Thursday, January 28, 2021

Chicanonautica: Aztech: The Movie—Hecho en Mexico

by Ernest Hogan


First of all, it has nothing to do with my novel High Aztech. I’d seen things about Aztech: The Movie a while back, did some checking, but my novel doesn’t have any spaceships in it, so no Ellisonian lawsuit seemed necessary (Google “aztech,” and you’ll get a long list of businesses who use the name), so I went on to other business.

Then Daniel Salvo, a Peruvian science fiction writer, called my attention via Facebook to a poster with an image of the Grand Coatlicue constructed of machine parts that could be used as High Aztech. Hmm.

“Online gratis,” it said. There was as also a link where you could VER the film. I clicked.


The site seemed to be a Russian (“.ru”) video sharing site. Could be risky, but my curiosity got the best of me. I started the video. It was a low-res copy, but a widescreen and professional-looking production, and there was this impressive state-of-the-art space opera with Mexican characters going on . . . I was amazed.


Aztech   
is an anthology. Nine stories, ten directors, fourteen writers. They span the entire science fiction/fantasy/horror continuum. It uses meteors, the influence of dioses oscuros, and Mexican culture to tie it all together.


It even touches on postmodernism with one of the stories being about a the making of a movie with a similar theme.


Another story presents some impressive post-apocalyptic Aztecoid (shot in and around Teotihuacán) futurism of the sort that I’ve been doing for decades. Maybe it’s finally beginning to catch on.


And after the credits there’s an action-packed sequence about hackers using smart phones, the Internet, and cars to track meteors as they rain down on an urban Mexican landscape, that ends with a TO BE CONTINUED . . . (Yes, in English.)


An ambitious project that shows that Mexico can be a major science fiction producing country.


2020 is listed as its release date. It has played at a film festival and has a Facebook page.


I’m not sure why it’s having this freebie, low-res, online manifestation. COVID-19 has smashed the movie business. Also, I know what it’s like to have to keep one foot in the underground just to survive.


But the people who made this film, and want to make at least one sequel, don’t seem to be the sort to give up easily. I expect to see it in a hi-res, with subtitles for the Spanish-impaired, version on streaming services, and even theaters, in the near future. Be on the lookout!


Meanwhile, my computer doesn’t seem to have any weird viruses . . .


Did I ever tell you about the idea I have about one morning we all wake up to discover that the entire World Wide Web has been translated into Mayan hieroglyphics?


Ernest Hogan, author of High Aztech, Cortez on Jupiter, and Smoking Mirror Blues keeps finding it more and more difficult to tell where his life ends and the science fiction begins.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

American Library Association Award Winners 2021

For a complete list of ALA awards and winners visit,


http://www.ala.org/news/press-releases/2021/01/ala-announces-2021-youth-media-awards






Pura Belpré Awards honoring a Latinx writer and illustrator whose children's books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience:


“¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat,” illustrated and written by Raúl Gonzalez, is the Belpré Illustrator Award winner. The book was published by Versify, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

 

One Belpré Illustrator Honor Book was named:

“Sharuko: El Arqueólogo Peruano/Peruvian Archaeologist Julio C. Tello,” illustrated by Elisa Chavarri, written by Monica Brown and published by Children’s Book Press, an imprint of Lee & Low Books, Inc.


*


"Efrén Divided,” written by Ernesto Cisneros, is the Pura Belpré Children’s Author Award winner. The book is published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.


Two Belpré Children’s Author Honor Books were named: 

"The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez," written by Adrianna Cuevas and published by Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Macmillan Publishing Group.

"Lupe Wong Won’t Dance," written by Donna Barba Higuera and published by Levine Querido.


*


"Furia,” written by Yamile Saied Méndez, is the Pura Belpré Young Adult Author Award winner. The book is published by Algonquin Young Readers, an imprint of Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.


Two Belpré Young Adult Author Honor Books were named: 

"Never Look Back," written by Lilliam Rivera and published by Bloomsbury YA.

"We Are Not from Here," written by Jenny Torres Sanchez and published by Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House.






Coretta Scott King Book Awards recognizing an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults: 


Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award:

“Before the Ever After,” written by Jacqueline Woodson, is the King Author Book winner. The book is published by Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.  


Three King Author Honor Books were selected: 

“All the Days Past, All the Days to Come,” written by Mildred D. Taylor, published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

“King and the Dragonflies,” written by Kacen Callender, published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.

 “Lifting as We Climb: Black Women’s Battle for the Ballot Box,” written by Evette Dionne, published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.



Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award:

“R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul,” illustrated by Frank Morrison, is the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Book winner. The book is written by Carole Boston Weatherford and published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing Division.


Three King Illustrator Honor Books were selected: 

“Magnificent Homespun Brown: A Celebration,” illustrated by Kaylani Juanita, written by Samara Cole Doyon and published by Tilbury House Publishers.

 “Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks,” illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera, written by Suzanne Slade and published by Abrams Books for Young Readers, an imprint of ABRAMS.

 “Me & Mama,” illustrated and written by Cozbi A. Cabrera and published by Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.



Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award

“Legendborn,” written by Tracy Deonn, is the Steptoe author award winner. The book is published by Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division.



Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement:

Dorothy L. Guthrie is the winner of the Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement. The award pays tribute to the quality and magnitude of beloved children’s author Virginia Hamilton.


Dorothy L. Guthrie is an award-winning retired librarian, district administrator, author and school board member. A respected children’s literature advocate, Guthrie promotes and affirms the rich perspectives of African Americans. Her work, “Integrating African American Literature in the Library and Classroom,” inspires educators with African American literature. Guthrie founded the first African American museum in her home, Gaston County, North Carolina.





John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature: 

“When You Trap a Tiger,” written by Tae Keller, is the 2021 Newbery Medal winner. The book is published by Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House.


Five Newbery Honor Books also were named: 

“All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team,” written by Christina Soontornvat and published by Candlewick Press.

“BOX: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom,” written by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Michele Wood and published by Candlewick Press.

“Fighting Words,” written by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and published by Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

 “We Dream of Space,” written by Erin Entrada Kelly, illustrated by Erin Entrada Kelly and Celia Krampien and published by Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

 “A Wish in the Dark,” written by Christina Soontornvat and published by Candlewick Press.



Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children:


“We Are Water Protectors,” illustrated by Michaela Goade is the 2021 Caldecott Medal winner. The book was written by Carole Lindstrom and published by Roaring Brook Press, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishing Holdings. 


Four Caldecott Honor Books also were named: 

“A Place Inside of Me: A Poem to Heal the Heart,” illustrated by Noa Denmon, written by Zetta Elliott and published by Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Macmillan Publishing Group.

 “The Cat Man of Aleppo,” illustrated by Yuko Shimizu, written by Irene Latham & Karim Shamsi-Basha and published by G.P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

“Me & Mama,” illustrated and written by Cozbi A. Cabrera and published by Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

 “Outside In,” illustrated by Cindy Derby, written by Deborah Underwood and published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 

 








Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Getting Ahead of the Con Game


Confession in Plague-time: The Article 15
Michael Sedano

Note Found On the Internet:
In the last week I’ve received two emails from background check companies threatening to release reputation-damaging info if I don’t subscribe to their services. They’ve mentioned things that are true about me. 


It is the last Monday of ten weeks of Radio School at the Army’s Ft. Ord in 1969. Just a mile west, Barbara and I have breakfast at Cypress Knolls, then drive through Gate 3 in time for me to climb upstairs to my troop bay, put hospital corners on the bed I’d mussed up the night before, then join the platoon for the march to school--just like every day since Barbara surprised me by moving up here from Isla Vista.

We work a Plan to live a normal life together, like the Army is my day job. I go AWOL overnight, show up the next day nonchalantly falling in after chow, do the Army all day. At evening chow, I hastily rumple my bed then head downstairs where Barbara picks me up.

I go AWOL overnight. We will have these moments to remember.

When I boarded the bus for the Induction Center on January 15, I considered that the end of normal life, including "being married." I anticipated doing Basic Training, AIT, then getting shipped out to Vietnam.  Barbara and I would not have a life together until my two year hitch was up. I was sure I'd live.

I didn't anticipate my wife's determination to make us a future right now, the Army be damned.

When I start Advanced Individual Training--Radio School AIT--Barbara packs up in Isla Vista and finds us a shack in a converted farmworker colonia rented by Permanent Party at Ft. Ord, a dream job.  

We launch Plan A. She gets a part-time jale at May Co. With the Commissary and PX, we find ourselves living a good life, working the Plan.

Today, there’s a kink in the Plan, a First Lieutenant with a Lifer mentality. His shiny Opel sports car noses out of the Company Street just as I've parked. I lean over and grab Barbara in a passionate embrace like those scenes from a “B” movie where the villain ignores the beast with two backs. His quick thinking and subterfuge saves our good guy, and he gets to kiss the ingenue.

I feel the Lieutenant’s eyes boring into my windshield.

I hold the kiss. 

The 1LT holds his stare. 

I outwait him and the 1LT drives away in his fancy new Opel. It's safe to show my face on the Company Street. Barbara drives away and I begin my routine.

That evening, the class marches back from school to a halt between the chow hall and the company commander’s office. We turn to salute the flag, somewhere a bugle recording sounds Retreat, Dismissed. 

The company clerk calls me over. I’m in deep shit.

The Captain expresses hard-nosed sympathy that yes, I could get my ass blown up in Vietnam as early as next month. How long have I been going AWOL?

I’m tempted to play it up with the standard Radio School horror story, “Sir, if I’m in a magnesium radio van that gets hit with a tracer round and burns to the ground in seconds, all she’ll get is ashes and ten thousand dollars.” She deserves this time, it could be her only time with her husband in her entire life. The commander nods affirmation. Everyone loves that magnesium van story. Bam, flash!, fried commo guy.

The Captain and I banter back and forth. I won’t admit I’ve been AWOL every night for almost 10 weeks, and he doesn’t press the issue. The Hawaiian sergeant who does night guard duty tells me don’t think I’m pulling one off on him. He could get court-martialed, but he’s cool about that. FTA. 


We’re all co-conspirators and good friends, me and these teenagers in radio school. Next week, many will head to Ft. Benning for Special Forces school--Green Berets. Ave Atque Vale, my friends. 

Article 15 of the UCMJ is non-judicial punishment. The sympathetic Captain doesn't take my stripe, hits me with a $20 fine, and locks me down with extra duty. 

The company clerk tells me I lucked out with CQ runner duty. He hands me an envelope with stencils he’s typed out, the Captain’s signed.  As far as the Army is concerned, my Article 15 is fait acompli with the signature. A technicality leaves it to higher headquarters to promulgate the Order when Battalion runs off the stencils and sends copies to payroll and personnel.

“Take your Article 15 to Battalion H.Q.” the clerk instructs me in his broad Boston drawl. He briefs me on how the Army works and suggests I lose the envelope on the way to Battalion. A week later, I am on my way overseas. 
 

••••

La Bloga Way-Back Machine

Snowy Ride Up the Mountain

(This 500-word memoir originally appeared on Tuesday, June 21, 2011. Revised.)

  


Costillas finds his grip on the truck’s canopy, and with his left boot on the rear bumper swings himself up into the rear of the deuce and a half.

 

“Anahash,” he greets the two Korean KPs hauling chow up the mountain. “Ne,” one says. The other looks away from the snowy landscape and pointing to the bench across from him, looks at Costillas and says something. “Mu-la me,” Costillas answers palms up, “No ara, mee un hum,” he apologizes for not understanding.

 

Specialist Fourth Class Miguel de las Costillas shivers in the penetrating cold despite his long johns, wool OGs, and fur-lined parka. He walks to the plywood box bolted to the floor against the cab. The foam rubber cushion would absorb a little of the violent jostling that punishes his kidneys and ass during the rough bounce up the mountain. No luck. Next to the chow cans, the cushion holds a green printed circuit board, and there is nothing Costillas can do. Missile repair parts have priority on any truck going up the mountain.

 

The California Chicano snuggles into the corner where heavy green canvas curves against the back of the cab. He imagines catching a hint of warmth off the exhaust pipe. “Yoboseyo!” the older KP calls. “Yoboseyo! Joe. Yogi. You yogi.” He points again to the empty bench across from the older Korean.

 

“Ne ne,” Costillas shakes his head that he understands the invitation. "Kamsamnida chingo, I stay here.” 


Costillas doesn't intend to sit at the open end of the deuce, where the cold wind and blowing snow suck into the truck. Worse, if that were possible, when the deuce and a half bounces off the primitive roadbed, gravity sends the shocks to concentrate there at the far end where the old KP pointed. Costillas’ back was a constant ache from the trip up mountain. 

 


Ski guns it and the truck speeds out of the Admin Area, a seven mile ride to the mile-high mountaintop missile site.

 

Wham! The truck bounces Costillas into momentary free flight that ends when his back crashes against the punishing steel canopy strut of the lurching truck. He bounces off sideways but manages to keep himself on the bench as gravity and inertia heap punishment and pain on him.

 

They are in the storm now. The two Koreans are sharp silhouettes against the blinding whiteness outlined by the canopy. Ski guns the motor at the third switchback. Something feels wrong. The truck slides sideways, Costillas feels weightless for a split second's panic. To furious spinning of wheels and grinding gears the truck slides backward toward infinite whiteness. The two Koreans coil their bodies in readiness to leap out. Costillas’ eyes bulge in sheer bloodcurdling terror. “Oh fuck, I’m not gonna make it. Damn it, menso. Damn it damnit.”

 

He should have been with his wife back in warm California, teaching class, going about his quotidian duties taking roll, ogling hippie chicks…not plunging off a mountain in a picturesque arc in the middle-of-nowhere.

 

Wham! The truck crashes into the side of the mountain and stops. The tires find traction, the chow truck lurches forward, Ski has them back on track. The three men explode in wild, genuinely happy laughter. They have beaten the mountain. They are invincible.





Monday, January 25, 2021

The White Nationalist Barbarians Storm the Gate(s) of the U.S. Capitol

 


By Dr. Álvaro Huerta

The white nationalist barbarians, aided and abetted by their Führer—President Donald J. Trump—stormed and entered the gate(s) at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. The seditionists include those who brazenly entered the so-called people’s house [*see note below], responsible for death, destruction and mayhem, along with their snowflake leader who suckered them to do so from afar, lying that he would be there with them!

For the record, the proverbial gate was previously stormed and entered, legally tainted by gross irregularities and interferences, with the 2016 election of the orange nationalist barbarian in the White House and the white nationalist Congressmembers in the Senate and House of Representatives. This also includes the white nationalists embedded in all levels of government, including law federal enforcement.

In reference to those who have already be identified and arrested, where more should follow, shouldn’t all who entered the Capitol building also face murder charges? Let’s consider this scenario: Two people rob a store, where one of them kills the clerk and the other one steals the money. In this case, typically, both will be charged with different degrees of murder, apart from armed robbery and other charges. Why should those who engaged in an attempted coup, a more serious crime, be treated any differently? I’m sure if the seditionists were brown or black, as many others have articulated, the brutal nature of the State and its agents of suppression would’ve been on full display. If they were Muslims, this scenario would’ve provided Trump with a false pretext to invade Iran, like in the case of 9/11 with former President George W. Bush and Iraq.

As we focus our national attention on the culprits behind this attempted coup, let’s not forget the strong and powerful supporters of Trump, where they should also be held accountable (or eternally shamed at minimum), like the late Senator Joseph McCarthy, for the vitriol rhetoric and events leading up to the violent and deadly attack on the Capitol. This includes, among others, Trump’s immediate family (especially Donald Jr., Jared and Ivanka!); Trump subordinates, like Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and the guy who apparently didn’t get hugged as a kid, Stephen Miller; soon-to-be-disbarred Rudy Giuliani; idiotic and immoral Republican leaders in Congress, like Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Devin Nunes (R-CA),  Jim Jordan (R-OH), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), etc.; and, let’s not forget the estimated 74 million people who voted for the most incompetent and deranged President in U.S. history.

By courting, supporting and encouraging white supremist groups and militias, many of whom are well armed and trained given their police and/or military background, snowflakes like Trump and his minions at the White House and Congress are playing with fire. For instance, when Trump repeatedly says that CNN is the enemy of the people, at any time, no one should be surprised if his armed supporters seriously harm CNN reporters. In fact, given Trump’s violent rhetoric about “liberating Michigan” and targeting Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, it didn’t take long for his armed supporters to plan to kidnap her. As usual, when others do the dirty work for the snowflake Trump, he acts like an armchair mafioso, denying any link with those who follow his orders—coded or not.

In terms of pretending to be a tough guy, as I’ve written before, such as in The Hill (09/09/16), “[i]f he’s really a tough guy, I invite him to my old barrio—without private bodyguards, Secret Service agents and local police—to reassert his claim that Mexican immigrants constitute ‘drug dealers,’ ‘criminals’ and ‘rapists.’ If he can’t repeat these racist generalizations directly to the people he’s attacking, then he’s a coward.” I must say that I’m amazed that Trump supporters take all of the risks with jail time and bodily harm to follow the orders of their Führer, while Trump is playing golf or waiting for the  attempted coup to start with his ilk and family, as if they’re at a Patriots football tailgate party!

While I can go on and on, I’ll end with this: Trump must not only be removed from office, he must also be arrested and prosecuted for aiding and abetting an attempted coup against the United States of America. This must be done before he pardons everyone in his criminal orbit, including himself. This includes the sycophant Vice President Mike Pence, along with the remaining complicit cabinet!

[*Despite the abhorrent attempted coup, let’s not forget that the governing elite and monied classes, throughout American history, have used the U.S. Capitol as a base to steal the lands of Native Americans and break treaties, enslave Blacks and kill them, violently annex territory from Mexico (1848) and scapegoat their people on both side of la frontera, engage in domestic/foreign espionage and imperialist wars, etc.]

[Image: Cartoon appears courtesy of Lalo Alcaraz & Andrews McMeel Syndication.]

[About: Dr. Álvaro Huerta is an Associate Professor in Urban & Regional Planning and Ethnic & Women’s Studies at California State Polytechnic University. Among other scholarly publications, he’s the author of Reframing the Latino Immigration Debate: Towards a Humanistic Paradigm and Defending Latina/o Immigrant Communities: The Xenophobic Era of Trump and Beyond. He holds a Ph.D. in city and regional planning from the University of California, Berkeley, and an M.A. in urban planning and a B.A. in history from the University of California, Los Angeles.]

***

CALL FOR PLAY SUBMISSIONS: DRAMA IN THE TIME OF COVID—AN ANTHOLOGY

Close to 8 million people worldwide have contracted Covid-19. One million have died. In the United States alone, over 200,000 have succumbed to this deadly virus, and counting. With no end to the pandemic in sight, the "new normal" involves lockdowns, social distancing, face masks, fear, and political strife.

More than any other creative genre, drama has suffered the hardest during the Covid-19 pandemic. With the closure of theaters worldwide as in plagues of the past, playhouses have been forced to find new ways to reproduce the magic of live theater by going virtual. For smaller venues lacking the resources, many have closed temporarily or permanently shuttered. For playwrights, this reality translates to fewer opportunities to showcase their work, and the virus places in peril the future of live theater and new works.

We seek an anthology to showcase works by playwrights examining Covid-19 in all its permutations. We are looking for dramatic works (short plays, performance pieces, monologues, etc.) from diverse playwrights worldwide that speak to the deaths, isolation, social, political, and economic upheaval that have followed in the wake of this pandemic. The anthology will be published by FlowerSong Press in Spring 2022. For more information on this call for submissions and FlowerSong Press, please visit here.

To submit, send new and un-produced scripts as attachments of no more than 25 pages to covidanthology@gmail.com by August 1, 2021. Include a 50-75 word third-person bio in the body of your email. Plays that have had readings or workshops are acceptable. Format scripts as Microsoft Word or PDF documents only, and include a title page with contact information. Simultaneous submissions are okay but please notify us asap if accepted elsewhere. All accepted playwrights will receive a copy of the anthology upon publication.


Friday, January 22, 2021

Covid Year Two, the Inaugural Edition 2021

 Melinda Palacio


Hello 2021.


For all of us who voted for Biden, the new year didn’t start until Wednesday when President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were sworn in. I’m feeling all kinds of fuzzy and warm, perhaps warm enough to offer Tio Bernie some comfort. With the reverence of the transfer of power came the playful Bernie Sanders memes. I think we all needed to let out a sigh of relief. I know I’ve been holding my breath because tRump refused to concede, what a sore loser. We may not have been able to elect Hillary to the White House, but we witnessed the swearing in of California’s own, Kamala Harris as Vice President of the United States of America. 


I’ll admit that for all the joy of the momentous occasion, some lingering effects of trauma over the past four years remain. The pandemic hasn’t magically disappeared and an insane amount of people have died due to Covid. While President Biden is on operation clean up, it may be months until a vaccine finds its way into my arm. Right now, Santa Barbara feels like a small island where supplies are hard to come by. It doesn’t help that Santa Barbara received a botched batch of doses, and not enough doses; every newsletter about Covid vaccines I’ve received state that there are no more appointments available for those in the 75 or older tier. I’m in the last group of adults that will be vaccinated. Who knows when that will be? Even though I hate needles and hospitals, I’m eager to get immunized against the virus. 


Even with the good news of a new administration, Covid did not take a back seat, but was front and center in the representation of flags for all the people who have perished in this country. Although I feel a sense of relief, I continue to have strange dreams and am often awakened by the sound of owls hooting back and forth to each other. If only I could decipher their message. Perhaps they are trying to tell me not to worry so much? A tall order when you think about the possibility of insiders who may have helped the insurrectionists with their coup d’état, it’s easy to be in a constant state of worry. Senators who continue to stand by Trump and the violence he incited should be removed from office. All of the people who supported them remain amongst us, some quietly going about their business, angry or deflated, but dissatisfied either way. This storm has been brewing for four years, thanks to Trump fanning the flames of hate. Videos and selfies of the mob showed a well-rehearsed group who felt at home storming our capitol. Some had recently received tours from Senators, even though tours should have been cancelled due to Covid. Some of the co-conspirators are refusing to leave their guns at home. Thanks to chatter from these fringe groups the entire nation was put on high alert, as if Covid lockdown weren’t enough. However, the largest military presence at the inauguration did not dampen the celebration of a new dawn. As inaugural poet, Amanda Gorman suggests, it’s best to step into this new era unafraid. Perhaps, my owls are telling me to have no fear and return to poetry.  Gorman recited: “The new dawn blooms as we free it/For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.”

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Today's Story: A Time to Heal

 

                                                                                   

                                                                    The Procession

     I walk up the main street, along the plaza, and I look to the parking lot where the van dropped me off. It's empty. Evening quickly descends. Desperately, I search for a van, any van. I ask a man, a Chamulan. He tells me the van service from San Juan Chamula to San Cristobal stopped at 7:00 P.M. He points to the taxi stop where two taxis wait. The sun reddens the mountaintops. Taxis in Mexico after dark, especially in rural areas? But what other choice do I have?

     A short, elderly man, standing next to a Toyota, raises his hand. The car has seen, as they say, better days. I ask him about the vans, as if I need a second opinion. He confirms the only way back to San Cristobal is by taxi or walking. He gives me a price. I accept, and when I sit in the car, I make sure, like always, it has door handles on the inside panel. The images from the strange church service I’ve just witnessed clash in my mind.

     I tell him to call me Antonio.

     “Like the saint,” he says.

    “Yes,” I say, “the one from Padua.”

     “The one who returns lost objects, like men, and souls.”

     As he drives, he begins to talk, his voice soothing. My mind slows. He tells me about the ranches and the settlements in the valley below, the process to cure sheep wool and turn it into clothing, the different Mayan languages, and beliefs of the various Maya clans throughout Chiapas. The eerie events of the church simmer.

     I ask him about the words I heard in the prayers, the ilol, the chulel, and the kamel. He’s hesitant, at first, as if revealing a secret, but says the ilol is a header, like a curandero, some ilols more powerful and wiser than others. The service in the temple of San Juan was a ceremony to start San Juan Chamula's annual fiesta. He explains the chulel is our animal spirit. We all have one. If our chulels suffer, we suffer. The kamel is a sickness, when our fear is too strong for us to cure. A powerful ilol can cure us.

     “What happens when one’s chulel is weak or lost?”

     His eyes on the road, he says, “Sickness, anxiety, fear, fevers, stomach problems, many things. Also, illusions, nightmares, terror. The sick are lost. A good ilol can bring them back to reality.”

     “Like San Anthonio?”

     He smiles.

     “Can a person cure his own chulel?”

     He waits, thinking. “If the person’s ilol is seriously ill, that is very dangerous.”

     I laugh, nervously, “I guess we all need good ilols then.”

     He doesn’t laugh. He says, “The world is very big. Different worlds have their own ilols. Our ilols pray to Chulmetic and to Chuloltic for healing.”

     “Who are they?”

     “Our earthly mother and father, the moon and the sun.”

     “So, they are the real healers?”

     “No. They ask nichonil, the son, to intercede.”

     “Intercede—to whom?”

     “Totic, tata.”

     “And that is…?”

     He turns to me, as if I am dense. “God the father.”

                                                                                     

                                                       The temple of San Juan Chamula

     My mind wanders. I try to hold it still but can’t. I am back in the church, blinded by incense and deafened by the monotonous strains of the musicians. I try to interpret the scene, as if I’m deciphering a code.  Geronimo continues to talk, his voice hovering above the images in my head.  

     He says, “You came from the church service?”

     “I did, yes.”

     “It is not what you expected.”

     “They killed a rooster.”

     “No. They stopped killing live roosters many years ago. They bring in a rooster but turn it loose after.”

     “I saw the blood. A man had to wipe it off of his hands.”

     “He is the nichin. He helps in the ritual. They use red liquid, like a dye. They are good at making it look real, for the tourists.”

     “Geronimo,” I ask, “do Chamulas believe St. John the Baptist is greater than Jesus.”

    Again, he waits before answering. “Some Chamulas do. I am an evangelista, a Baptist. There are Presbyterian Chamulas and Charismatic protestant Chamuluas, traditional Catholics and reformed, like you saw today. There are even Muslim and Mormon Chamulas, and that is only around here. Across Chiapas, the Maya have different beliefs. No, to me, Jesus is God’s son. Without Juan Bautista, there is no way to the son.”

     I spend the evening recording everything I can recall, but we all know how memory plays tricks on us, especially when it's time to heal.