Thursday, March 26, 2020

Chicanonautica: Our Myths Recovered

I meant to read David Bowles' Feathered Serpent/Dark Heart of Sky: Myths of Mexico much sooner, but I'm a writer, so I live under a mound of books that grows larger all the time. Also, the last few years have been hectic—do I really have to catalog the
Trumptopian madness?

It hasn't calmed down. In fact the last few weeks have gotten crazier. All the more reason to dig this book out one of my many, teetering to-be-read stacks. I was glad I did.

I became a mythology fan in grade school, back in the Sixties. The peplum, or sword and sandal genre caught my childish attention. Movies like Hercules in the Haunted World and Jason and the Argonauts left their mark on my sensibilities. And then I would find books.

But then these were usually Greco-Roman, occasionally Norse. Sometimes they were from Egypt, "Arabia," Asia . . . distant lands.

By the time I was in middle school, I found out about the Aztecs and Maya, in the public library; also my dad had books on archaeology. My mind was blown. There was something different about these stories. And the people looked like me.

Hell, the were my ancestors! This mythology was mine.

I wondered why there weren't any movies about them. I had a lot to learn.

This began my life-long obsession with preColumbian cultures. It shaped my world, and made me a Chicano in mind and spirit as well as genetics.

It wasn't easy.
I had to hunt down books in libraries and used book stores. And they were never easy-to-read editions.
These were often adult, scholarly works full of dull academic prose. But the subject matter compelled me. A lost world, shattered by colonialism. Someone had to to gather the fragments, reassemble them, bring them back to life.

I had often watched my dad get interested in something, go to the library, check out a stack of books, and in a few weeks become an expert.

I became a teenage researcher, a scholar. Also an writer and artist.

Today's kids don't realize how easy they have it. They just have to read Feathered Serpent/Dark Heart of the Sky and they have an excellent introduction to preColumbian cultures and mythology, and an entertaining read at the same time.

It goes from the creation myths, the hero twins of the Popol Vuh, to the Toltecs and Maya, the Aztecs (others are mentioned, ancient Mexico was multicultural), and the grand tragedy of the Conquest. The stories are separate, but they are presented as a mosaic and bring a shattered world back together again. A miracle or sorts.

I'm sure it will inspire young Chicanos/Latinos/Lantinxs/Latinoids, make them sure of their identity, and send them off to study their mythology.

The book is a remarkable accomplishment. David Bowles should be considered a true Chicano hero. He makes me feel like a slacker.

Ernest Hogan wrote this review at home, while the library where he works was closed due to the Coronavirus.

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