Yucatan, 1761

Canek

Legend and history mingle like a braided tapestry.  Both could well be true.  The revolt lasts a few days; the stories last generations.  The stories, the memories, are the fuel that feed the fires of resistance.  Two centuries later, one of the spiritual descendants of Canek writes down the stories.

The whites have heaped murder on top of abuse.  The indigenous are hungry, miserable.  The whites say that there will be no reduction in tribute because the Treasury has great needs.  The whites brand indigenous with the same iron that they use for the cattle.  Canek breaks the iron.  In the church, the offerings from the indigenous go to buy incense and candles.  Why not use some of that money to cure the sick? Asks Canek as he smashes the statue of San Antonio.

The Indians are in revolt! Yell the whites.

The whites go from house to house seeking the rebels.  If they find a machete hanging on the wall, they kill the inhabitants as suspected rebels.  If they don’t have a machete, they kill them anyway.  They are bound to have a machete someplace, the Captain explains.

The whites burn the ranch of an indigenous family.  Leave the Indians inside.  A burned Indian makes good fertilizer.

The call to war goes out to the surrounding villages.  It is not in writing.  The messengers simply dip their hands in the blood of the martyrs assassinated by whites.

Canek calls the people together.  Without a word he points to the table filled with bread and weapons.  Some take the bread.  To those he gives guns and tells them to defend their homes.  Some take the weapons.  To those he gives bread and tells them to mount the barricades.  Others take both guns and bread.  Because they are so clever, he makes them the captains.

The white soldiers slaughter the indigenous in the plaza.  Row upon row fall.  They capture Canek.  They tie his hands.  It’s useless, Captain, you don’t have enough rope to tie the hands of all the people.

When Canek counts the gallows he is smiling, but the people don’t see it because they are looking at the ground.  Some say that they saw him, up ahead, on the road to Cisteil.  His steps make no noise and the birds do not flee when he passes.  His body is clear, like a bright light burning in the sun.  He keeps on walking and when he reaches the horizon he begins to ascend.

 

-Emilo Abreu Gomez, Canek: History and Legend of a Maya Hero, 51-66

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