THE INSURGENCE of CHAN SANTA CRUZ
BOOK EIGHT: THE SECOND of the BOOKS of CHANGE
CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR
Idznacab, like most of the other haciendas of Yucatan, had been seized by the "Reguladora". This had been started during the two short Governorships of Pino Suarez as a combination of smaller estanciónes less wedded to the Cientificos; Alvarado had made it a personal distributorship that the Governor, ostensibly, operated in the name of the people (but actually ran to benefit the Constitutionalists in Veracruz). These received the foreign currencies... principally dollars with some pounds, there were fewer Germans and their deutschmarks now... hacendados and peons alike were paid with Alvarado's own currency for their henequen. The harvest had been poor, this summer, owing to equipment having been destroyed in the first, mad weeks of occupation, the mayordomo system abolished and the hacendados driven off their land. Following those principles of his Marxist tutors, Alvarado had turned the peons loose in the fields... but, without guidance as to the management of the once-vast plantations, production had plummeted until Don Venus was himself compelled to telegraph his Governor with a reminder that revenue still took precedence over reform. On some patches, the despised henequen plants that took seven years to mature were torn up and burned to prepare the land for corn... the scarcity and Alvarado's taxes sent the price of hemp on the Progreso docks soaring to record levels. Carranza's only advantage was that the European war still raged... foreigners would pay whatever the "Reguladora" asked and, for this happy circumstance, the currency of Alvarado was more trusted, even, than that of the Constitutionalists.
A Major from one of the northwestern states emerged from Alvarado's office, glancing about contemptuously at the nearly empty room. "Yucatecans!" he said, almost spitting. His eyes roamed again. "You!" he told Don Antonio, "you wish to see the General? Very well. Five minutes... not a second more. What's your name?"
Don Antonio told him and clutched his hat against his shirt as he entered Alvarado's office. More recently, with the estates already confiscated, such men of property as had not been hanged, already, were being stopped in Merida and relieved of their motorcars, their horses and carriages and, of course, any weapon that the Governor's men might discover. It did not require great imagination to fear that the soldados would soon begin stripping people's clothes from their back. He saw a balding man of medium height bent over some papers, and the Major pointed to a chair. Slithering across the floor and around the Governor's desk, he positioned himself by Alvarado's ear and whispered a few words.
The General glanced up, taking the measure of Don Antonio through the rimless spectacles he wore in imitation of Carranza, although the lenses were without tint. Variously described as a Sonoran like his patron, Obregon, or from neighboring Sinaloa, he was said to have been a pharmacist whose Marxist epiphanies took place between interims of grinding powders and potions. Having sworn loyalty to the First Chief although certainly not, like Obregon, without suspicions as to Carranza's own loyalty to the industrial laboring classes and to the cause of scientific socialism, he found himself in a place behind the times... Yucatan had as little experience with industry as Alvarado had in agrarian reform. So he had done as Madero and Suarez and de los Santos before, even Avila... he had issued a decree freeing the slaves, delivered the Meridians from dissolution, and had crushed real or perceived manifestations of the parasitic classes wherever he could find them.
Yet... wonder of wonders... the insects kept crawling from their crevices to him, and here was another!
"That's a fine shirt you have, Señor Macias," said Alvarado. He straightened his spectacles. "It is important to have a good shirt when one is working with sisal, no? The substance has an abrasive effect upon the skin... rub a rope across your hand and the point is made. Quite a few of the privilegiados of this town, your confederates, did not believe me, so I experimented with their necks... having no fear of God nor Hell, neither do I believe there is a Heaven in which these may gather to reconsider their obtusity. Let their fate can serve only as an example to yourself."
Don Antonio made no move to interrupt the Governor. If Alvarado consumed all five minutes talking and then dismissed him, he would return.
"Before I arrived, how many peons had Sunday off... not just the morning or an hour or two? How many, mind you, in a state which shrouds itself in the most banal Catholic pieties? Not one, planter! Since I have come they can afford new clothes, cigars, the cinema... not to mention meat and bread. Yet some people still speak out against me. I, the liberator of Yucatan, and they whisper that I am a villain. Me! You don't have to tell me what you are here for, planter. It's your son. One of those conspirators... isn't that so?"
"My family has resided in this state for three hundred years," Don Antonio began, balancing his hat in his lap.
"Don't bother attempting to impress me with your pedigree," the Governor railed. "I know you all. I know about your fincas and your billiards tables... your vacations in Paris, your debauched funciónes. It's all here." And he tapped a finger to his head. "I, I am General Salvador Alvarado, Governor of Yucatan, and I know everything about the likes of you. Everything!"
He lowered his hand. "Because I am temperate by nature, and because it is my charge to manage this degenerate state with such scrupulosity as I can, I will also admit that your estanción has been... only by comparison... one of those on which the peons received slightly better treatment than on certain others in the state. For this fact I, in turn, will make an effort towards fairness. If there are benches in the Hell... which of course does not exist... that are not quite so hot as others, you may find one of these your destination."
Don Antonio, of course, dared not contradict this Governor, neither did he wish to agree too easily, presuming that to do so might be taken as confession or a sign of weakness. He merely nodded, allowing Alvarado to continue.
"That, of course, was a figure of speech. I admire a few of the Hebraic prophets and some of the gospels, but do not take me for a Christian. This modern Catholic church is a monstrous thing planter, perpetuating the oppression of the poor by promising a note to be paid off when they have died after a life of misery. Jesus, of course, was a scientific socialist, but Rome has utterly distorted his teachings. You will never find me in a church... yet, planter, I know evil when I see it. You may not have been an evil man, and yet you brought evil into the world in the person of your son."
"If I may answer..."
"Go ahead." Alvarado folded his hands over the desk.
"The patriot, Governor, is one who upholds tradition and honor. And tradition holds that man's perfection is inevitable, although I agree that it is not likely to occur in the lifetime of either of us... whether this makes me a poor Christian I leave to my confessor. Yucatan has never been a true part of Mexico, this enmity dates back even before Cortez and Montejo to the indians who made war relentlessly upon one another. To act as a patriot in the service of tradition, as Rigoberto did, may be conspiratorial but..."
"I do not mean that one," Alvarado grunted. "You have two sons."
"Oh," replied a crestfallen Don Antonio.
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