THE INSURGENCE of CHAN SANTA CRUZ
BOOK EIGHT: THE SECOND of the BOOKS of CHANGE
CHAPTER FORTY EIGHT
So the sublevados brought up cases of dynamite that they had stolen and concealed in caves, or had bought in Belize to blow up Mexicans. No Mexicans remained, but there was Bravo's reservoir, the railroad and the telegraph and, in the quiet of a summer afternoon, this volley of explosions was their celebration. A fire was started in the plaza and the Mexican things not taken with Gasca were thrown into it; a sack of rice, some cans, papers covered with Spanish writing, broken mechanical devices, rusty pistols, the detritus of civilization. Someone found a case of brandy hidden from Alvarado and the ravagers drank with such abandon that one fell into the flames and was burned with the contraband. They took machetes and went to the church but its filth so sickened them that none dared enter except to carry some wooden Catholic saints away and feed them to the fire... these were not of El Indio, and burned merrily. Next came the turn of the hospital... they overturned the beds there, burned the infected mats upon which so many had died and drank whatever medicines they found. By nightfall, the plaza was dotted with little white heaps that were men laying where they had fallen, snoring or vomiting, and the fire began to wane, the skies opened again and rain washed down, reducing that which had burned to gray soot that seeped through the City of the Holy Cross.
In the morning, the chastened sublevados left, returning to Chumpom, Tabi and Dzonot Guardia, among their villages. The monte now struck back, deadly as the winged serpent, digging talons into the ruins; such tendrils of vines and thorns and new trees that would inspire the most empyreal of European poets... were a princess, not an abomination, hidden at its center.
The news of this destruction brought outrage to Salvador Alvarado. He who had brought justice, dignity and freedom to the Indian had been repaid with the contemptuous desecration of those bulwarks upon which civilization is constructed - fresh water, communications, transportation. His anger was that of a rejected prince; the nearest object for revenge being the pathetic Gasca. Four weeks after the devastation he again appointed the aged Colonel Plank to Gasca's place and sent him off to recapture Santa Cruz del Bravo for the cause of civilization - or at least to surrender it to someone whom Alvarado could hold accountable for its fate.
Plank traversed the route that had taken Ignacio Bravo two years in only ten days and, like his predecessor, found the city empty, undefended. His was a party of one hundred twenty men, but the most important was not a Captain, nor an artillery expert, nor even the telegraph operator but a nonentity... one of those unknown heroes on whose quivering shoulders rest the conquest of the New World, an anonymous soldado with painful, gasping breaths and sweaty fingers clutching his bowels to keep them from falling apart. No statue has ever been raised to him, neither are ballads sung nor tales told as recall the exploits of conquistadors, of pirates, pilgrims and the other heroes of the European pantheon; yet it is he whom has been the destroyer of empires out of times untold. To name but two examples, the Valley of Mexico... during the sixteenth century... and the Great Plains of the American states... in the nineteenth... are his, by right of conquest. Only in Hell are standards raised - or lowered - to him, that quaking, shivering human host to he who sits at the right hand of don del Muerte, mighty Lord Blood Vomit, the small pox, the plague... master of all the Western Hemisphere.
This was the silent, great companion of the dzulob army of the North.
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