Zaci look at us like strange people."
"Marcelo studies in Merida, he is almost a young man, if you see him, you won't recognize him. He looks more like your sister. Since I got married, the things got difficult and my mother preferred to live on the hacienda. So I decided that she should come here, and your nephew should continue his studies in Merida. Now everything is fine, my wife is happy... Did you meet her?"...
"I didn't have an opportunity I only talked to the servants."
After Jacinto ate, both of them sat down in the wide hall. They talked about everything, they remembered old times, and in the evening, they retired to the big bedroom. After a refreshing bath, they had a coffee in the dining room.
The conversation went on until night when Marcelo's mother said goodnight. The two friends also went to their rooms. Between phrases and phrases, both of them fell asleep.
Jacinto spent two days in company of Marcelo and his mother. He saw the entire hacienda. He enjoyed a nice rest and prepared his return trip.
Back in Zaci, each one on his mount, the two friends planned future visits. Jacinto promised to come back to Zaci, and Marcelo promised to make a trip to Tuk'tuunich.
When they arrived in Zaci, Marcelo insisted.
"Let's go to my house to rest from the trip. Tomorrow you can continue."
"Thank you, Marcelo, I prefer to rest in Chichimila".
"Well, you have to take the horse, I won't take no for an answer, take it to my godson and tell him I am waiting to them here."
The two friends said good-bye and Jacinto took the road south, toward Tok'tuunich.
THE MEDICAL BRIGADE
The rainy season had begun almost a moon before, and the heat of the dry season has finished. In its place rain and more rain. The forests were flooded. The small lagoons swollen and the low lands were swamps.
Hunting was very difficult and the corn couldn't be harvested because it was so humid. Meanwhile the parrots, crows and raccoons destroyed and consumed the crops.
The disease appeared in the town attacking almost all the inhabitants. Jacinto remembered that it had started in the house of his brother in -law, Carmen's brother. He had gone to Santa Cruz, to deal with matters of chicle and to buy merchandise, he had stayed in Santa Cruz a few days, and when he came back, the same day, he got sick. High fever, deep exhaustion, headaches, pain in the bones and general weakness, frequent and pertussis cough. They didn’t remember having suffered any disease like that.
Then other family members got sick, then friends who visited them and the sickness extended through all the houses and families. Men, women, children, and old people were taken ill before the powerless medicine men and the shamans who worked tirelessly until they too fell sick, victims of the epidemic. The yards were empty, the weak light of the vigil candles and the pitiful cough of the sick people broke the silence.
Jacinto felt very sick and understood that he couldn't be the exception since almost everybody in his house had suffered at almost the same time. The home remedies and the medicine for fever didn't do any good and besides they had almost run out. Don Jose and Timot Canul had died, they were the oldest men in the village, X-Lut, the old mid-wife had died too, and others were very sick, Puus's grand-son was gravely ill. Maybe he had died during the night. How many more would die?
He remembered the Small Pox that had decimated the town long before the Tsuulo'ob had taken Santa Cruz. Then, they were powerless to fight the epidemic, but now shouldn't they ask the government for help? The old men were resigned, but the young ones, who on some occasion had gone to Chetumal or Santa Cruz to see doctors in the co-operatives, wanted to go for help.
Maybe they had waited too long; Jacinto lay down in his hammock, dominated by the sickness. Without wasting any more time, he decided to send somebody.
"Dol", he said to his son, "Do you think you could make the trip to Santa Cruz? Are you feeling better? You were one of the first people to get sick.
"It you are feeling better, you must go for help"
"I don't feel very good, but I think I can make the trip, tell me what I should do."
"Get ready to leave at dawn, now I am going to write a letter to the Representative of the Government in Santa Cruz to explain everything.
Dol traveled quickly to Santa Cruz. The two days with a rest in Tus-ik seemed endless. In Tus-ik, they told him that the epidemic was passing, that the government was sending doctors and medicine and they stayed in the town until the disease was under control. This gave him new hope and energy. When he arrived with the petition for help, after the representative read he said...
"You'll have to wait for the medical teams to get ready. They got back just two days ago from X-bolil where there was an epidemic too.
Come back later, to talk to the doctor and his assistants you will be their guide"
"What time should I come back, Sir"
"At seven or eight, here at the station"
"I’ll be here "- said Dol.
When the doctor and his two health assistants arrived that night, Dol was sitting on a bench waiting for them.
"This young man will guide you to Tok´tuunich. His name is Dol. Isn’t that right? He added, looking at Dol.
"Yes, Sir, my name is Jose Dolores Ek"
The doctor, a young man with Maya features, but light color eyes, looked at him.
"Are you related to Jacinto Ek? -He asked, you have the same last name.
"He’s my father"- answered Dol amazed that the stranger would mention his father’s name.
"Then," said the doctor smiling, "you are my cousin. I am your father's sister's son Leonor was my mother.
The young doctor stretched his hand toward Dol's and pressed it hard. Jose Dolores, was astounded, the unexpected of the event and the friendliness of the young doctor took him by surprise.
He remembered the time when the family conversation had referred to those events, which happened many years before he was born. His aunt Leonor's death and the baby who had been taken to Zaci by his father, the first teacher to come to Tok'tuunich, and now, all of the sudden, here he was saying, "I'm your cousin, the son of your aunt Leonor."
"I'm your cousin, Marcelo. My father was the town teacher, Don't you know your aunt Leonor was my mother?"
The young doctor repeated himself noticing the temporary perturbation of the young maasewa'al, who smiled timidly as he answered.
"In my family, we always remember your parents, but we haven't heard from you in years, we only know that your father lives in his hacienda, a little bit far from Zaci. I don't remember anything else. I am here because they sent me to guide a doctor to our town because of the epidemic, I'm glad you are here because there is much sickness and we're afraid that many people will die like many years before I was born when the Small Pox attacked other towns. Many people died then even though, they went into the wood to avoid contact with the disease."
"They have told me of what has happened in the village since my father left after my mother died. I know that in other villages there was an epidemic years ago. But I didn't know there had been an epidemic in your village, much less that there was small pox."
"My father knows more about it that I do, he remembers it well, he went for help that time. Since then from time to time, they come to vaccinate us, look, "-said Dol showing the vaccination scar on his left arm. "Since then we haven't suffered from that disease."
"What disease is attacking you now?"
"We don't know what it is, we only know someone from the village who had been in Chetumal brought the disease to the village. It causes a high fever, and sometimes stomach problems, and the whole body aches, some people have coughs and bloody noses, When I left two old people had already died, and many young and old, men, women and children. The shaman says it is "bad air" that comes from the sea and neither his herbs or his prayers help, that's why my father sent for help"
Jacinto was waiting impatiently for Dol to get back with medical help. The disease was attacking house by house, person by person without respecting anybody. Children, women, men, and old people were victims of the disease. In just a few days three people had died and many were in serious condition, three days had gone by since his son had gone for medical help.
"Would they come soon?" "Would they take a long time to come? What if they don't come? How many people will die?
He remembered years ago, when smallpox had attacked the town and yellow fever and dysentery, and intestinal diseases time and again had decimated the village. He remembered the ritual, the song, the prayers the pleas and the tears in the nights for the dead.
Jacinto heard the dogs barking at the edge of town signaling the arrival of strangers to the town.
He left his house and went toward the road to Santa Cruz a few minutes later a small group was entering the little square at the center of town. Besides his son, there were three people two of them in uniform. They were certainly the assistants of the doctor Dol came forward, after dismounting.
"He is the doctor and they are his helpers, we left Santa Cruz two hours before dawn using the moon light. We haven't rested not even a minute except to water the animals and drink pozole at mid-day. The doctor wanted to get here as soon as possible the animals are worn out."
Jacinto looked at the young doctor who extended his hand towards him.
"You must be my uncle Jacinto, he said with big, warm smile," I am your nephew, Marcelo, son of your sister, Leonor.
Jacinto was surprised for a minute, and then held him in a tight hug. In his mind, quickly, old memories went by; Leonor, Marcelo; tears were in his eyes.
"Thank God, you are here, thank God it is you who have come to help us. Let's go to my house so you can rest and eat. The trip has been very long and you must be exhausted, and you too, boys you come in too."
"Dol, tell the second chief that the doctor and his team have arrived, tell him to prepare the school so they can rest and put their things, tell him to tell us who needs the first attention. The worst sick should be first I think they will begin as soon as they haven’t eaten."
"Let's begin right away uncle. It is no time for rest. I want to see as many of the sick as I can and see if it is the same disease that is attacking other towns. I think it is from what Dol told me on the way.
It is an epidemic that came from far away, and we have no defense against it. I will explain later. Now let's drink something, the boys have to unpack, and then we can begin to visit the sick.
Jacinto and Marcelo went to the house where Carmen was waiting at the door, when the young man was in front of her, he surprised her by saying:
"You are my Aunt Carmen. Can you guess who I am?"
Carmen looked at him. There was a family resemblance, "who are you?"
"He's Leonor's son. And Marcelo's can't you see it in his face?
Carmen remembered as she often did the baby whose mother died when he was born, whom she nursed for the first months until his father took him to Zaci.
She couldn't keep back the tears when the young man held her warmly.
"So it's you, who nursed me, my father always talks about you and when he was here in the village. He told me that if it hadn't been for you, I would have died of hunger."
Carmen dried her tears from her cheeks. Jacinto looked on the emotional scene. One by one he introduce everybody in the family to the young doctor.
When the young doctor was going back to Jacinto's house, his temporary home while he fought the epidemic, he was thinking of his father who, at the beginning of the 30's, had been a teacher, in this tiny village, here where his father had met his mother. He imagined the simple, peaceful passing of his days during all that time, also the anguish of the isolation, and helplessness at the death of his mother, as Jacinto had told him everything. His father had never come back after taking him to Zaci, and he had never again worked as a teacher.
He remembered his childhood on the hacienda that his father inherited from the old colonel, his grandfather. Raised by his father's mother during his first years, it wasn't until he was old enough to go to school that he went to live in Valladolid in the old colonial mansion that had belonged to his father's family for generations. His father married again, and with his new family, he dedicated more time to the hacienda and returned it into its former splendor.
All of his vacations when he studied in Valladolid and later when he studied in the austere boarding school in Merida, he enjoyed them with his grandmother in the country among the cattle and great cornfields and in the orchard, sometimes picking fruit or hunting birds.
His stepmother belonged to one of the families of the "center" of Valladolid whose prejudice against the Indians dated back to the first years of the colonization, and renewed by the hate of the Caste wars. She accepted him and his grandmother but she did not forgive their humble roots.
His stepbrothers and sisters, almost ten years younger than he, didn't like him. So his father sent him to a boarding school in Merida. His admiration for his father cooled off with the passing of the years; but when he was studying medicine he came to understand what his mother had meant to his father. When alone together, he talked about her and of their short time together, and let him know the significance of his life. Now the memories of his uncle seemed to be witnesses of that time.
"What happened Marcelo?" Jacinto stopped his thoughts at the threshold of the house"
How are your patients? It looks like the disease is dying out now, there are not as many patients as you had before. Everybody talks about your dedication. Some ask about your father, you still haven't told me how he is doing, I would like to hear about it. Tell me how is your grandfather's hacienda is -It must be very prosperous now."
"My father lives there most of the time, only on weekends, or family feasts or the Candelaria fiesta does he go to Valladolid. My stepmother hardly ever goes to the hacienda, I think she hates the country, and I don't think my brothers and sisters like it much either. One of them is also named after my father and my grandfather whose name was Manuel. They say we look a lot alike, but his eyes are clear color like my father’s"
"You aren't married yet I suppose" In the little time we've had to talk you haven't said anything about a wife"
The young doctor smiled "Uncle, soon I will marry my girl friend who is a tsuul. I am only waiting to establish myself to have an office, and possibly study a specialty. I want obstetrics, that is childbirth, maybe because of what happened to my mother, I don't know, but I think that is what I'll do. Beside, it is not so easy, because my girl friend's family is, as they say now, a little bit racist and I have a Maya last name, like my father. But that doesn't matter to her. We are in love and we are going to get married. Don't doubt it. It is what we want"
Jacinto smiled. The expression and the gestures of his nephew made him remember the tenacity of his old friend when he followed Jacinto and Jose Chuc on his first trip to the village. It was a nice memory.
The dialogue was interrupted by an indian man who came to them, visibly upset.
"Don Jacinto, a ‘tzaab kaan’ has just bitten my wife as she was gathering fire wood. My family went for the medicine man. But I want your nephew the doctor to take care of her. They don't want to, but I have told them that I want the doctor"
The máasewa'al looked at the young Marcelo inquisitively.
"Let's go right away. Wait just a minute, I will get the injections and the serum. Uncle, have water boiled to sterilize the instruments I'll need to open the wound. -"Where was she bitten?"
"On the hand."
When they arrived at the maasewa'al's house, the family members and the neighbors, who had already heard about it, were inside the house around the patient who was lying in a hammock holding her right hand straight up with her left hand. Two line of blood flowed from her right arm. The bite marks showed the size of the snake. There was at least an inch between the two holes. Above the elbow a red ribbon like a band blocked the circulation to the rest of the arm. The young doctor went to her accompanied by Jacinto.
"Did they kill the snake? I want to know what kind of snake it was.
"Yes", said Jacinto who had already asked.
"Tsaab -kaan" said the husband.
"A rattle snake, then, I'm surprised.Bites from the "four nose" are more frequent," said the doctor.
"It is not so unusual"-said Jacinto. "There is a lot of rattlers around here. This was a big one. They tell me it had fourteen bones."
While he was talking the doctor opened his bag to take out the injections and the sterilized syringes.
"Uncle"-he said- "tell the boys to bring the box of serum that we have in the house. We have to administer the medicine through and intravenous solution"
A máasewa'al with unfriendly look interrupted them.
"Don't bring anything, the shaman will take care of my daughter. He has always treated the snakebites.
"Julian" - interrupted Jacinto. "What you say is true, but it also true that he has not saved everybody. Do you remember Pedro's son and Maruch, don't you remember that he couldn't save them?
"When they went for the doctor, we discussed the matter. The shaman will treat my daughter; it has always been that way. If he can't save her, it won't be his fault, you know that, Jacinto."
"Don't you realize that things aren't the same any more?
"Don't you know how many people have been saved by the medicine my nephew brought with him for the epidemic that was attacking us?"
Julian listened passively to Jacinto's reasons. He didn't answer. He looked away; he lowered his eyes, avoiding looking at the doctor.
"Let me save her, in the hospital I have seen many cases like this and even worse, because they come two or three days after the bite. I'm sure I'll be able to cure her if you let me and I must begin right away, because seconds count. The poison is running into the blood, and it will get more difficult to save her."
Julian said his last word -"The medicine man will treat her" The doctor tried to answer, but Jacinto took his arm and said in Spanish.
"Let's go nephew, it is useless, I know what I'm saying" He turned to the woman's husband and he said. "If you want the doctor later, come see me."
Two days later, Marcelo was still thinking about the case and worrying about the woman. He tried to be informed about the patient through Jacinto without results because the family refused to talk about it.
Jacinto came into a house where Marcelo was treating one of the last victims of the epidemic.
"Let's go, Marcelo."- Juanita’s husband asked me to get you, She is the woman who was bitten by the snake. He said his wife is dying. If you want, you can refuse, you saw how the family didn't want you to treat her. If she dies they will blame you. Don't doubt it"
" I understand, Uncle, but it is my duty. I will try even if later they blame me and try to kick me out of town. It wouldn't be the first time it has happened."
"Let's go then, nephew" he turned to go as he saw his nephew pick up his bag, and they went to the hut that was about 10 mecates south of the square.
After checking his bag and picking up a bottle of serum from the box of one of his assistants, Marcelo followed him,
The young doctor entered the house carrying a bottle of glucose solution, the I.V. equipment and box of injections of 10 ml of thiosulfate of sodium, also soap, antiseptic solution, a cotton bandage and other medicines.
Many hours had passed since the snakebite. The red band that stopped the circulation had done its part, the whole hand, the forearm and almost all the arm was grotesquely swollen by the edema. It had dark purple color, with many blisters that oozed among the residue of the herb plasters that had been applied to it. She was breathing hard, Her paleness, and scarce sweating revealed clearly the effects of the snake poison and the gangrene toxins from the tissues in process of the decomposition.
"How long has it been since she last urinated," "Have you given her water." The absolute silence of the family that stood around the patient was the answer.
"No doctor," said the husband, the only one who wanted the doctor, "the Shaman told us that she couldn't drink anything, otherwise the poison would run. At first she only drank the water where we had boiled the antidote herbs but she vomited almost all of it. They said it would be better if she didn't drink anything."
Marcelo didn't comment. He had gotten the necessary information. He knew from experience that they would not say anything else. From that moment on, they would watch him carefully, and if she died, they would blame him. He didn't ask anymore questions. He began his preparations. The antivenin wouldn't have any effect now, the poison would have attacked the vital organs, the sores that she had were probably caused by bleeding on the gums, nose, and urine, he knew all of the variables. He had seen many of these cases in the hospital. Grave cases that arrived late after being manipulated by "healers", "medicine men, and even by "mediums."
The important thing to do now was to administer the glucose solution to reestablish diuresis and re-hydrate the patient; clean and scrape the necrotic tissues; so he began his task. Installing the I.V. was a problem, and after several attempts he was able to put the needle in the vein of her left foot. He hung the solution on a rope that went from beam to beam.
Immediately, he cleaned one by one the blisters with boiled water and soap. He asked for more water to be boiled for later. He applied oxygenated water and antiseptic solution to the scraped areas and covered them with sterile gauze. A light bandage covered the first treatment. The rapid, weak pulse made him fear the worst, although he hoped that the youth of the patient would pull her through. He disconnected the I.V. tube and injected an ampoule of antivenin and reconnected it. He put the rest of the antivenin into the I.V. solution so that slowly, in three of four hours, it would run out.
"We'll have to give her other bottles in the next 24 or 48 hours, depending on how she responds. For now, we can't do anything else. I will come back in three or four hours to examine her. Prepare a bucket of boiled water, I will have to change the bandage and the gauze at least twice a day, and lastly I want you to know that she has to take fluids, orange leaf tea with sugar or honey, orange juice, water, or whatever but you have to give it to her. Offer her it every time you see that her mouth is dry. Don't wait for her to ask. She doesn't know what is happening or even what she is saying when she talks, she is delirious, or as you say, her brain has been affected.
After saying that he put his things into his doctor’s bag and said to his Uncle...
"Let’s go, let God do his work. He looked at the husband, and he said, "Do you see these drops? – he pointed to the drops that fell slowly from the I.V. equipment. They should keep falling; if they stop, send for me at any time, don’t forget... your wife’s life depends a lot on that"
When they arrived at Jacinto´s house, he asked...
"Will she make it?"
"I hope to God. She is very sick. They let so much time to pass. If only I could have treated her from the beginning"
From that moment on, Marcelo went to see Juanita between patient and patient. That same night, he changed the I.V. solution, washed the arm affected by the edema and necrosis; applied antiseptic and administered antibiotics. The profound state of edema didn't recede, but he felt that the stability of the pulse, at least, revealed that she wasn't getting worse. The patient talked in her unconsciousness, and the incoherence was at longer intervals. He recommended that someone always watched the drops of the I.V. solution and went home to rest. His uncle was waiting for him, even though it was very late. His watch said it was almost mid night.
"Are you still up Uncle," he asked as he entered the yard, the tenuous light of the vigil candle showed the figure of the máasewáal in the door.
"I was waiting for you, I have coffee on the fire. Would you like some? There are also crackers. Should I call your aunt to serve you?"
"No, uncle. Please, don't bother her they have enough to do with my assistants and me. A little coffee will be enough then I am going to lie down. They might call me later for Juanita. I don't think there is any other serious case. The other patients are coming out of the crisis.
"Drink your coffee and go to rest," said Jacinto, sternly, "otherwise, we'll have to treat you, you are paler than most of your patients.
"Ok uncle, let's drink our coffee and get some sleep."
Few minutes later, fully dressed Marcelo was sound asleep, exhausted by a hard-days work.
" It must be six o'clock in the morning" - Marcelo looked at his watch.
"Aunt, why didn't you call me, It's very late"
Carmen didn't answer, approaching the hammock with a basin of warm water, she said: "Wash your face and come to have breakfast. I have prepared your a broth that will make you feel better. There are eggs. How would you like them? And beans and atole with condensed milk, one of your assistants gave it to me, they already ate.
Marcelo washed his face with the warm water and dried himself with a cotton cloth, and enjoyed it while he listened to his aunt.
"Let's eat. Where's my uncle?"
"He'll be with us in a few minutes. He ate at dawn, he told me not to wake you up, until you woke up by yourself."
After a splendid breakfast which he consumed quickly. He took his bag, which he replenished with medicine and with another bottle of I.V. solution in hand he went to Juanita's house. When he arrived, her family opened the rustic door. He nodded a greeting, and opened the door for more light. He inspected the I.V. It had almost run out, the look on the face of the young woman was calm. Her regular respiration gave him hope. He took her pulse, tense, rhythmic, he counted the beats: 82,83,84,85, it didn't get to 90 before the minute passed.
Turning to the family he asked. "Has she urinated?" The answer made him smile broadly. The family god the message.
Marcelo changed the I.V. and put up another bottle with antibiotics. The patient woke up and moaned a little and went back to sleep. Her normal reaction was another positive sign.
"When she wakes up, give her diluted atole, if she wants to eat, give her crackers. We have some at my uncles house. Give her chicken and broth, a lot of broth and don't forget, corn water, "chaya leaves tea" lemonade, orange juice, she needs a lot of liquid."
He got up and said to the husband to cheer him up. "I'll come back in the afternoon. Prepare a chicken to eat tomorrow"
The young máasewáal with a happy expression answered.
"Whatever you want Doctor; today or tomorrow whenever you want.
Marcelo smiled, took his bag and left to visit his other patients.
The sun shone over the trees. The neighbors greeted him as he passed, wishing him respectfully a good day. They already knew about the rattlesnake, and that Juanita would get well.
"Tell me uncle, you must know well. My father has told me many times the things he lived here in the village but sometimes, I think his memories are so painful, that I prefer not to ask. What was my mother like? I don't have any idea. There isn't any picture of her."
"We didn't know about photographs then, even though we had heard something about them. We lived in a world apart, much more than you can imagine. Your father was the first ‘tsuul’ to step in our town and to live among us. All of the older people remember him well. He was very brave and determined. He was a noble and righteous man. I believe he still is, because that kind of character doesn't change. We esteemed him very much, and even those who rejected him in the beginning, later learned to respect him, if not love him. For us he was part of the family. For me, he was a brother. I still think of him as my brother even though I haven't seen him in years. You remind me of him a lot. See what fate is. Your presence has brought back many things to us. That's why the people respect you and appreciate you, you remind them of him. Those who knew him and those who heard about him.
"And what about my mother?"
"She died very young. You would say she was still a child, but one thing I can tell you, the year she lived with your father was worth more than all the years she had lived. She was very happy with him and you gave to her, the happiest moment in her life, even though she only saw you for a few minutes."
Jacinto was silent, He was looking into the horizon. He felt that he was living his story again in that moment. Marcelo couldn't speak a knot closed his throat and his eyes shone intensely with tears.
The two kept silent, each one lost in their own thoughts.
"Well, uncle Jacinto, thanks for everything. Now I think I know her better."
"Your cousin look a lot like her especially when she was younger, before she got married."
" Which one of them."
"The oldest, Carmen"
Marcelo remembered the face of his cousin Carmen, trying to imagine in it the face of his mother.
RURAL CREDIT BANK
Jesús Olivares came out of the office of the head of the credit department, slamming the door. This attracted the secretary’s attention. She looked up at the credit inspector and noticed his upset look and swollen red eyes due to the alcohol he drank everyday. She had almost never seen him so upset. She knew why.
"Where you out late last night? How is the hangover? – She asked smiling sarcastically.
The "Ch’uuy"-it mean thief- stopped in front of the desk. He had gained that nickname for the habit of robbing the rural people.
"The son of a b... told me to pick my commission sheet so they can give me my expenses. What does this idiot think? He thinks I am going to that damn town of indians?. I am going to see my "compadre" he will talk to him, and to the union..., and if that doesn’t work ... he raised a fist...
"Don’t keep shooting off your mouth, Ch’uuy, they will hear you" – said the secretary handing over the document to him. -"Ch'uuy was still annoyed.- " You know the boss has friends in high places"
"But not for long if he keeps on with this shit. Why doesn't he send one of the new guys? I have been here much longer than most of them. I am going to throw the union on him. He will know who I am.
"See you later Maricela" - said as he turned to leave.
"Are you going to get drunk? –She said, as "Ch’uuy" folded the paper and put it inside his back pocket.
"I will drink until I am plastered!" –He was almost yelling as he walked away.
Olivares left the building and a few steps away he got into the old Land Rover parked in front of the bank. He drove to the square near the old lighthouse toward the cantina owned by the "corozaleña", an old mulatto woman, who managed a popular cantina where the elite of Chetumal came to drink. It was a wooden building done in the style of the neighboring town of Corozal, in Belize. It had been built after Hurricane Janet destroyed the lower part of the town in 1955.
After crossing the deteriorated and muddy streets, the Ch’uuy stopped the Land Rover at the door of the bar.
He went upstairs, pushed the door and went into the big room where the bar was. It was 10:00 o’clock in the morning. Behind the counter the bartender was cleaning the glasses and trays and placing them on the shelves, below the bottles of "Chivas Reagal" "Johnny Walker" "Fundador", etc. The imported drinks, and some "Sauza Cuervo" and "Barcardi", the national drinks mainly consumed by the people of Belize.
"What’s up "Ch’uuy"? Why are you so early today? You usually come in until 11:00.
"They are trying to F... me over" – He told the bartender.
The bartender- better known as "Chueco" took a bottle of Jamaican rum, placed it on the counter and asked him:
"Cuba or straight? How would you like it?
"Fix me a cuba while I drink a double to open my throat"
While the bartender was fixing the high-ball the Ch’uuy thought about his next step. The double shot had calmed him down a little, so he could think straight. He remembered the expense sheet he had in his pocket. He took the envelope and tore it open, unfolded the paper and read it slowly.
"Tok’tuunich, where the hell is that? How was he supposed to get there? He had heard of the name, on the map at the office but he didn’t remember. He had another double to help him concentrate while the bartender served his "cuba libre"
More or less one hour had passed. The Ch’uuy slightly affected by the alcohol heard the footsteps on the stairs leading to the bar-room door. Would it be the second customer of the day or the "corozaleña" or one of the waitresses?
"What’s up Ch’uuy? The secretary told me that you left the office boiling mad"
The Ch’uuy turned to look at the door that was closing behind the "gordo" Piña.
"Sit down ‘fatty’- He said as he pulled a stool for him.
"Set fatty up" – said to the bartender
"What happened with the boss? - Asked Piña again while he sat beside him on a tall stool by the counter. He grabbed the drink the bartender had offered him.
"Here, read this paper" answered Ch’uuy, He took the paper from his pocket and handed it over, while he put his glass to his thick lips.
Fatty read the document slowly as he sipped his drink.
"Well, well, so this is what they are doing to you. We thought something like this would happen since we heard that he had it with you. Why don’t you speak openly with him? For as long as keep everything for you and not share with him, he will keep on kicking your ass. You know it is your own fault. You know we all have to share with him, and he has to share it with the guys upstairs.
"I am not giving him a damn cent! Even if he sends me to hell; that is if he thinks he can. Guess what he wants. He wants me to go "half-and-half" "To hell with that noise!" Who does all the work? We do. We fix the papers and deal with the people and they sit there and collect the dough without signing a thing."
Fatty Piña gulped the last half of his drink, then he looked convincingly at Ch’uuy and said:
" Talk to him, don’t be so stubborn. Perhaps, you might make a deal"
He was going to continue but Ch’uuy interrupted.
"F........ it ! I’d rather die!
Fatty smiled and put his arm around his friends neck and said.
"You will never change ‘compadre’ That’s what I like about you" To hell with everything! Let’s get pissed."
Ch’uuy shouted at the bartender to serve him and to put everything on his bill.
Jacinto Ek was coming back from the cornfield, where he had been working along with his youngest, Dol. They had been working hard cutting down the "huamil", the thick forest, they had finished the old milpa where his family had worked for years but they still had 100 mecates to cut and February was almost over. The Xaman ik, the bad weather that last almost a week had got them behind. When he got home his wife told him.
"A man from Chetumal came in today at about noon. We wanted to see you. He brought a paper with him, from the government. There is a man from Tus-ik with him. I told him that you were at the milpa and you wouldn't get back until late. He looked mean and I think he was upset, or he didn't believe me, I think he was drunk"
"Where is he?"
"I think he is in the school with the teacher. I told them that it was the only place they could wait for you"
"Dol -He said to his son- go and tell the teacher that we are back."
"Prepare my bath, Maria, and something to eat. They probably haven't eaten, unless the teacher took them where he usually eats."
"I only have eggs and beans. I will fry them and toast tortillas for dinner. You can take your bath. You water has been hot for a while"
" What did they want? Who were these people from the government?
It had been a while since anybody except the teacher and a few peddlers had come to the village. Jacinto took his warm water and a few minutes later came out bathed and refreshed.
Later on the teacher and the visitor came to his house. They sat at the door, Maria had brought out two chairs.
"How can I help you? -Said Jacinto extending his hand to Ch'uuy.
"Bring one more chair- told his son- this obeyed immediately and brought a chair in front of the two visitors. Jacinto sat down.
"Don Jacinto, - the professor Juan began- this man works for the Rural Credit Bank. He was sent from Chetumal to organize loans for those who need them."- He turned to Olivares and continued his introduction.
"Don Jacinto Ek is the highest authority in this town"- then he got up and said: "If you don't need me, let me get back to the school, I have some things I need to finish and ride back with you Mr. Olivares. I would like to go back with you to Chetumal.
"Teacher - Said Olivares- I don't speak maya"
"Don't worry, don Jacinto speaks perfect Spanish, maybe better than we do" - The teacher answered smiling.
Jacinto observed the visitor carefully. The look on his face was unpleasant and he looked drunk although he didn't smell of alcohol. He probably was just tired from the trip.
"Would you like to go inside or would you prefer to talk out here where it is cool?"
Ch'uuy looked at him carefully. The indian wasn't like he had imagined. His Spanish was good, his composure and courtesy put him on guard. How old was he? About 50, maybe? He couldn't say for sure. Although he was about the same high as the other Mayans, his broad shoulders made him look even shorter.
Ch'uuy answered to the polite invitation. " I would rather stay here, to talk at the doorway. It is cooler"
"As you wish" - Said Jacinto.
Ch'uuy opened his briefcase and took out a document of his commission and another from the authorities in Carrillo Puerto. He was appealing for the help of the authorities on his route to accomplish his task. He gave the document to Jacinto and waited while he read it. He scrutinized Jacinto's face. Trying to see any reaction to the letter, but Jacinto didn't move a single muscle in his face.
"Tell me how I can help you." -Said Jacinto as he returned the paper- but first, Would you like some coffee or, perhaps some chocolate? You must be tired from the trip
"I am, Don Jacinto. I am not used to riding horseback and the trip from Carrillo Puerto is too much for me. I will need more than a week to recover. But I will have to finish the matter that brought me here in on day or two.
Jacinto smiled so imperceptibly that his visitor didn't notice it.
Olivares explained to Jacinto why he had come. While he was giving the details about the benefits this would have for the town, he tried to see Jacinto's reaction. Jacinto listened closely, without breaking in, though some times he considered to clear up and fill in the ideas. He wasn't as reserved as is fellow indians, but he was instinctively suspicious at the excessively friendly attitude of the visitor. When Olivares finished his speech, Jacinto asked:
"Do you have anything else to say? I would like to ask some questions to clear up some doubts. We don't have any experience in these matters. It is the first time the government has offered us money to help us with our work in the fields"
"That's precisely why I am here, to explain it to every body, first to you because you are the authority here, about how you should organize. - Answered Olivares.
"You said that the town would have to apply for these lands so they would form common ownership. Isn't that what you said?
"That's it" -answered the agent.
"Why do we have to ask for something that is already ours? The land of this town begins where the neighboring town's land end, Cupuloob, like us. Long before you white men came to Santa Cruz and founded Payo Obispo, these lands belonged to our granfathers and their grandfathers before them. Our people don't understand anything else however you explain it. We know where our land ends and those of the other towns begin. Every piece of land, every path, every cenote or water hole, we know which it belongs to and we respect each another. Don't you know that in Chetumal?
The Ch'uuy didn't know what to answer. Perturbed and unsure at the firmness and clarity of the indian's arguments and completely confused he answered.
"According to the Agrarian laws, these are national lands and your towns and your land must be..."
"What laws? White man's laws? I understand what your are saying but nobody else will, at least not the way you are trying to explain it.
The Ch'uuy remained silent, he didn't have an answer for the points of the Jacinto. He cursed his boss, in his mind, for sending him on this infernal trip. At first, he thought he was going to deal with ignorant and stupid people and now he was in front of someone who knew what he was talking about.
"Don Jacinto, I only obey orders. You have the obligation to help me in this matter. I didn't come because I wanted to, besides, you are going to receive money, you need to work"
"We have always done it without any help and until now we have survived and we live in peace, if I can add something"
"Ch'uuy's" face was quivering with rage. His swollen eyes could hardly hold back the hate that he felt in this moment toward the indian.
"Are you the sub-delegate of the government? - Asked Ch'uuy.
"No, I am not. The sub-delegate is Nahuat, Melchor Nahuat" - Answered Jacinto.
"Then I should go ask him to help me"
"You should speak with him, he represents the government authority"
"Then I don't understand, the teacher told me that you were the authority"
I am the authority designated by the counsel, Mr. Nahuat was designate by the government"
"Now I understand less"
"Don't worry, I understand, do not lose hope. We will do everything we can so that you can explain the purpose that brought you to the people."
"I don't speak maya"
"Dol and Nahuat speak Spanish. There won't be any problems.
Ch'uuy got up while Jacinto gave instructions to his son.
The extreme heat of the night didn't let Jacinto sleep well. The humidity made him wake up at the least noise that broke the nocturnal silence. The prolonged locust song made him toss and turn and turn around in his hammock.
He opened his eyes as the locust finished its music; he heard in the distance a sharp sound, far away distinct. A riffle shot maybe? Some nocturnal hunter perhaps? No it wasn't that. The sound of rifle was so characteristic that he would recognize it. What was that far away explosion? It sounded like the fireworks they used in the religious ceremony or to call the people to assembly, but very, very far away. Attentive he concentrated to listen for another explosion; it didn't take long again far away another detonation followed by several others in series. It sounded like the fireworks in a fiesta. He woke Carmen up. When she reacted, she asked him:
"What's the matter, why did you wake me up?"
"Don't talk, try to listen, a series of thunder claps or fireworks woke me up... I am not sure what it was, I am trying to remember, but I don't know. I don't hear anything now. Be quiet and listen" insisted Jacinto.
The two remained silent, sitting in the hammock, next to each other.
The minutes passed slowly. Nothing, absolutely nothing.
"Maybe you dreamed it" said Carmen.
Jacinto didn't answer. He got up and walked out to the door and stared out into the dark night. Stars covered the sky with a few clouds, the leaves were not moving. Outside it was as damp as inside the house. Jacinto thought that it would rain soon.
"Are you sure you heard something? Wouldn't it be a thunder in the distance?"
There aren't hardly any clouds in the sky, or distant lightning. It can't be that.
Suddenly a new series of distant explosions at intervals of seconds broke the silence of the night.
"Did you hear Carmen?"
"Of course I heard, What is it? She asked a little worried.
"I don't know. It reminds me of the fireworks, what do you think?"
"That is what it sounds like, but where is it coming from?"
They both stood in the door for long time listening to the series of explosions that repeated at almost regular intervals.
Jacinto deduced that it came from the south.
"Let's go back to sleep. Tomorrow we'll see if anybody else heard those explotions or whatever they were". Jacinto said finally.
They went back to bed trying to sleep. Finally, sleep dominated the tension.
When they woke p, in the light of the new day, Jacinto sat up in the hammock. Carmen was livening up the fire by uncovering the coals from the ashes. She was energetically fanning the flames to boil the water for coffee and heat the tortillas for breakfast.
"Have you been up long" asked Jacinto.
"No" answered Carmen. "Wake up the children... did you hear any more explosions?"
"No, I went to sleep... Did you?"
"No, I went to sleep too, and I didn't wake up again"
"Did you hear anything in the night?" He asked the children as they came into the kitchen.
"What?" answered Dol.
Jacinto did not answer, he sat on the low stool and began to eat.
"What, mom" repeated Dol, we didn't hear anything."
"It sounded like thunder in the distance, but we are not sure, it was about midnight" She answered.
Dol looked at his parents curiously. He didn't understand.
After breakfast Jacinto put on his cotton shirt, took his straw hat and left the house. He went to the houses of his other children to ask. He wanted to see if anybody else had heard it.
It was a good while after dawn when he enter his daughter Carmen's hut.
"Is your husband here"
"No, he went to his milpa early - she answered- he is behind in his work, he said he wanted to finish for the burning season"
"He will be back late then - replied the ma'asewaal- almost at dark. Did you hear anything strange last night? -Jacinto continued.
"I didn't, but he told me that at midnight it seemed like it was thundering"
"That is what your mother and I thought, but it wasn't thunder; I am almost sure , nor fire works or distant gun fire, -he paused again while he thought - I am going to see if anybody else in the village heard it, maybe we can clear this up"
The sun was beginning to come over the trees when Jacinto returned to his house.
"I am going to the milpa. Is the pozole ready? I will be back early".
He took the machete that was hanging from a door near one of the main posts and belted it around his waist. He took the permanently loaded shot-gun and two extra shells. Carmen came back with his bag of pozole and a gourd with enough water for the hot morning.
Several people had heard the noises during the night. Almost everybody thought they were dynamite explosions. They thought they were more than 4 leagues away toward the south.
"You know, I think we should go and investigate, in the direction the noise came from there aren't any roads to take out our lumber. I think that is the most probable. I will go with Dol and 3 or 4 more men. Prepare supplies for 2 or 3 days. We will walk toward the road to Vigia Chico, I think the explosions came from there. We have to know what is going on. If it is a lumber company probably they want to take the lumber out of our woods."
"And why are they doing it without telling us?...Haven't you always said that the government cannot take the chicle or lumber without paying us? Asked Carmen.
"That's what we are worried about -answered Jacinto- but we have heard that the lumber companies are getting by the law by saying that woods are federal land; they don't accept that the zone belongs to the Maya people".
"What will you do to stop them, if that is what it is?"
"We will go to Chetumal to report it and demand that they respect the agreements. They will have to pay us for ever meter they cut. That is the deal."
"Don't forget to take something to cover up with during the night. There in the jungle it is cold at night. It is always even in the hot season" - said Carmen- I will put two blankets along with the hammocks"
"Not the hammocks, we will take only the most indispensable because we are going on foot, we will have to cut our path trough the jungle. We will go in the direction of the explosions without detouring."
"What else do you need" asked Carmen.
"Nothing else, pozole, piimo'ob, salted meat. Is there any venison? A little coffee, sugar and water - just figure enough for 2 days. I will take my boot as well as my sandals. I might need them"
"Do you have enough shells? Carmen reminded him.
"With a dozen it will be enough. The other men are also taking their riffles.
Jacinto left for the milpa convinced that after their excursion they would know what it was all about. The next morning they left toward the south.
The noise of the machinery signaled the way to go as they advanced the noise got louder. They had the sensation that from one moment to the other they would get to where the trees were being felled. For moments the rumble of the motors lessened and could hardly be heard.
Jacinto stopped. He raised his hand to indicate to the group that they should be quiet and not to move.
He pointed the way and began to walk followed by the rest. When the encounter was imminent, because they could see the falling thought the thick brush, he stopped again and said.
"Who will go with me? The rest of you stay here until I call you."
Followed by his companion, he walked straight toward the machinery. Very carefully they advanced into the clearing where an enormous machine was butting a big zapote tree.
Jacinto remained alert and amazed at the sight. He didn't say a word.
"The machinist turned his head to back up ad detected the presence of the two maasewalo'ob. It was easy to identify them by the way the Mayas of the region dressed with short pants, cotton shirts and straw hats. He doubted for a moment, then shifting into neutral, he took his cap, which was hanging from a rustic roof of palm leaves and put it on. He drank some water from his canteen and then walked toward the maasewalo'ob who stood waiting for him.
"Buenos dias, señor" Said Jacinto in perfect Spanish.
"Good morning , pal" -answered the machinist- What are you doing here? They told us the nearest village is very far, more than 20 kilometers, isn't that right?.
"We are from Tok'tuunich a town more or less 5 leagues to the north
What are you doing here? - Insisted the machinist.
"A few days ago we began to hear the machinery during the night when there isn't any wind. We came to see what is going on. These are our lands, didn't you know?... What exactly are you doing? Why are you making such a wide road? Wider than the ones they always make to take our lumber?
"We are clearing the land for a highway that goes to the coast to Tulum"-answered the machine operator.
"It is a long way to the coast, maybe 20 leagues if you keep going this way" answered the maasewaa'al pointing to the east.
He turned to his companion and told him in Maya to tell the rest of the men to come.
The machinist, who appeared to be from the North of Mexico, judging by his features and height, didn't understand him.
"What did you tell him, that he went running?"
"I told him to go and tell the rest to get here"
"Are there a lot of you?" - He asked worried and afraid.
"No, there are just five of us" - Answered Jacinto, smiling, then all of them joined him at the edge of the clearin.
"What is your name?"
"Jacinto, and this is my son Dol, the rest are from the village"
"I am Rosendo" said the tractor operator, then asked. "What brought you here?
"We came to see what you were doing in the forest. Who sent you here? I suppose you have a camp near by"
"At two kilometers" -he answered pointing to the West- there is the engineer in charge. He stays there because his pick up truck cannot get to where we are clearing."
"We will go there to see him"
"You'd better hurry if you want to find him"- answered the operator.
The group headed toward the way indicated by the operator. Ten mecates on Jacinto went into the woods followed by his companions to hide their baggage. They came out again carrying only their shotguns and machetes.
They arrived to the camp, with buildings of sticks and palm leaves, and a shed with cardboard roof used as storage for fuel, tools and other merchandise. Their presence attracted the attention of the workers.
Jacinto asked the first person he found about the engineer. The man pointed him out as he approached him.
"Are you the engineer?
He was looking at the group with curiosity.
"Yes I am, What can I do for you?
"We are from Tok'tuunich. We came to find out what you were doing here?
"And who are you?"
"I am the chief of the town"
"If that's the way you understand it, I am the authority."
The engineer sat down on a barrel without inviting his visitor to sit, and visibly upset, he asked.
"What do you want to know?" Can't you see what we are doing? It's a highway that comes from Carrillo Puerto."
Jacinto listen impassively.
"This highway will connect Carrillo Puerto with Tulum. It is part of a highway that all along the coast will extend north up to in front of Isla Mujeres, communicating the southern part of the territory with the north. We are going very slowly not only because it costs a lot of money and machinery, but because the jungle, the swamps make it very difficult to progress. We need workers from the area because those from other regions get sick too easy.
While Jacinto listened to the engineer's explanation he thought of what this could mean for the people, a road just a few kilometers away that could be easily reached. He remembered the difficult communication through the forest by footpaths that joined them to Tihosuco and Santa Cruz. He thought of the hard journeys in the hot season or under intense downpours, in the slow and difficult transportation of their products, corn and chicle and in the merchandise they got from these towns. He thought that the road joining the highway could be covered in just a few minutes. He was thinking about this when the engineer said again.
"Would any of your people be interested in working with us? The pay is good much more than what you are used to earning. In one day you could make more than you usually make in a week -beside you get your meals- What do you ?"
"I guess I will have to ask the people of my village, when do you need them?
"Tomorrow, if they can get here, we need workers."
"You have and answer in a week"
"Okay, What is your name?"
Jacinto Ek from the town of Tok'tuunich and now with your permission, We'll be going"
The engineer stretched his hand to the maa'sewaal and both shook hands in a friendly manner.
Seconds later Jacinto and his company headed back to their town.
When they arrived a day later having rested all night, Jacinto and his companions separated each going to his own home where they talked about the incident and what they had seen of the highway construction putting special emphasis on the heavy machinery and how quickly the job advanced through the jungle.
In his home, Jacinto commented to Carmen:
"I think the highway that will pass far from our village, will facilitate communication with Santa Cruz and to get to the coast and Tulu'um. We could get fish, easily. They have asked us to work on the job. They say the highway will continue along the coast until it passes in front of Cozumel and Isla Mujeres and there would be communication with Zaci. They plan to make other roads to the ancient ruins, however, it isn't all good. Who knows what could happen; remember when our people started to work for the government credit. They talked about all the advantages. According to the accounts they send us every year we owe more, and not even working double we will be able to pay the debt in many years.
And the bankers themselves tell us not to worry because in the end the government will forgive our debts, and so they keep giving us more money even though it isn't all we sign for. - Not mentioning the bad habit that has spread of getting insurance money for the milpa saying that it didn't produce anything when they were really productive- But, How can we stop it? If the people thinks they are benefited with the money that they get so easily and think they will never have to pay back -You have already seen these problems... fights and arguments that happen during our assemblies amd tje ejido authorities that chosen with the support of the government; and no longer respect their elders. I feel that since then little by little, we have been losing authority. The young people no longer respect us, and rebel and every day is harder to control them. They are leaving the village to go work in other places and they don't want to work in the milpa or plant or do any of the things we have always done. What will happen to those who go to work on the highway to earn in one day what it would take several days to earn in the fields? But I cannot oppose it they will have to decide what it is in their best interest, Won't they?
Carmen listened in silence, thinking in her children and the changes that were coming.
The news spread that same day through the whole town, by the men who had gone with Jacinto on his short trip to the highway under construction. Two days later about twenty ma'asewa'alo'ob, mostly young men, were talking in the door of the house of the Bataab, commenting on the conditions, apparently favorable to work on the road that was under construction. At night, when it was quiet, they heard the noise of the motors in the soft breeze, and sometimes the explosions of the dynamite breaking the rocks. Obviously they were taking advantages of the short break in the rainy season, very soon it will be raining all the time and it will limit the work of land workers and machinists. The people who worked in the pathways that the lumber companies traveled, talked about it.
Jacinto came out to the door and went toward the group, which kept silent as he approached them.
" Well. Tell me what you have decided - said Jacinto- I imagined that you have thought and talked it through- not only among yourselves but also with you families.
"Don Jacinto" -said Teo, one of the oldest ones in the group- we have discussed it very well. We will work for a week every one that it is here, There might be more, but since they don't know how much they will get and how the food is, they would rather wait... We have decided, if the salary is good and the food is always available; the ones who are happy with it will stay, that's what we have decided, we hope that you'll give us advise and back us if necessary"
Jacinto listened to them and then answered:
"Fine, I dont see anything wrong with it, but I only want to remind you not to get into trouble with the other people. Do your work and don't drink, we know all too well that when there is liquor that the "smart" ones sell, they take you pay, fights brake out , sometime ending in machete fights or in shootings, especially if there is marijuana involved.
You know those that have worked in the chicle fields, that a lot of the outsiders especially those from the north smoke grass in order to be able to work harder in the trucks or in wood cutting. Remember this and don't get involved with anybody, especially with the lady cook, you may get a "disease" from her...
Some of the men smiled with roguery, they have heard of the adventures of some and their experience with gonorrhea.
"Well then, -said Jacinto- so be it and may it go well"
The next day, early in the morning, the group of máasewáal'ob with their bags well tied and their gourds of water, the machetes tied at their waists and shotguns on their shoulders or in their hands the group stood at Jacinto's door.
"Don't worry pa' " said Dol- if anything goes wrong, we'll come back. In about one week or two we'll send somebody with news.
Jacinto put his strong hand on his son's shoulder and minutes later they were out of sight on the path that lead to the south of Tok'tuunich toward the highway under construction.
The next day, the group with Dol at the front, appeared in the work area where the heavy machinery cleared the jungle.
He looked around at the tractor operators, trying to recognise the man whom they had spoken to a few days before. He did not see him and went to the nearest worker with two companions, while the others waited at the edge of the clearing.
The gigantic tractor stopped when the operator saw the group. He lowered the shovel at the same time as he stopped the tractor.
"Rosendo" -shouted Dol. Where can we find him.?
The operator shouted back: "In the Camp, it is his day off"
Dol made a hand sign to the rest of the group to follow him. They walked in single file toward the camp.
When they arrived there, half a league away, they went toward a group of made-shift building, where they saw mosquito-netting which protected the hammocks where some of them were sleeping. Surely those who had worked the night shift.
He didn't see anybody awake and so as not to disturb their rest they walked to the asbestos-roofed long pavilion where the kitchen-dinning room must have been.
The woman in charge and her two assistants, to mature woman and two other young women with foreign look, watch them nonchalantly. They remembered the small group that a couple of days before had been talking with the engineer near the storage shed. They thought they must be the same ones from the comments that the engineer made when he came to eat after the encounter.
"Good morning, Ma'am. Do you know if the engineer is here? We want to talk to him. We have come to work"
The woman in charge answered while she kept on with her task of preparing the food.
"He is not in the camp, but he will be back soon, he went to check some thing back there..."
"Can we rest for a while? Could you give us some water to prepare our "pozole"? We are hungry because we had breakfast very early this morning.
The woman took a large pail and got some water out of the asbestos tank that was nearby.
"Let me -said Dol- as he took the pail, after he fill it, each one dissolved his "paj-k'eyem" in the fresh water.
"Do you want sugar?" -asked the cook
"No , thank you Ma'am, we prefer to drink our "pozole" with salt.
The cook watched how they bit the salt and green chile pepper as they passed it to each other.
"You drink it with salt and chile?" -she thought it was strange.
"Not everybody, some drink it with just salt. It takes away the hunger and thirst" Dol told her.
The cook ,certainly from central Mexico, shook her head and smiled.
When they finished, they thanked her and went to the edge of the clearing, each one looking for the shade under the big trees.
Shortly after, all of them dozed while Dol waited for the engineer.
The next day, the máasewáal'ob were finishing the work of the machinery under the hot sun. They picked up sticks and trunks that had been left on the ground. From dawn until sundown, they worked hard, except for an hour to eat the meal that they were given abundantly. There was ice brought daily from Carrillo Puerto, and as Jacinto had warned them, liquor which some drank sneakily during the rest periods, especially at night. Occasionally on the excuse of going to the latrine, some went out of the camp to smoke marijuana.
Sometimes at night, Dol went out into the forest, carrying a hunting lamp, and got some pieces of local game, a wild turkey sleeping in the trees or some other wild animals. He took them to the cook. She was happy because the other men, usually from other parts of the country, didn't know the woods and, they almost never got anything. In exchange Dol had certain privileges and his men got plenty of food, they especially enjoyed the cheese and butter and the imported canned ham.
They also enjoyed an occasional drink of Jamaican rum and American cigarettes. The engineer gave them several boxes of American cartridges in exchange for the fresh meat.
It was two days before they would have been working two weeks as the group had planned before deciding whether to go back to the village or continue working on the highway. The daily work under the hot sun was exhausting, but he máasewáal'ob were used to hard work of clearing milpas, so they could take the workload. At night after a good dinner and a refreshing bath they slept until next morning.
Sometimes they were awaken by small noisy groups of intoxicated workers, who smoked marijuana and had liquor in the absence of the supervisor.
They had received their first week pay and were think of how they were going to invest the money they had earned with so much sacrifice.
One night, when everybody was resting, to drunken operator, overwrought, under the effects of marijuana was being held by to group of fellow workers less intoxicated than he was.
"Leave alone, sons of a b.... Let me f... those stupid sh.... indians"
His companions stopped him, jumping on him.
After a few minutes of wrestling the man seemed to be appeased. Suddenly he got up, took a piece of metal pipe and headed toward the thatch roof cabin where the máasewáal'ob were sleeping.
Dol and his companions had woken up by the noise and observed the group, lit by an oil lamp.
As he saw the mad drunken man coming toward them he said to his friends:
"Be careful, he is out of control"
He took his machete and in a resolute step he advanced toward the aggressor, who was being followed by the group of friends, who once again tried to hold him down.
Dol stood firmly with the machete on his hand.
"It is over, pal, nothing is going to happen", said one of the men who hold the violent man" He is very drunk, said to Dol.
"He surely had some grass too" added Dol.
Dol turned to his companions as the group led the drunken man away. He didn't say anything anymore. His friends were standing waiting for him. Some were carrying machetes.
" We will go back to our village- said Dol - as soon as we get our pay this weekend. We won't run more risks. My father warned us about this. Nobody said anything and went back to their hammocks to try and get some sleep.
The next day the foreman spoke with Dol. Look "compadre", you have the right to be angry and upset because of what happened last night. They told me what he did, and the boss warned him to throw him out of the camp if he does it again. I don't think you really want to go. Aren't you happy here? Aren't you making good money?
Yes sir, -answered Dol- I am not just worried about last night, for several days now, I have seen them inviting my men to drink , they have even tried to sell them bottles. My father warned them not to drink and he told me that I am responsible for avoiding any trouble.
Can you imagine what would have happened if my people had been drinking?
"That's true, but I assured you....." said the foreman.
"I have thought it over- interrupted Dol- this weekend we will go back to our village.
"Think about it again, friend, I hope you decided to stay"
Saturday afternoon, after receiving their pay, the máasewáal'ob left for their village. Still the engineer, who knew their reasons, tried to convince them.
Dol was respectful but firm. He thanked him and almost as silently as they had come, they disappeared down the path heading north.
At nightfall of the next day, Jacinto saw the group arriving with Dol in the lead. He felt a great relief and his fears disappeared.
The Land Rover stopped for an instant to let the vehicle that was 200 meters behind it to pass. The driver opened the door to get out and as he did he raised up a hand as a signal to stop. The two vehicles stopped side to side on the deserted highway recently paved. It was 8:45 in the morning. They had left Chetumal at 6:00 in the morning they had gone fast discounting the time they had stopped at the open market in Carrillo Puerto to try some delicious tacos of venison and pork.
'We detour here' he said pointing up the dirt road which had a sign reading Tok'tuunich, 18 kilometers.
'You go on ...a little further on you will see the sign for Chun'yaxché, We will meet back here between 11:30 and 12. Okay?
'Okay'. Answered those in the other car.
The truck took off immediately.
'Hey Paco - said his companion- hand me the M-1 to try it out'
Paco took the automatic riffle from the back seat and gave it to his friend.
'Do you have any bullets?'
'Enough, two complete reloads'
'Gabriel, the group leader of the police, loaded the automatic weapon and aimed to a 'xuux' that was in a branch about 30 meters away. He fired 3 times quickly. The target fell apart in pieces from the impacts.
'You have a steady hand, considering the drinks you had last night at the house of the Jarocha'
'I didn't drink much, and even if I had, you know I do not miss- he said.
' I know that, hand it to me, let me see how my aim is'
Paco took the weapon, aimed at the target and shot off a short round, which splintered the branch.
'You are not bad either' Smiled Gabriel
'And now, what we came for, let's go to the village and see if we can get that son of a bitch'
The Land Rover took the dirt road raising a cloud of dust.
Jacinto was going over some documents related to agricultural credit program when he heard the noise of the vehicle approaching the house
When it stopped he watched as two big foreign looking men got out.
'Are you Jacinto Ek?' asked one of them.
'At your service'- said Jacinto
'Gabriel took out of his shirt pocket a badge to identify himself as a Federal Police officer.
'Yes, Sir -said Jacinto, a bit restless because of their sudden appearance.
Gabriel took an ID size photograph out of his pocket and showed it to Jacinto, asking:
'Do you know him?- we have him registered as the 'ooch'- the fox'
'I know him, he has been living here for a few months now with a girl of the Uitzil Family, who was working in Chetumal. It is he, no doubt.
'We are looking for him, we have a warrant to arrest him'
'What did he do?'
'He only escaped from the jail where he was serving a sentence for drug traffic - he sold marijuana'
'How did you know he was here? He is not one of us. I understand that he is from Yucatan. From Peto I think'
'We were informed by someone we had arrested; apparently has had tricked him, so he denounced him and told us we would find him here or around here
'Well they told you the truth, he should be in the milpa'
'Let's go for him. Can somebody come with us?'
'I will go myself, it is my duty. We don't want problems with anybody, especially if he is not from our village'
'Bring you riffle Don Jacinto'
'No way, it is your responsibility. As the authority I will go with you but nothing else'
The firmness and clarity of Jacinto's answer surprised Gabriel.
'Let's go quickly, we don't want him to get away' -he said to the other men in the car.
'The vehicle will do you no good. This is the way'-said Jacinto, showing the way.
Minutes later the three men moved in the narrow path, wide enough only for the mules. They walked for almost one hour, the agents were sweating hard because of the intense heat, which was increasing by the hour.
It was almost 11:00 a.m. Gabriel stopped a step behind Jacinto. He turned and instructed Gabriel with a sign to be quiet. Gabriel understood the message.
Gabriel whispered -'further'
'No -said Jacinto- we better try not to make any noise, he should be in that field'
'Correct'- said the agent.
Less than half a kilometer ahead, Jacinto made another sign. They were close. A little further they heard the sound of an axe on a tree trunk. Jacinto advanced cautiously followed by the agents with the weapons ready on their hands.
When they entered the milpa, the 'junky' was energetically chopping a tree trunk. Gabriel and Paco aimed at the same time as they shouted:
'We got you now, you bastard' 'Don't move or we'll fill you with holes'
It was a complete surprise... Balam didn't move, he understood that he couldn't get away.
'Don't try anything otherwise we'll kill you, boy, you better give up'
Paco advanced among the fallen branches while Gabriel pointed his M-1 at him.
In handcuffs he let himself be hauled away by the agents
When he saw Jacinto, he looked at him, with hate and shame at the same time.
The group went toward the path that led to the village.
It was noon when they reached Jacinto's house. They went in and Doña Carmen offered them pozole with ice to refresh them.
Balam didn't speak a word, since his arrest.
When Gabriel finished his cold drink, he looked at him threateningly.
' So you are the famous "zorro", you look more like a stinky skunk...tell us, Who are you partners? Who do you buy the grass from? Or, Do you grow it yourself ? Where do you hide it?...
The "ooch" didn't answer, he kept looking down to the ground.
' You will talk, you bastard!
'No doubt about it! '
'You will talk'... you better spit out what you know, if you don't we'll beat it out of you!'
When he realized that the prisoner would not speak, Gabriel said to Jacinto: 'Let's go to this rat's house. He must have the stuff there'
The group got up and went to Balam's house. The onlookers watched the group silently. They have already heard what was going on.
Two blocks west, at the edge of the woods they entered a thatch-roofed house where Balam lived. It was empty. The young girl, Balam's wife, had run to her parent's house.
'Go, get the girl, Paco. Drag her here if she doesn't want to come'
Jacinto looked at Balam carefully.
'Let me talk to him, señor, alone'
Gabriel looked at Jacinto with distrust. He fixed the handcuff to a post near the door and said: ' Only five minutes, while they bring the girl'
Jacinto look at Balam in the eyes and said: ' boy, you are in big trouble. Why don't you tell them the truth? Don't you see that even the poor girl will go the jail? Do you know what it will happen to her? Think about it. Isn't she you woman? Tell them what you know . Give them the grass you have hidden. So they won't take the girl.'
Balam thought carefully about it for a while. He looked up the roof where there were some corn shucks were tied.
Jacinto understood at once.
Moments later, the agents came in with the young girl and her mother. The girl was terrified. The mother shouted at Jacinto in Maya about what she considered to be an injustice.
'Let me have a few minutes outside', said Jacinto to Gabriel, as he pointed to the backyard.
'I think the grass is in those packets tied to the roof in the cornhusks. They must be stuffed with marijuana. He told me that is all he has. He also told me that he doesn't have any accomplices.'
'Will see about that in Chetumal. There we will make sure he tells us everything'
'I told him that if he confessed, the girl would not go to jail. I know her family. I pray you not to take her. I will be responsible for her.'
Gabriel considered it for a few seconds.
'Trust me', Jacinto continued, 'I'm sure she will tell me everything, that is if she knows anymore'
'Correct, don Jacinto, but you will be held responsible if she runs away'
'I will respond for that, señor.'
The police officers and the prisoner got in the Land Rover and it took off before the eyes of the on-lookers that watched prudently from a distance.
They could see Balam staring at the floor of the vehicle. He didn't dare to look at the people. The officers raised their hands as they drove away.
'It's over, go back to what you were doing'
Inside the house of Balam, the girl began to cry. Her mother, next to her, said angrily to Jacinto.
'Don't Jacinto, those men mistreated my daughter. Why did they take Luis? He didn't do anything.'
'Don't you know that he was in jail and that he had escaped a couple of month ago? They had him for trafficking marijuana. Didn't you know that?'
The faces of the women didn't change. Jacinto was trying to find a sign of what they were thinking. 'So you knew about it, Why were you so surprised?'
The young girl looked down ashamed, her mother tried to act surprised.
Thank God they didn't take the girl. I warn you, if you don't tell me everything you know, without leaving anything out, I will send for the police tomorrow'.
The two women broke out crying. Jacinto looked at them displeased.
' Now, tell me everything'
The girl didn't answer. The mother began to tell her version. Jacinto listened for a few minutes.
'Don't repeat yourself, just because your daughter is so young I won't let her go to jail', he said interrupting the story.
'Go back home, don't try to escape, if we find more marijuana then...'
'I swear Don Jacinto, there is no more than what it was in the corn husks'
'You are in trouble if you are lying to me'
The news flew like dust in the town. The two women did not leave their houses. Jacinto called the family members and told them about the situation. All of them denied their participation in the matter.
'Only this I can assure you, from now on, the police will be watching you. Each time they suspect something, your family will first be investigated. You know what to expect'.
Two days later the judicial agents arrived in the village with two trucks full of soldiers. Their arrival was unexpected and it was late at night. The soldiers got out of the vehicles and immediately began to search several houses.
Gabriel and Paco went to Jacinto, after a brief greeting , Gabriel said:
'We have a list of eight men. Take us to their houses right away'
Jacinto read the list. He was surprised to see the name of his son Dol in it.
' It is impossible, my son could never...'
'No time for explanations. Come with us or we'll have to arrest you too'
Jacinto ceded. The first thing he told them was: 'My son Dol lives near here, let's go for him'
Minutes later the agents came with him. His hand were tied and under the guard of two soldiers.
'Don't worry dad, I am innocent. I didn't do anything'
'I know that my son, don't worry, they just carry orders, they are taking the ones Balam had denounced'
'I know why. When he asked me to plant marijuana, I refused, so he is doing it out of revenge'
When the group arrived to the next in the list, he had already fled.
'He got away', said Paco.
'He 's probably guilty', said Jacinto.
In the following two houses they were successful, because of the surprise.
The ones further away had time to get away.
'You know all of them, don't you? Didn't you know they were involved?' asked Gabriel.
He spoke to the official directing the operation. ' Captain, I don't think we'll get anybody else, we'll get them some other time'.
One of the accused came voluntarily at that moment. 'Don Jacinto, they told me that these men were looking for my brother and me. I haven't done anything
Gabriel looked at him intently.
'You will have to come with us to clear things up'
'I will and brother also. We are innocent. They have already told me why you are here. Since you took Balam we imagined that this was going to happen. That bastard is getting us into this because we refused to plan marijuana with him.
'Do you know where he has planted it?' asked Paco.
'We'll show you right now, if you want'
Gabriel said to Paco. ' You go with him and with some troopers...captain!'
The captain answered. 'That's we are here for. We are at your orders'
The group left after the máasewáal with some lamps to find the plantation.
The rest of the group boarded the vehicles that carried them to Chetumal with the arrested men.
The next day Jacinto said good bye to Carmen. 'I am going to Chetumal to see what happened to the boys who were arrested. Don't worry about Dol. He will be home soon'
'I pray that they don't hurt him. I have heard that they torture them to make them confess', said Carmen with tears in her eyes.
'Don't despair, have faith in God'
That same afternoon Jacinto was in the offices of the Government representative in Carrillo Puerto.
'I have been informed about everything, don Jacinto. The official told me that they took your son and some others to investigate the accusation made by the drug dealer, he doesn't think all of them are guilty but he has to investigate'
'That's true, but I have to go to Chetumal, not just for my son, but also for my people. If they are guilty, they must be punished, if they aren't, they must be set free'
'Good luck, Don Jacinto, if you need a letter of recommendation....'
'Thank you, señor, They know me well in Chetumal. Thank you anyway'
Jacinto arrived in Chetumal that night. He immediately went to the government building. He waited for about an hour until the State official, who knew him personally, talked to him. He explained everything and asked for a complete investigation, but not to punish innocent people.
With a card from the functionary Jacinto presented himself in the judicial building. They received him and took him where the officials who had taken his people were.
'Don Jacinto', said Gabriel, 'I plan to free all of them except one, who when he was put face to face before Balam admitted that he had sold marijuana. The rest, your son also, seem not to have anything to do with it. I am happy to say that. Those who escaped , I thing they are guilty'
Jacinto listened and then answered.
'Thank God, everything will be fine'
The following morning after signing the papers and making some other arrangements, Jacinto waited for the group at the door.
Dol answered his question before he even asked.
'Hilario won't get out until the doctors examine him. He admitted smoking marijuana. But they only found a little bit in his house, so he has to pass the medical exam. It is the law.
Jacinto didn't answer, he greeted the group with a smile and added:
'Let's go home, he will come whenever he get out, tomorrow or the day after'
while the men rested on the bus, exhausted because of the ordeal, Dol told his father:
'They threatened us, they gave us electric shocks. They put plastic bags over our heads to suffocate us. They poured mineral water in our noses. They wanted us to admit we have planted marijuana, and have sold it. But we didn't give in. We are innocent.'
Jacinto did not say a word, not a single word.
'Don Jacinto' -said the teacher as he enjoyed a delicious chocolate with savory pork tamales that Carmen served him before class. 'What do you think of the movement the natives of Quintana Roo are organizing for the next change of government?'
'That which once turned into a free and sovereign state only those born in Quintana Roo would run for governor or the other political positions such as town mayors and other functionaries.'
Jacinto thought for a few seconds before answering.
'Well I remember that when I was young, before the second world war, those from Chetumal fought to recover their territory, you know that it had been divided between Yucatán and Campeche. It was during General Cardenas era. I remember when they took us to Santa Cruz to see him. It was after the last attempt of a rebellion by the Mayans, in times of our first teacher. I think I have already told you about it'
' Yes, you have already old me about it, Don Jacinto'
I think I have told the story to every teacher who has come here'
'That's right, you've told me'. The teacher smiled.
'When they elect the first governor for Quintana Roo, everything will be just the same. During all the years I've lived, the authorities are appointed by the governor and the president, from Mexico City appoints this.
'But now there will be elections, the people will decide who will be the governor'
'That's what the politicians say- elections are, as some say, just a farce to make it look legal'
'You don't believe in them, do you?
'I believe in what I see in my villages, in the assemblies to elect the commissary and the local authorities. The people attend elections by obligation. They threat them with not giving them credits and other support programs. When time to vote comes they are told who to vote for, and they do. The people say it doesn't make any difference to them who is elected. The reason being is that, the count of the votes is not made public and there is always fraud with the credits they send for us.
'But the rules and regulations says something different. Don' t they?'
'Come on, teacher¡ you are smarter than that'
'You know more than me, Don Jacinto, I wish I knew as much as you do and have the experience you have. That's why I asked'
'Thank you but I think the years can teach us more than the books'
'Wise words' exclaimed the teacher.
'No teacher, I don't think things will change when the territory becomes a federal state. The politicians will be the same as they have always been. They will continue with their political game as always and the peasants, those who live in the same lands as our forefathers will remain the same, only in more need and poverty. We are now used to electricity and television and radio; to work less since the government gives us credits that we cannot pay back; there is more vice and more crime, more abandoned families, more...'
'Enough! Don Jacinto' you sound very pessimistic.'
'I have good reasons for being so, teacher, I may be pessimistic. What's is wrong with that?'
Jacinto was quiet and looked away for a second toward the sky.
'Will you go to Carrillo Puerto when the candidate for governor comes next week? They had advised there would be a great meeting, we the teachers are supposed to be there as well, we will close the school for a few days. All the employees have been advised so until next Monday, there won't be classes. That's what the representative said.'
Jacinto understood the message. Several times he had reported the absences of the teacher and the problems this caused to the students. Now the teacher had come to let him know ahead of time.
'Well teacher, thank you for letting me know. I don't think I will go because I am behind my work in the "milpa" and I don't want to waste a single day'
The teacher got up from the table having finished his conversation and his breakfast.
'Well Don Jacinto, I am going to my class the student's must be arriving at the school'
'I'll be seeing you' Jacinto finished the conversation.
'Did you hear, Carmen?' She was picking up the cups and plates to wash them.
Carmen didn't answer; she only had an enigmatic smile on her face.
'Are the provisions ready?' Carmen went to the kitchen to bring Jacinto the food and water.
'What time will you be back?' asked Carmen.
'Before dark, I am not taking a lamp'
He took the shotgun and two shells after tying the machete to his waist and putting on his old palm leaf hat. Moments later he was going the narrow path that led to his milpa.
The old truck, occupied completely by about thirty máasewáalo'ob, left for Carrillo Puerto, calculating to arrive before the set time for the meeting in the square.
Dol was talking to the driver inside the cabin.
'What time will we arrive?'
'At about ten o'clock' -the driver answered.
'Tell me something. The people want to stay for a while after the meeting to buy things. Each one received $ 10.00 to eat some tacos'
'So little? you must have kept at least other $ 10.00. Haven't you?
'What do you mean' asked Dol, with surprise.
'Are you a fool or what! We know you were going to get $ 30.00 each.
'No Sir, the one who brought the money told the sub-officer that we will receive $ 10.00'
' Is that what he said? Then he must have stolen the money. If not him the sub-officer did'
Dol didn't answer. He preferred to remain silent and wait to arrive at the delegation office to inquire. It will be better in Carrillo Puerto. If people found out there would be problems.
The driver smiled with roguery. He had planted the seed. He was upset because he was not going to get some "extra money" for the trip. They didn't have to. The vehicle was for official use only and it was forbidden to use it for political reasons.
'Will you wait for us for at least one hour?'-Asked Dol- 'We would have time to get some tacos in the market and buy some things.'
The driver looked at him calmly. The naiveté of the máasewáal made him feel sorry for him.
'We'll see pal, we'll see'
It was almost 11:00 in the morning. The people had congregated in the square in front of the delegation office, which had been decorated with three-colored banderoles, the same colors of the national flag.
Posters with the photograph of the candidate were hanging from ropes tied across the streets from light poles. In the middle of the square a band was playing Caribbean music. The sound system was being tested. The functionaries and other bureaucrats were beginning to sweat profusely because of the intense heat. The sun was up and came down straight on them.
The mass of country people, who were accustomed to the weather, were not yet restless and were enjoying the music. They were eating icicles and chopped ices and different sweets offered by the many street vendors.
The fireworks began exploding, announcing the arrival of the candidates and their committee. The local leaders hurried to take the seats in front of the improvised platform where the speeches would be given.
The applause and cheers broke out when the committee arrived and climbed up the platform.
The speeches started as the hoorays for the candidate ended.
Dol watched carefully some 10 meters away. He recognized the faces of 2 or 3 functionaries who his father had dealt with when he went to Chetumal or Carrillo Puerto. Near there were the rural leaders, the chicle leaders and some teachers. He recognized the school inspector that had gone once to the village. Everybody wanted to be near or nearer the candidate.
The parade of orators seemed endless, even when only and hour had gone by. The people started to get restless when finally it was the candidate's turn to speak.
'Brothers, Countrymen, people of Carrillo Puerto members of the party... we are here to celebrate an old desire of the people of Quintana Roo. A dream of all the authentic people of this territory, for which we have worked for many years, that our land become a free and sovereign State.'
The committee started an applause, which was followed by the people, after a calculated pause.
'Soon the Mayan people -continued the candidate- will see this dream come true. When you the people, with your votes, support me to become the first elected governor of this State.'
A new applause interrupted the speech for a few seconds. The candidate continued, emphasizing the plans he had to support the work of the Mayan people: neighboring roads, schools, electricity, medical services, agricultural support, cattle raising, exploitation of honey and lumber, all of this in benefit of the people, etc. Intermittent applause followed each pause during the speech, and enthusiastic cheers organized by the candidate's followers. The people received palm hats imprinted with the three-colored party logo, sport caps and T-shirts, all of them imprinted with political emblems. Meanwhile the band continued playing loudly their tropical tunes. Part of the crowd received abundant tacos and soft drinks; the rest got sandwiches and cold refreshments.
Dol stayed at the edge of the group of Mayan leaders that were led to greet the future governor of the State of Quintana Roo.
Moments later he rejoined his people and they went to the market to buy some things. They wanted to return to the town as soon as possible. The coming days would be of hard work at the milpa.
The teacher Marcelo May rested comfortably sitting on the old arm chair. He was enjoying the soft cool breeze of the first hours of the afternoon that fanned the wide halls of the old mansion of his ancestors. There he was watching with curiosity the fly about of a humming bird, that dizzyingly flapped its wings between the plants that adorned the garden located between the bedrooms and the halls that were connected with the main entrance, which was closed off by an old vestibule.
He was alone. His wife and unmarried daughters had gone to church, as they did every Saturday, to teach catechism to the children of the neighborhood of Candelaria.
Three metallic knocks on the door echoed on the walls. Who could it be? He got up slowly and walked toward the door as the knocks repeated.
When he opened, the old messenger, who should have retired years ago, greeted courteously with a warm smile.
'Good afternoon, Marcelo, this is for you' - He said as he delivered a telegram and gave Marcelo a notebook to sign that the telegram had been received.
'It is from Carrillo Puerto' -said the messenger with familiarity -
'From Carrillo Puerto? Who could have sent it?'
For a few moments he couldn't imagine. When he opened the envelope he saw the name of Jose Dolores Ek. In an instant he related this name to his old friend Jacinto, from Tok'tuunich,.
The telegram explained everything.
'My father asks you to come to hospital in Chetumal. Suffered accident'
How many years have passed since he picked up his son in Tok'tuunich?... more than 40? Since then the only news he had received was through his son Marcelo, when he was in Tok' tuunich a few years ago, during an epidemic leading the medical brigade after he had graduated as a medical doctor. Other than that it was the occasion when Jacinto came to spend some days at the hacienda, when they enjoyed some time together.
He finished his reflection and carefully put the telegram in his pocket. He made a decision. He took the keys of his pick up truck and drove to the telegraph office to send word to his son that he was to travel immediately to see the situation that Jacinto was in. He asked his son to meet him in Chetumal.
The powerful V-8 engine gradually accelerated after crossing the rail road tracks over the highway that recently joined Valladolid to the South with the old Santa Cruz del Bravo, now called Carrillo Puerto.
In a few seconds the modern pick up truck reached 100 km/hr. Marcelo May, the old, told his driver:
'Slow down, you know I don't like to go fast'
'But you said you wanted to arrive early to Chetumal, to see the "southerner" your "compadre"...it's getting light and at 80 km/hr it will take us at least 4 hours. It is safe to go 100 or 120, the road is new. I think it is one of the best and there is almost no traffic'
'You are rigth, but we better go slower, you know that fast driving makes me nervous' -Said the teacher.
In a few more minutes they arrived in Chichimilá. They went carefully through the town because the people have the habit of walking on both sides of the highway and domestic animals were wandering in the park and around the church.
Marcelo went back in time - to more than 50 years before- when he took his first trip into the jungles of Quintana Roo with no more weapons than his youthful idealism. He remembered the danger and difficulties of that journey, which now deems as an adventure. The old indian town of Chichimila, south of Valladolid where, by accident, the indian conspiracy that set off the revolt of 1847,had been discovered. He recounted mentally the bloody incidents told and retold by the old men and recorded in the history books. Minutes later they crossed Tekom and then Tixcacalcupul, places of anecdotes and heroic deeds of both rival groups...
Marcelo hardly spoke. He answered with monosyllables to the comments of the driver. Sometimes, a wild animal that crossed in front of the car broke the monotony of the road.
When they got to Tepich, his memory was refreshed once more... the most important events of the Caste war. Cecilio Chi, Jacinto Pat, Bomifacio Novelo, Dionisio Ek, Barrera- who started the myth of the "talking cross". After Tepich, the road twisted to the left and in less than 15 minutes they arrived in the lands of Tihosuco.
Until then, Marcelo had kept silent, immersed in his own memories. When they arrived in the town he said to the driver:
'Go to the right, down the street that leads to the church'
The driver did as he was told. In seconds the truck went down the narrow streets where the ruins of some colonial style houses still showed the indelible scars of the bloody fights that had taken place in that town, occupied alternately by either by the máasewáalo'ob or the Yucatecan militia.
When they arrived at the northwest corner and turned to the south of the square, where the old Franciscan church and convent stood, Marcelo signaled the driver to stop. He recognized the old store where had met the young máasewáal who had meant so much to him during his time in Tok'tuunich. Far beyond on the corner, in front of the church's large yard, he contemplated the old two-story mansion, which defying the lapse of time, still showed its colonial beauty. Marcelo directed a last look at the roofless church and told his driver to follow the old street where he had started his first journey to the village, where his unforgettable Leonor remained buried.
Seconds later, the pick up returned to the highway and roared south toward Carrillo Puerto. Marcelo closed his eyes and let he go. He rested his head on the window and daydreamed about things past.
The driver's voice woke him up.
'Patron, we are arriving in Carrillo Puerto'
'Slow down, turn at the park and detour two blocks to the west on the same street on the right'
'The street of the church that goes past the municipal palace?'
'Yes, the same, and go very slowly'
When they arrived at the street that led to the highway to Chetumal the driver turned to the right. Marcelo observed the old walls of the native church. The Báalam-Naj, which the Cupulo'ob had built 100 years before. Few more meters and they passed the main square and the new municipal building on their left.
'Speed up a little and go two blocks, then turn toward the South.'
'Stop at that house' -said Marcelo- pointing at a stone made house painted pink.
'He got out of the truck and knocked on the door. An old woman -a "mestiza"- opened the door and looked at them inquisitively.
Marcelo asked the woman:
'¿U'uts k'iin, Kula'an j-Naat? - - Good morning, Is Navidad home?
The old woman answered in Maya language:
' Ma', ts'o'ok u bin ich kool' - No, he went to his milpa.
'¿Ba'ax oora u taal? - What time will he be back?
'Sáamal u suut.' - tomorrow
' Dios bo'otick tech'- Thank you -said before leaving.
The driver asked: ' Who lives here, Patron'
'An old friend from Zaci, who I haven't seen in years. Let's go.
The truck took off and on the way back to the highway they passed near the "Ts'ono'ot", in the yard where the cult of the "talking cross" had started.
Minutes after leaving Carrillo Puerto, among the memories of his past fortunes, the old teacher fell asleep. With his head resting on the back of the seat in the spacious cabin.
At about one hour later, the sound of the rhythmic notes of Caribbean music woke him up, the radio station from nearby Chetumal was clearly heard.
'We are coming to Bacalar' - Indicated the driver to his boss.
'When we got to the hill that is just before the city, slow down so we can see the lagoon - Said Marcelo.
Soon the pick up stopped at the place, where the splendor of the different shades of green of the lagoon could be seen through the foliage of the tall trees. From light green to almost blue. From the edges of the Savannah, they could guess the course of a small stream that run to the coastal bay, near the old settlement of Chetumal.
For a few seconds the old teacher enjoyed the extraordinary beauty. The blue sky and the low white clouds that came from the Caribbean coast framed the beautiful scene.
'Let's go, we have almost one hour to go and I want you to go around the square to have a look at the old fort' -said Marcelo.
After going to the center of the town, Marcelo's truck went down the street toward the eastside of the park. He got out of the car, and sat on a bench under an almond tree. He ordered his driver:
'Bring two soft drinks. We'll rest for a few minutes before we continue our trip'
While the driver carried out his orders, Marcelo walked round the walls of the old fort. Stronghold that witnessed two centuries of history of pirates, and bloody deeds of the Caste war. He remembered the massacre that the inhabitants of that place had suffered the century before.
He closed his eyes and his imagination went back toward the past. February or March 1857? He wasn't sure of the exact date, however historic facts stimulated his memory. Venancio Puc at the head of hundreds of indians took the small company of the fort and its 200 or 300 white people by surprise...
He remembered the stories of how the English men of the neighboring town of Corozal attempted to ransom them with English gold. But it had been in vain. The talking cross had sentenced them all to death. The events of the massacre ran through his mind. He imagined men and women fall, civilians as well as military. Those who were spared, the children and the young women had been taken captives into the cruel fate of concubines or servants to the "talking cross"
His good servant interrupted his abstraction.
'Here are the soft drinks'- he said
The teacher drank avidly enjoying the ice cold drink that cooled off the heat of the morning.
He looked at his watch; it was almost eleven. He finished his drink and gave the bottle to his driver:
'Take the bottles back and let's go, it is getting late'
Soon the truck was leaving to Chetumal.
A few more kilometers ahead they went past the town of Xel-ha, on the south of lagoon Báak 'halal, north of the river Chak, which connected it with the Hondo river. The truck slowed down to pass the curve that leads to Waay-pix. They arrived in Chetumal half an hour after they had left Báak 'halal.
The peculiar noise of a monoplane that was landing, on the runway located just north of the highway distracted their attention. Marcelo enjoyed watching the plane land, the spectacle he has seen only a few times. Later on they were on the wide avenues that led to the center of town. When they got to Avenida "Héroes" he gave instructions to go to the high part of the city where it was told the hospital was. In a matter of minutes the truck was in front of the hospital where Marcelo's friend was supposed to be found.
The nurse at the reception desk answered his query.
'Jacinto Ek?...let me see' - she went through a list of patients.
'He is in the especial ward for severe cases, I don't know if you can see him. The visitor hours are from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. You will have to ask the doctor on call for permission'
'Is there any family member here?'
' No' -the nurse answered.
'Can I talk to the doctor?'
'Just one minute, please' - she said as she went inside the modest hospital.
Marcelo waited restlessly at the thought of a negative answer. He wanted to know the condition of his old friend, who was considered among the serious cases, as soon as possible.
The nurse came back to tell them:
'You may go in, to the left, the doctor's office is open'
'I beg your pardon, doctor, -he said as soon as he entered- I do not pretend to break the rules but I have come from very far. They told me that my brother in law is in critical condition.
'Is Jacinto Ek your brother in law?' - the doctor asked a little confused, since the teacher didn't look indian.
'His little sister was my wife'
The doctor made a gesture of scepticism that Marcelo hardly noticed.
'What is his situation?'
'Multiple trauma, in cranium, limbs, thorax and probably the spinal cord, at the neck. He is semi-conscious for the most time. I think in one or two days we will have for information.
'Is it critical?
'I would say so, his condition is delicate, prognosis reserved.'
'Could I see him?'
'Yes, only for a few minutes' - the doctor answered- even if he recognizes you, he won't be able to talk to you. You may go in, be brief, please and don't try to talk with him, if he recognizes you it will be a good sign and it will make everyone feel better.
The doctor guided Marcelo into the spacious room where Jacinto was with other three patients. It was hard to recognize him because of the bandages, the cuts and swollen cheeks and lips. The doctor left the ward when the nurse came in to change the I.V. solution. Marcelo spoke to Jacinto while he touched his arm softly.
'Can you hear me Jacinto?' It's me, Marcelo....
Jacinto tried to open his eyes with great effort and tried to focus on his friend's face but he didn't say a word. Marcelo understood instantly that Jacinto had recognized him. The patient closed his eyes again and with a slight movement of his right index finger tried to make a gesture of gratitude.
'Try to rest. Don't worry, we will be here. You nephew, Leonor's son, is on his way and he will probably arrive sometime today
Again Jacinto tried to open his eyes, as he had understood. A few minutes later the teacher left the ward. He was deeply troubled.
A couple of knocks on the door woke Marcelo up. He couldn't sleep well thinking about Jacinto in Hospital. He reacted rapidly as the knocking repeated, louder this time.
'Yes, who is it?' It must be the driver - he thought.
'Dad, it's me'- was the answer.
'I am coming!' he said as he got up rapidly in his underwear. He turned down the speed of the ceiling fan and then he went to open the door. He recognized the silhouette of his son with the Bay of Chetumal on the background. They hugged briefly.
'I've just arrived. I traveled all night.'
The old teacher's expression was enough to make the young doctor understand.
'Is my uncle badly hurt?'
The doctor said he's got too many bruises. They think his neck is broken. I could hardly recognize him, his is so swollen... and his injuries... I don't know; it might not be as bad as they say. The doctor also said that they would be able to provide a better prognosis in two days.
'Let me change my clothes and then if there is hot water I will take a shower, then we'll go for a cup of coffee at the restaurant by the sea'
'Go first, I will go next'
Half and hour later they were enjoying the soft breeze from the east and the view of the tranquil sea at the sky blue bay.
'How are your children, Marcelo' -the teacher asked his son.
'Growing, growing well and studying'
'Time sure goes by fast, son'
'I hope that at least one of them will follow after my profession, even though things are getting harder every day.
They finished their breakfast and went to the truck where the driver was still sleeping.
Wait for me here -said Marcelo- I will go with my son to the hospital. Have you had breakfast?
'Yes, patron, I had some tacos at the market, early this morning'
'Don't go far. I don't think we will stay long'
Marcelo got into his son's car. The young doctor said ' I suppose he is in "Morelos" hospital'
'That's right son, let's go'
When the young doctor arrived at the hospital he remembered the time when he was doing his social service treating critical cases... The city had changed since them, the streets and avenues have been modernized and cinder block houses replaced the wooden houses destroyed by hurricane Janet.
'I am doctor May Ek, nephew of patient Jacinto Ek, Can I speak with the doctor on call?
'Certainly doctor, sit here at the office, I will tell him' -said the secretary.
A few minutes later a young intern came in and greeted them politely
'I am the nephew of the traumatized patient. Can you tell me what his situation is, please?'
Certainly doctor, I have here his dossier. Would you like to read it? -he said handing the folder to the doctor.
'Thank you -said Marcelo-
Marcelo watched his son's face as he went to the dossier, page by page, to evaluate the evolution of his uncle. He noticed profound worry.
'Dad, it looks as even if he gets better, he will be crippled for the rest of his life. His spine is broken, a vertebra, most possibly, he will be ... paralyzed.
'You mean there is no hope?'
'That what it looks like, Dad'. Time is needed to determine the extent of the damage. We'll have to see how he evolves in a few days. If there are no complications of course, something we cannot foresee.
Marcelo was profoundly concerned by his son's words. The intern told them as he was leaving the contiguous room:
'You can enter now, the patient is half-asleep, don't stay too long please.'
'Thank you'- said the teacher-
Father and son approached Jacinto, who opened his eyes as he recognized his old's friend voice.
'How do you feel, uncle? Asked Marcelo while taking his pulse.
'Judge for yourself'- answered Jacinto forcing a smile.
'Fine, just fine, uncle, except for the pain of the bruises' He tried to give him hope.
'I don't feel my legs, or in back, my arms are numb I can' t move them...'
The look in his face showed the anxiety of the doubt and hopelessness.
'You will get better, uncle, it is just a matter of time'
'I hope so, if God wants, I don't know'
The teacher listened to the conversation between his son and Jacinto. He interrupted to cheer his friend up.
'Of course you will get better Jacinto, Marcelo has told you already.'
Jacinto was silent for a few seconds.
'I would like to talk about so many things before you go... Are you leaving today?...I am sure you must have many things to do... especially you, nephew'.
'I think I will return tomorrow, I feel better after seen you. I have work to do in Merida, and I can't be out of town for many days.'
'I understand and I thank you for your visit, I can't tell you how much better it makes me feel'
Jacinto looked at the teacher and said:
'There are many things I don't understand...can we talk alone?'
The doctor was surprised, he immediately said to his father:
'I'll leave you alone. I will use this time to do some shopping'
When his nephew left, Jacinto started the dialogue.
'Marcelo, I don't have much time. I feel I am badly hurt. I don't know if I will recover. There are some things that have been bothering me for a long time now. This is my opportunity to clear my mind. I know I won't get another chance'
'Go on Jacinto... go on'
'I have always asked myself if I was wrong when we struggled to break our isolation.- When you arrived to the village we were about twenty years old, remember? How little we had lived! And how wise were the old men who opposed it while they lived. Especially when the young men left the village and their families to joined the lumber and chicle companies... now they migrate to the new cities on the coast'
He paused for a while due to the effort, then continued.
We are losing our traditions and our religion. Our children no longer respect us. The marijuana and other drugs are controlling them- not to speak of alcohol- our villages are full of drunks on weekends when they return from their jobs outside. The men do not want to work in the fields. They don't plant corn or anything, they don't raise animals, women do not respect their husbands as our wives did respect us... have you noticed they are ashamed of being Mayas? They no longer use our traditional clothes everyone wants to dress like "catrines", like the city people.
Marcelo listened attentively without interrupting. After another brief pause, Jacinto continued.
Have you noticed that people do not wear alpargatas, nor straw hats or hupiles, or rebozo? Women now cut their hair short... everyone uses t-shirts with words in English and strange figures and pictures of women almost naked, jeans and sport shoes... What happened Marcelo? What is wrong with our things that our children and grandchildren are erasing them? They deny them and even mock them when we talk about it.. Do you know that they do not ask permission to get married? Most of the time now the young couples just run away... Do you know how many women are abandoned? They have to go back to their parents' home or leave their children with the grandparents to go to the city to work as maids. What have happened Marcelo? Do you think that we could have been better if we had remained the same as our forefathers in the woods, far from the ts'uulo'ob?...
In Valladolid the culture exchange was having the same impact. Marcelo could see in his mind the scene that Jacinto had described about the situation in his town.
Jacinto smiled as he remembered something he wanted to ask.
'Is it true that man has arrive to the moon? We saw it on television , many people do not believe it, they think it is just a movie and a story the "gringos" want us to believe. It was some years ago, wasn't it?'
'It was in 1969 -said the old teacher- and it is absolutely true -emphasized with a smile'
'The man on the moon and here we are so far behind... I just can't understand'
'That is life, Jacinto'
Jacinto closed his eyes. He looked exhausted.
'I think I should let you rest, Jacinto, I will be back this afternoon'
'I will be waiting for you, please come, I still have a lot to say, but please stay another minute' -Jacinto made a great effort to continue.
'My back is broken, They don't need to tell me. Am I going to live paralyzed in my hammock for rest of my life ?. I would rather die than live like that'
'Come on, Jacinto. Have faith in God. We still don't know what could happen. For the moment they say that you are getting better and you are in a good mood.'
'Let's not try to fool ourselves, Marcelo, We always spoke the truth to each other... I can read your mind by the look on your eyes'
Marcelo was quiet, perturbed by his friend's response.
'I have faith in God...I have faith that you will get better'
Jacinto closed his eyes again, the nurse quietly entered the room to continue with her routine and take his vital signs. Marcelo got up while the nurse took Jacinto's temperature and pulse.
Because his friend looked exhausted, he waved his hand to say good bye and left the room. Outside the hospital, his son was waiting for him.
'I thought you went shopping'
'It was just an excuse to leave you two alone'
'How does he look to you, son?'
'To be frank, I don't think he'll live and if he lives...'
'I know ... he will be paralyzed'
Two weeks after his trip to Chetumal it happened what he had feared. When Marcelo received the urgent telegram from Carrillo Puerto, he guessed what it would say.
He opened the envelope in front of the messenger who already knew what it said.
Marcelo lifted his eyes and looked directly at the old man who was leaving discretely.
He walked to his bedroom and ordered his servant.
'Prepare enough clothes for a couple of days...Where is the driver? I haven't seen him since lunch. Tell him we will be leaving as soon I shower.
The maid started her task without a word.
Marcelo wrote a short message for his son in Merida. " Your uncle Jacinto passed away. I don't think you can go to the village. I am leaving immediately. I hope to get there for the burial"
The first shadows of night were falling and the street-lights had already been turned on when the teacher's truck arrived to the village by the dirt road that joined with the highway 18 kilometers away. The distance between Valladolid and the village was covered in less than three hours. Immersed in his thoughts the teacher didn't noticed his driver was going at 100 kilometers per hour. It was Saturday, they had picked up two young men at the crossed roads from Carrillo Puerto where they worked as masons. A couple of knocks on the truck's roof made the driver looked back at them as they made signs that they would get down at the edge of town where the houses began. Marcelo ordered him to stop and as he did the boys jumped out agilely.
'How much do we owe you, patron?' asked one of the boys.
'Nothing, boys' said the teacher.
'Thank you, patron' -they said and walked away. The pick up started off again toward the center of town.
'We have to ask where Jacinto's house is. I imagine it is in front of the old square. Let's go that way' -He lifted his hand to point the way- I haven't the slightest idea, this so different to what I had imagined.
The truck went round the town-square and the teacher made signs to stop at the commissary office but the doors were closed. Only a sign on the wall indicated the place.
'Where is don Jacinto's house? - He asked a man sitting in front of the building
The man stared at him and said: 'You are Marcelo, the teacher, aren't you? We have been waiting for you. Dol asked me to wait for you and take you to the house.'
'Who are you, I don't remember you'
'I am Teo Uicab, I was one of your student's when you came to the village'
Teo, it is you! I remember, you were one of the first ones to come to the school' -Marcelo remembered that first group of children with who he started in the rustic thatch roofed school- 'please take me to the house'
Teo got in to the cabin to direct them to the house.
' What time did he die?'
' Early in the morning, last night he was in very bad condition'
' Marcelo didn't ask more questions'
The truck stopped in front of the stone made housewhere the people were mourning in respectful silence,. He recognized Carmita among the group of women who followed the prayer leader in their ' Our Father' and 'Hail Mary' prayers.
Carmen got up and went to him, he couldn't hold back the tears anymore as he hugged her tears ran down his cheeks, sobbing with pain.
The people looked on them respectfully, aware of what the presence of the old friend mean to them. Their memories went back half a century before.
When he was more calmed Carmen told him:
'He left us...he didn't want to live, he couldn't accept to live like that. He didn't forget you. Since he arrived he told me how he wanted to leave the things with his children and all the family and always ...always mentioned you. He asked me to let you know.'
Marcelo stepped back a little and asked
'Where are Dol and the others'
Carmen pointed to the family, women, men and children that almost filled the room. Marcelo approached the rustic coffin and opened it to see Jacinto's face. He stood for a long moment under the watchful eyes of the people. In the distance a sound system was broadcasting music for the whole town. Marcelo sat with the men who were discretely passing a bottle of liquor.
During the wake, the old survivors of those distant times -the 30's - men and women who had been his students and all Jacinto's family came to greet him and relive some of those moments. The old man Chuc, more than 90 years old, who came with difficulty but without help in the first hours of the morning remembered:
'He was my god-son... he always visited me... we all respected him...we always respected him'
Marcelo shook his wrinkled old hand warmly.
'Everyone who met him respected and appreciated him, I will always remember him' -said the teacher.
Before the sun came out, the funeral procession left the house toward the cemetery located on the outskirts of the other side of town. Marcelo took his turn with the group in carrying the coffin, behind them the family members headed by Carmen, Jacinto's faithful wife for more than 50 years.
The cool morning air revitalized their tired faces, some of the men were making a huge effort to hide the effects of the alcohol consumed during the wake. The approached the central square from where the loud music came from the night before. When Marcelo ceded his place to another of the group who was waiting his turn, he approached Carmen, who was about two meters behind. He put his hand on her shoulder trying to comfort her. She looked at him gratefully as tear ran down her cheeks. As they advanced through the town more and more people joined the group until they formed a large column.
When they arrived to the place chosen at the rustic cemetery the grave dug by family members was ready. After a few moments of silence they proceeded to deposit inside the grave the heavy box. The women sobbed and occasionally they cried out loud expressing their deep grief, everyone prayed fervently. At the end, the people placed flowers or bouquets on the earth that covered the grave.
Marcelo was silent until the end. When everyone was gone, Carmen gestured that she was leaving.
Alone, Marcelo was thinking about his young years at the village. Those years passed before his closed eyes. He remembered the childish face of Leonor. And the happy days of his youth that both enjoyed amongst the nature of the town, the clear-sky nights, and the cold water of the cenote; the anguish and pain of her death at the birth of his son. Every detail crossed before his eyes haphazardly.
"Patron" -the voice of his driver brought him back to reality- 'everyone has gone, I brought the pick up as close as I could. Should I wait for you?"
"No, let's go"-he answered.
He took the hat that the driver gave him and walked to the truck that wasn't far away.
"Let's go to my friend's house", he said as he got into the truck.
Soon they were in front of Jacinto house.
Dol was waiting for him near the door.
"Come, have something, uncle. We have prepared breakfast".
"Thanks, Dol, I'm not hungry."
"A coffee or maybe a chocolate." Dol insisted.
"I'll have a coffee, I think my driver would like to eat, he hasn't eaten since yesterday".
He sat at the table, near the fire, which was being fanned by a young woman whose features reminded him of Leonor, he asked Dol.
"Is she your daughter?"
"No uncle, she is my oldest sister's daughter. You remember her, don't you?"
"The truth is, I don't remember. She was so little."
"She died some years ago, this daughter of hers was raised by my father. He said that she looks like my aunt, Leonor. Sometimes he told me about you and her.
Marcelo examined the face of the young girl who concentrating on her work didn't notice.
"She looks like her a lot, Dol."
"Will you stay to rest?"
"No, I will go back to Valladolid as soon as my drive finishes eating."
Carmen came to the table and sat next to Marcelo.
"I am going now, Carmen, but I promise I'll be back soon to visit you, with my son. He couldn't come because of his work. But I am sure he is awaiting for the news I will bring him.
"Tell him to remember us. I'll never forget him, He is another son to me."
"You gave him life, you nursed him for months, have you forgotten?"
"How could I forget that? Marcelo."
"We'll be back here soon to visit you, he might come with his wife and children.
"Patron, whenever you're ready, the pick up is waiting." Interrupted the driver.
"Let's go now", he answered as he got up and shook the hands of everybody who came when they saw he was leaving.
"See you soon, this is not farewell."
The pick up left and a few minutes later, it was raising dust on the dirt road that led to the highway.
"Go slowly, there is no hurry, I want to doze and I can't if you're speeding. Understand?"
"I understand, patron, beside I won't sleep because I slept all night in the cabin. You can rest assured."
Marcelo made himself comfortable, resting his head against the door of the truck; he closed his eyes, trying to sleep. Back there, in eternal rest was one of the last Cupulo'ob.
In his dreams, the memories of far off times come, the history of three generations that closed one cycle to open another. What would be of his race and his culture?
Back there were left those who would probably be the last Cupulo'ob.
Aluxo'ob - little people -elves.
Baach - a noisy bird.
Bak'halal - Maya name for Bacalar
Baalam-naj - House of the juagar, Native church of Santa Cruz.
Baatab - Maya chief.
Box-ni -Black nose snake.
Coba - Prehispanic maya city.
Coocomo'ob - Maya ethnic family name. (subgroup)
Cupul - Maya family name.
Cupulo'ob - Maya group.
Cuzamil - Place of the swallows.
Cituk - Last name.
Chaak - rain.
Chak - red.
Chak-che - red wood.
Chakaj - plant, soft wood tree.
Chakts'iits'ib - Cardenal.
Chak'amputum - Prehispanic city.
Chan - small.
Chehtmal - Prehispanic city, Chetumal.
Chemax - name os a town.
Chetumal - Capital of Quintana Roo.
Chichen Itza - Prehispanic city.
Chiinchinbakal - Canary.
Chilam Balam - A prophet.
Ch'omak - fox.
Chu'ujo'ob - gourds.
Chukbak - The hunt.
Chuum-poon - The trunk of the copal.
Chuun-x-ya'axche - the trunk of the willow.
Chuun-oon - the trunk of the avocado.
Iipil - women's traditional dress.
Is-waaj - Tortilla from soft corn.
Itza'ob - Maya ethnic group
J-meen - Medicine man.
Ja'abente - yearling deer
Ja'abino'ob - hard wood tree.
Jaalab - tepescuintle.
Jiich - Knot.
Jiri'ich-joop - match
Jolo'och - corn husk.
Ka'anche - made of boards
K'abax bu'ul - Boiled beans.
Ka'ambul - pheasant
K'aan - mecate - measure of 20 meters.
K'atuno'ob - mecates.
K'atuno'ob - 20 year cycle
K'a'aw - crow
Kill - small parrot
Ke'el - cold
Kitam - mountain pig.
Kituk - fruit of coconut.
Koos - bird of prey.
K'oocha'ob - big parrot
Koj - puma
Kuuyo'ob - stone mounds.
K'ulub - racoon.
K'uum - squash, pumpkin
K'u'um - boiled corn to be ground for tortilla dough.
K'ookayo'ob - fireflies.
Leek - large round fruit like a gourd.
Maalixo'ob - mongrel dog
Maya-Putum - mayas of Tabasco
Mayab - Name of the Yucatan Peninsula.
Mayapan - prehispanic city.
Maasewaal - maya indians name.
Maasewaalo'ob - maya indians name for themselves.
Nohoch tata - paterfamilia
Ooch - fox
Paj-k'eyen - sour corn drink
Pa'ap - noisy bird
Peten - Island
Peten-itza - lagoon of Peten Guatemala
Piib - cook in the ground
Piibijnal - corn cooked in the ground.
Piich - leafy tree
Pich - crow
Piimo'ob - thick tortilla.
Poolkano'ob - corn bread with seeds and white beans.
P'uuj - hunting technique.
Pukte - hard wood plant
Puuch - work food with the fingers
P'uus - hunchback
Puutsnak - a kind of deer
Saabukaanoob - bagmade of henequen or hemp
Sak-bej - white maya road
Sakpakalo'ob - doves
Sajkab - limestone
Sooskil - hemp fiber
Taab - sack carrier with a strap across the forehead
Ta'ucho'ob - black chicle tree
Taata - father
Tatich - sir
Taticho'ob - maya chiefs
Tekom - name of a town
Tepich - name of a town where the caste wars began
Tihosuco - name of a town
Tixcacalcupul - name of a town
Tuk'tuunich - hard rock
Ts'ik - shred meat
Tuuch - belly button
Tu'ul - rabbit
Tulu'um - in his own land. Prehispanic maya city
Tsa'ab-kaan - rattlesnake
Tsalam - lumber tree
Ts'aanchak - boiled meat
Tsu' - turkey
Tsuuk - tripe
Tsuutsuy - love birds
Ts'uul - white man
Uso'ob - small mosquitoes
Uxmal - pre-hispanic city
Wa'ajpaach - mythological giant who lives in the jungles
Waaj-ixi'im - corn tortilla
Waimil - woods of 4 or 5 years growth
Wa'ay piix - name of a town. Boogie man
Wayu'umo'ob - eatable fruit
Wiinklilche- long-thin branch
X-ho'otsu'uk - maya name for Tiohosuco
X-k'ili'ob - little parrots
X-k'ook - nightengale
X-maakulano'ob - aromatic eatable plant
X-mejen-k'uum - pumpkin
X-mejen-naj - rapid growing corn
X-nuk-nal - normal growing corn
X-taabentun - liquor made with honey
Xanab-k'eewal - sandal
Xunaan - Mrs
X-meen - Shaman
Xel-ha - spring, natural well
Xaman-ik - north wind
Xuux - bee hive
Xocbi-chuuy - embroidery
Xuul-ha - end of the water
Yaaxche - willow tree
Yuuk - small deer
Zaci - white hawk-Valladolid
The following extracted from this Url:
"Yucatan Before and After the Conquest"
The region we have up to now surveyed became in later days the Territory of Quintana Roo, covered in the Díaz-Molina days with "exploitation grants" to some half dozen concessionaires, shown on the Espinosa map, but who found it profitless. That map aids us chiefly in its almost total lack of even settlements marked, but also in the different trail complexes such as those at the probable site of Conil, Chaan-cenote, Kantunil, Chemax, the two Muyils, Tabi and Ixmul. A thousand years ago we know it to have been in full flower as ancient Itzá territory: Tulum alive, Cobá with its branching system of great built up stone roads that we have only learned about in the past few years, and the great sac-be, or 'white road' of stone almost certainly from Tulum or P’ole to Cobá; then as now known from Cobá to near Chichén, and then Itzamal, thus linking all the great Itzá sacred places.
What happened after the incoming of the Mexicans soon after that, we have still to learn; difficulties were certainly foreshadowed, but that it was still populous even after the rise of the Xius and the fall of Mayapán, and up to the coming of the Spanish invaders, the atrocities of Pacheco constantly told of and even referred to by Landa as something wherein the friars "were protecting the Indians," and then the torches of Aparicio, Guevara and Villalpando, and the Ordinances of Tomás López, is certain. But passing from this region where even the great monasteries at Chaancenote and Chikin-cenote, among the Tazees and the Cochuahs, were early abandoned when the drive for conquest and conversion had died down, we next come to the regions actually 'made Spanish,' and marked by the railway lines of today: Campeche, Muna, Peto, Valladolid and Tizimín, outside of which impenetrability and a practical independence under the Indian leaders was grudgingly allowed. The civil power and administration became settled under Mérida, Valladolid and Salamanca de Bacalar, and under that protection the political functionaries, the grantees and their successors the 'científico' hacendados of the Díaz period, and the clergy settled down.
All this continued until our own great machine age, with its thousand acre farms and tractors, began to need fuel (oil and Sisal hemp) to threaten us with a tenant farm régime, and our own 'dust-bowl' with its threatened depopulation, put the final pressure on the screws of exploiting the Indian of Yucatan, and Mexico proper, for the amassing of wealth by those in control, through the sale of things extracted for the foreign trade. In no whit was there any difference from the protests to Montejo in 1543 for leave to sell off their Maya slaves to Cuba, to buy the 'luxuries' from abroad. The only difference was that this last turn of the screws broke the screws themselves, and set the Indian on his strength to become again a man and a producing, educated, economic citizen of his own country.
Fortunately for our present purpose, the Tax List of 1549 followed a geographical course from one province or chiefdom to the next, with occasional slips at the overlappings; also most of the grantees had more than one town, helping us in a sufficiently close location of names that have disappeared from our map, or from the 1579 reports themselves. Many places named in ’49 were lost, 'removed' or their people driven away or absorbed, in ’79. In this connection the basic and destructive, merciless evil of the 'removal' system cannot be appreciated except by remembering the universal 'community' system of agriculture, not only native to the Indian (and not realized by ourselves, as 'individualists'), but necessary particularly in Yucatan with its thinly covered limestone and corn its staple.
To a town lot pertained a cropping lot outside; each town had its ejido territory in common, that of Ebtun near Valladolid (for instance) comprising no less than twenty-seven ejidos, each with its own special name; all such belonged to that community. Every townsman had the right to select his coming milpa site for clearing, planting and harvesting for two, rarely three years; then the maize had exhausted the soil nitrogen below the profit level of cultivation, and he selected another site. On these community rights the life of the people depended, and they were respected; but they also meant the possession of a goodly town-owned region, proportioned to the population needs. The towns had to be moderately sized, but also reasonably close set; on the balance of these two factors the whole life of the whole country depended.
It is obvious that when half a dozen such town centers, with a total of perhaps 1800 households (man, wife, children and young married couples living as by custom the first few years with the father-in-law) were suddenly uprooted from the soil in which they not only rested the social order but drew physical life itself, and with houses and possessions burned, were suddenly driven to 'the city,' famine, despair and death were inevitable. Add
to this the labor of tearing down their old stone buildings or pyramids to build what were described as veritable fortresses fit to hold several thousand soldiers instead of the few friars for whose use they were erected, it is little wonder that first the natives died off, and then as inevitable retribution, the monasteries themselves decayed as did the Missions in California, from the identical causes. Excessive concentration of every kind, whether of great cities, trade monopolies however supported—privately or governmentally, or bureaucracies, must go on drawing from the weaker outposts until they too must die, from lack of more resources to 'tax.' But the medial processes are not pleasant, even to read of; neither are they a work of civilization. In the chiefdom of the Cupuls we see this working process, in the raw.
Allotment of encomiendas or town grants was made in Mérida in 1542, and in Valladolid in 1544, at once on its removal from the unhealthy Choaca location to the site of the ancient Saci. The 1549 List, besides ten towns in Tabasco, taxes 175 under the jurisdiction of Mérida or Valladolid, to some 100 grantees. Valladolid at its founding had forty Spaniards, its citizens, each entitled to his share of the whole population in the region covered by the eastern half of our map. Not all these forty names appear in the Tax List, and for whatever reason the reports of only twenty-four grantees appear in ’79. In all the eastern region we have 69 towns listed, of which 60 are among the Cupuls; nine towns taxed in ’49 are not reported in ’79, but we have instead five that were apparently not taxed in ’49.
Of the 60 Cupul towns we can list one-half as 'survivals,' that are left on the map; the other half we only know as Cupul from their being in the Cupul section of the List. They were either burned or otherwise directly depopulated, or else abandoned. But from the double record in ’49 and ’79 we can reconstruct the picture. As to locations we are further helped by tributes of salt and/or fish being called for in ’49, showing nearness to one or another coastline. The population for every town taxed in ’49 is fixed by the levy of one manta or triple breadth of cloth per year from each head of a household; this is then to be compared with the statements of how much less the grantee in ’79 was getting; at times additional figures are supplied; in all this we usually have concrete figures at both dates, but at times the statement: "reduced to less than half," etc.
Thirteen of our surviving towns show an annual tribute of 5000 mantles reduced to 1100 in the thirty years between Landa's arrival and his death. Five towns not mentioned in ’49 are reported in ’79 as having gone down from 2040 to 786; also Chocholá as gone to half. Nine towns mentioned in ’49 as paying 2630 mantles per year, have become 'non-survivals' in ’79.
Thirteen neighboring towns were burned and the people removed to Popolá, taxed in ’49 at 430; all these towns together went down from 2000 to 900, and finally to 300; today Popolá is there, but abandoned.
Tizimín (misnamed Peecemy in ’49) stood for 360; Cismopo and six others had the torch applied by friar Guevara, to drive them either to Tizimín or the nearby Temozón, and the tribute fell from 600 to 140. Nabalá with a once great population fell to a third. Yalcón went down in twenty years from 50 to 18. Kaua fell from 360 to half. Cacalchén from 100 to 28. Sotzil and Tecay together, 600 to 200. Xocén, taxed in ’49 at 110, once paid 200, then 150, then 30. At Temul out of 460 one-third were left. Of the various towns about Kikil only about half the people were left, in ’79. The grantee Juan Cano, the son of Juan, tells us that Tinum covered seven towns, two of which had paid 390 in ’49, to his father, whereas in ’79 he only received 70 from all together.
Pixoy went from 300 to 100; Casalac from 180 to 35, and Tancuy from 60 to 21. Four towns around Ekbalám, an ancient Cupul capital, were depopulated, and the tribute fell from 600 to 200. Tekanxó from 400 to 190, and two towns on the main highway to the port of Conil, now lost on our map, in ’79 had fallen from 400 to 28. And finally, Villanueva tells us that Sicab, close to Valladolid, had fallen from 500 to 240, "due to the forced removals of the people, their flight away into the forests, after the heavy labor" on the building of the great monastery at Sisal. He also tells us that "now 26 surrounding towns come in to Valladolid, for doctrination" and church attendance; on this see the López Ordinances, below.
On our ’49 list we find the names of 21 towns, directly reported as 'concentrated' or else lost on our map, but probably all within the Guevara work of centralization of the 'teaching' at Tizimín (whose monastery was said to have been one of the most sumptuous in the whole country) and the neighboring Temozón; these 21 towns were in ’49 listed for 4290 mantles per year. To this total must be added other known towns, by reports, probably concentrated at Valladolid, raising the above figure to 5330 mantles—towns off the map in ’79. And yet other data, assignable to 'somewhere in Copul,' raises the total of 'lost towns' for that chiefdom, on our known and existing reports, to 36, with tribute originally of over 8000 mantles per year.
To these bald figures we are added the following. Juan Cano, the 'old man,' one of Montejo's original company, tells us that he had been granted at the settlement of Valladolid Tinum and six towns near by. That to concentrate the Indians for 'doctrina' there came Fray Hernando de Guevara, and at once set on fire all the towns, driving everybody to Tinum or Temozón; that he complained of this to the Alcalde Mayor, Ortiz Delgueta, and was non-suited and charged the costs, as the acts were done by "order of the Auditor from Guatemala, Tomás López." The same thing happened under friar Luis de Villalpando, around Valladolid; 13 towns burned and the population moved, to build the Sisal monastery.
Juan Rodríguez, the elder, tells us that five towns were gathered in to Sucopo, now a sorry little hamlet a couple of leagues east of Tizimín, when the present writer saw it in 1917. (Two leagues further into the 'unknown' I then came on an unlisted ancient site, with stone buildings around a large plaza, still I think unknown even to archaeologists.)
And nearly every single informant in the twenty-five Valladolid Relations of 1579, tells the same story. To which we must add the reports, nine in number, that are known to have been called for by the Instructions sent out from Spain in 1577, but which are missing from the volume in the archives from which the twenty-five Relations were taken and printed. Given then that by the 'married men' taxed we must understand only heads of a household, and not including the newly married youth who had to work for and with his father-in-law for several years, we have a total in sight on our records of some 18,000 households with anywhere from five to ten times the actual number of individuals, in Cupul territory, after the decimation by war and flight following the 1546 revolt; and that again following losses we can only guess at from pestilence and the earlier wars of 1527-9, when Montejo was allowed to settle at Chichén Itzá, and then driven from the country when his purposes became understood.