THE INSURGENCE of CHAN SANTA CRUZ

 

BOOK FOUR:  THE BOOK of SCIENCE

 

CHAPTER THREE

 

          Over the final months of José's commission, Santa Cruz had progressed enormously. The railroad, finally completed, connected the capital with the new village of Vigia Chico on the north shore of Ascencion Bay. The harbor there had been dredged to a depth of twelve feet, allowing ships from Veracruz, Havana and Progreso... which succeeded in circling the treacherous coral reefs menacingly dubbed the "Serpents' Keys"... to unload their cargo of arms, tinned foods and dry goods and take on hardwood and chicle.

          The railroad tracks were only eighteen inches in width and the Decauville cars, as yet, could proceed only in one direction at a time, but Bravo was as proud of his accomplishment as were the Yankees about their proposed canal to the south in Panama... which uniting of the oceans had greatly been advanced by an American sponsored revolution the previous November. On the slightest pretext, the General would board one of the narrow cars and ride his rails back and forth, the rattling of metal sweeping his cares away. Other times he would walk the outskirts of his capital, head bent to the ground to avoid recognition and the need to salute. Clean water and electricity had been installed, commerce flourished yet, on these solitary walks, the General, to all appearance, seemed mortified by the doings of his own hand and only the very troubled, or the very inexperienced, dared breach his reveries.

          Santa Cruz del Bravo, by now, was not much different from any frontier town of five thousand, whether north or south of the Rio Grande. Like so many places in the American West in 1904, less than a tenth of its people were women and children. The convict population had fallen some with the completion of the railroad and the dredging of the harbor, but almost half the population remained in the Territory against their will... most of whom were packed into the cathedral by night; few mornings passing without a harvest of the dead therefrom. Nine months after Padre Juliano's disappearance, a disgraced priest had been found who agreed to go to the Territory to tend the disused palm-hut church, offer sacraments and perform Sunday Mass on the condition that, for the other six days, he be allowed to practice his primary trade, which was that of butcher. And so the worshippers, nearly all of them the tamed or intimidated indios mancos, made their devotions in a room where bloody joints of meat were hung from the ceiling, out of the reach of the teeth of dogs and rats (but not the Territorial flies). Four Hail Marys for the soul and a leg of pork for the feast of San Pedro; Father Bernal, the butcher-priest of Santa Cruz del Bravo, could not be certain whether any supplicant's arrival was for the purpose of absolution or the acquisition of a kidney. The mail pouch, now brought by sea and rail through Vigia Chico, contained an occasional Vatican Bull, endowed by the archbishop in Merida with ribbons and wax... Father Bernal buried these reverently in the earth behind the church, for he was of the faith that if some order he might have cause to dislike was never opened and read, God would not hold him to its fulfillment.

          The old sacristan, Chankik, was unwelcome at Bernal's church and, in fact, was rarely seen about the capital anymore. When in Santa Cruz, he spread his mat by night in a sheltered place behind the offices of the General himself and, as Bravo and his housekeeper made no attempt to remove him, he was left alone. As for the sublevados, theirs was a presence almost wholly unknown in their old capital. Patrols beyond the land about the railroad were infrequent, skirmishes few. The road to Peto had been allowed to fall into decay, and the relentless monte had already devoured the clearing proscribed by Governor Canton who, himself, was fading into memory in the shadow of the enterprising Olegario Molina. To all but the most critical eye, Quintana Roo was a reflection of the pax Porfiriano: progress, peace, prosperity. Not one man in a thousand... counting those, of course, among the middle and the upper classes... would have disagreed with the Yankee journalist who had visited the Republic and concurred with Pieter Wallen that "... so long as Mexicans are earning sufficient to fill their stomachs with tortillas and frijoles, they are perfectly willing to abstain from risings and revolts."

          In the noonday of science José Macias had came to the Territory to seek the shadows, to hide and to kill. But now he was bored with peace, his crimes... if there had been crimes committed that swirling night of Fin del Siglo... certainly forgotten.

          On the day before his departure, the Captain evaluated the few possessions he kept upon a table one of the prisoners had made for him in return for some extra food. Most of his belongings were books, volumes he could read and reread, for the delivery of parcels by sea or rail was tentative, at best, and journeys back to Merida were infrequent. Those that he kept always at hand were largely in languages other than Spanish, and of the dark persuasion - Wilde and Chambers and the bitter essays of Ambrose Bierce in the language of King George; the French realists already named and the even more caustic "Immoralist" of Andre Gide; a panoply of long-winded and gloomy Germans. The buoyant apostlery of progress led by Messrs. Wells and Verne amused him, as did the escapades of Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street, but his enjoyment was as that of one attending a display of freaks - the Captain shook his head in wonderment at the inanity of the comfortable, and passed such literature on to more congenial colleagues when he'd done with it. Only canvases of despair and unholiness were hung in the chambers of José's memories; cold, wet fingers seeming to reach from the pages, sometimes from beyond the poets' graves, to seize José Macias and hold up the evil there... without judgment, without condemnation... as if to say to him "Here is that which I was and that which you are and will be forever. Understand yourself, know your powers, use them for your gain and never let them master you."

 

 

RETURN to HOMEPAGE – “THE INSURGENCE of CHAN SANTA CRUZ”

 

RETURN to GENERISIS HOMEPAGE