THE INSURGENCE of CHAN SANTA CRUZ
BOOK NINE: BOOK of the JAGUAR PRIEST
CHAPTER THIRTY THREE
The Colonel cleared his throat. "Very well. The fourth provision is particular to Quintana Roo and is entitled Abolition of those Customs Contrary to Law. There is but one such custom specified... the penalty of flogging. Our Constitutional and Progressive administration shall henceforth address the matter of criminal correction by confinement in a scientific institution, by fines or, if necessary, by death, but the lash is to be outlawed. The whipping post of Santa Cruz shall be taken down and, with it, those of all the other pueblos. Flogging is a Catholic atavism that has no place in modern Mexico.
"How will order be maintained?" Silvestro asked with a puzzled expression. "It is true that, in the days before the War of Castes, azotes were rarely given, save on the haciendas. But, since that time, Mexican customs have come among the mazehualob; usury, robbery, the dishonoring of women. The Jefe without the lash is a poor thing, the power of jefes rest with the strength of their arms."
"There are other means of keeping order," the Colonel suggested. "For the most heinous of crimes... the firing squad. And for the rest, imprisonment for a time appropriate to the nature of the offense."
"I shall allow no prisons in the territory," the Tatoob determined. "Your treaty is unacceptable. Take it away!" he thundered, raising his right arm to his face as if offended by a plate of rotten meat set before him.
Solis, suppressing an angry scowl, pointed a finger at the General's heart as if it were a pistol. "Learned men," he said, "penologists from all over Europe, not only in the Republic, agree that..."
"No prisons!" the Tatoob again declared. "When one has cut his leg with a machete do you think that he would recover by wrapping the wound in dirt and dung, keeping it dark and damp like your Mexican prisons? Why... such is the soonest way to poisoning of blood, then death. Such wounds are to be cleansed with fire and aguardiente, as an evildoer is purged of his sins. What is the use of prisons... save to make bandits of thieves, and murderers of bandits? The lash purifies where prisons putrefy, corrupting small sins into mortal dreams of revenge. Look to your own experience! Our discussion of this is ended."
Octaviano Solis felt his stomach lurch and sniffed a ghost of the air of Bravo’s cathedral. The Tatoob was right, but Solis had his orders, and he proceeded upon a second track. "Justice is often depicted as a blind woman," he acknowledged, "and never so blind when turned towards those who make and who enforce the law. The Governor of Quintana Roo shall maintain prisons, such is the President's will. But do you think Carranza will himself ride through the territory to see prisons filled or whipping posts pulled down? After all, discipline may be maintained within the prisons by means short of execution. He will provide money for prisons, but these buildings may be used for other things."
"For Christian churches, in which evildoers may be rehabilitated?" suggested the Tatoob, and the Colonel's guttering hopes flickered anew.
"Why not? Certainly, I won't deny that a prison can be a terrible place, although it does not seem to reform men so much as to provide a college of criminality." The Colonel showed a jackal's grin of his own. "Under the American system perhaps... where one is not permitted to see his wife or his family and does no work, nor is allowed to mingle and converse with others for a period of ten or twenty years... such natural horror might prove deterrent. Even in Quintana Roo there are few deserving of such a fate, which leaves us, instead, with the imposition of fines."
"Those are contemptible things," Silvestro replied, "things of the estanciónes. Before I attained freedom in the territory, I was under one such mayordomo who could not let one day by without devising more fines for the affliction of the mazehualob, to keep them in their poverty and slavery."
"And this mayordomo, he must have been a very wealthy man."
"Him?" Silvestro blinked. "Well he paid a portion of his fines to don Antonio, but..." the Tatoob recalled, "in other respects you are right, he was richer, perhaps, than the master who hired him."
"You must learn what he knew. The little bite, the mordida of our police is a moon, reflecting the confiscatory power of the fine. A smuggler of chicle may escape either the lash or prison by taking his boat. The irreligious man may have his horse or mule confiscated, the slanderer shall lose his pigs, and any man who incurs the displeasure of the Jefe shall forfeit his silver. The application of fines decreed by the law is limited only by imagination. And a portion of all derives to the Governor - it is his to keep or spend as he wishes."
The Tatoob had listened with growing interest, but now objected. "That may be well for Mexico, in which wealthy bandits are numerous. But in the territory, few of the mazehualob have possessions. Many of them," he sighed, "spend all the money that they make on drink or gamble it away, or are the victims of peddlers who are no more than swindlers."
"For these paupers," the Colonel was ready to reply, "there is obligatory service. The Republic will provide you money for a road or school, to pay those who construct it. But if there are fellows already indebted to the Territory for their crimes... why, you can make them work their fines off and the money..."
And at this, Silvestro smiled with Solis.
"I shall need a record-keeper to keep track of such fines and obligations," said the Tatoob. "At Idznacab, the mayordomo's craft was to keep a book, in which the names of each man was written and his obligations."
The Colonel nodded. "Such record keepers are found in all the Ministries and are pleasing to the President, who wishes to extend to our states the scrupulous keeping of accounts. Our post-revolutionary Constitutional government is still in a state of evolving, and I cannot promise such allotment, but it will be possible to pay your records-keeper out of the proceeds of fines and have much left over for other uses. Now, given that the President will require prisons, though he cannot come to Santa Cruz to see how it is used, is this provision acceptable?"
"Does it permit the Governor to set and to collect these fines?"
"Hmmm..." said the Colonel, scanning the page. He removed a pen and added a footnote, showing this to the Tatoob. "There! That is done. We come, now, to the fifth and last provision, one of greater length than the others and, since much of it is repetitive and constructed in the language of law I shall, with your consent, provide its essence."
Silvestro's face hardened further.
"You trust me, don't you?" Solis asked.
"Have I a choice?" asked the Tatoob. "I cannot read these papers... who will read them for me? You? The President?" Silvestro spoke no more and, after moments of uncomfortable silence, the Colonel resumed his explanation.
"The President is naturally concerned over the differences among Maya chiefs. It is known to him that Juan Bautista Vega is suspicious of May and likewise. Your presence here is owing to that distrust for, while May and Vega will not speak with one another, either may appeal to and reason with Silvestro Kaak."
"They distrust me less than they distrust each other," Silvestro acknowledged.
"It is not the President's desire that the territory be consumed in civil war," Solis stated. "To commit the Republic to either of those jefes would be to invite the occasion. He sees you and your followers as the third force, one whose numbers would certainly swing the balance should it come to fighting. Now this fifth provision substitutes a council of the jefes for their armies; divided equally among tribes that favor May and those that favor Vega. The deciding votes would be yours... as representing the President."
"That is agreeable," said the Tatoob. "There cannot be agreement between the others. If General Vega was to state the fact that the sun rose in the east, General May would be obliged to hold that it rose in the west. When there were Mexicans in Santa Cruz, the tribes could make a common cause, but even then..."
"Yours will not be an easy task," the Colonel warned before Silvestro could reveal anything further. "That is why President Carranza is most lenient upon the means by which you gain your gold. You will be earning it."
Silvestro stirred. "The others will also keep their ranks?"
"I expect they will," Solis admitted, "unless they are so foolish as to displease the First Chief. In the Mexico of don Venus," he shrugged, "what are a few more Generals? They will have pensions too... the President holds by the proverb that fat dogs are less likely to bite. And each tribe will be permitted to impose a tax on chicle gathered in the lands they control; the territorial levy, your tax, is added on the top of that and the export duty of Mexico atop that. I foresee an increase in the price of chewing gum," the Colonel acknowledged.
"And what are the duties of this council?" asked Silvestro.
"Anything," Solis said, "and everything. Conditions of education, public improvements... the militia, as you have asked after... all of this is to be determined by the council. I should not have to tell you that it will benefit to hold your sympathies close, to side with neither May nor Vega at all times but, rather, according to your interest, lest the losing tribes grow envious and bitter, and turn their intent from gaining your support to your replacement. This is what the intelligent jefe does to prevent conspiracies, and your term will be concluded without bloodshed."
"And the length of this term?"
"That is yet to be determined by the laws of the Republic... which have not yet been drafted. Two years? Four? Ten?" The Colonel shrugged. "All things are possible! In any instance, you would be in position to dictate your successor and, sometimes, it is found preferable that men of true power remain in the background and have others carry out their wishes. Another factor is in your favor... geography. Let me read this to you."
Solis cleared his throat and lifted the document. "The territorial capital shall be situated in the District of Santa Cruz del Bravo and all members of the Council shall be domiciled there. At the center of your influence, in other words... is something troubling you?"
Not even the tinted spectacles could hide the hatred oozing from the eyes of the Tatoob which, suddenly, were the hard and unblinking organs of a viper. "I shall never sign such treaty," hissed Silvestro, "nor would May or Vega. You have given legal title to our lands to Mexico. Such a condition will not be tolerated, Colonel. Return to Carranza with your treaty! Tell him to make preparations for war."
"I don't understand," Solis replied. "We have determined every condition to be favorable. And while title to the Territory does belong to the Federal Government, the right of the pueblos to use it is clearly stated... very clearly stated. What is this talk, then, of renewal of the war?"
"If a man from the pueblo that is known as dust," said the Tatoob, "and this pueblo is situated at the heart of the Republic of blood-vomit, then all who know this man and his origins will know that he is a creature of contempt, to come from such a place. Was it the intent of your Carranza and his educators, all this time, to trick the mazehualob into writing their names down in the book of Santa Cruz del Bravo? That they show pride to have been born in the city of he who murdered their parents, with the gun and, by craft, with diseases and his secret treaties? Why cease your infamies at the outskirts of the capital... why not rename the whole Territory for San Diablo? Our pueblo of Chan Santa Cruz is eternal, Colonel, the place of Juan de la Cruz. Would the Cristianos in Jerusalem change the name of their pueblo to San Judas? No, Colonel, I see at last the trick you and your President have designed to play on me.
"I'll never sign your treaty!" vowed the Tatoob. "Santa Cruz del Bravo is to sleep the never-waking sleep of don del Muerte, it sleeps with Troy and Egypt, with Atlantis and those other dead pueblos Juan Kui speaks of. It sleeps in Hell with the Yucatecan city of T'ho, upon whose ruins the Spaniards built what they are pleased to call Merida. It is with the bones of Tenochtitlán beneath this very hotel, with the cities of the past for... with these very hands, Colonel... I helped to destroy it once and shall again, completely this time. Chan Santa Cruz slept for a while in Gloria but, after thirteen years, it has arisen. General Bravo is an old and forgotten man in a place that does not even belong to Mexico any longer, and his city is dead. Venustiano Carranza shall breath no life into its ashes. There's no more to say!"
The Colonel had leaned back in his chair, which gradually slipped upon its legs towards the wall. Now he caught himself, righted his chair and opened the cigar box while he thought. Silvestro shook his head at the invitation as though offered poison. Solis let the warm smoke fill his lungs and exhaled, taking the cigar from his lips as if it were a dagger.
"The use of the old name is unfortunate and, I am certain, accidental. Bravo was no friend to me and I do not wish to see him honored, any more than you. It is the right of the victor to decree whose struggles shall be commemorated and by which means.
"Watch this," he said, and turning the treaty around so that it faced Silvestro, he drew his pen to the name of Santa Cruz del Bravo and scratched it away. Above, he wrote in ink the name Chan Santa Cruz.
"History is vindicated," the Colonel said, and passed the document across the table. "The name of the usurper is gone, that of the true pueblo restored. I'll have the matter fixed with don Venus, he'll sign. Just make your mark on both copies... here," and he extended his pen to Silvestro, "... and here. They will be returned to the President and one returned with you for the archives of Quintana Roo. Do not hold this matter against Carranza. Mexico is large, some things escape his notice. He would be as insistent as I that no honor accrues to Huertistas and that the Territorial capital should be called by its rightful name... some of those under his command lie in their graves because of Ignacio Bravo. It was an oversight, without significance, and now all is as it should be.
Silvestro made his mark upon the treaties and handed them back to Solis.
"How does it feel?" the Colonel asked. "That a tribe of thousands vanquishes a nation of millions is not the usual run of circumstances. Such victory has not been seen since Cortes. Imagine!" he smiled. "Tell me, aren't you surprised... just a little... now that the moment is at hand?"
The Tatoob shook his head, removing the Carrancista spectacles and placing them upon the table. "I always knew that, in the end, the mazehualob would regain their lands. Even if it took another hundred years, colonel, even a thousand. Remember, I have flown with eagles. Nothing is impossible... nothing!"
RETURN to HOMEPAGE – “THE INSURGENCE of CHAN SANTA CRUZ”
RETURN to GENERISIS HOMEPAGE