Izqueye, or the Other Quetzal-feathered Serpent
Juan de Dios Maya Avila
Thirty years dodging guerrillas and putsches, walking lanes, mountains, and rancherias. Thirty years in that Surlan Spinoza assaulted temples, bribed vicars had adequate their scruple to the ignorance of the people that were pretending to forget their past, already far, and yet, still hurtful. Thirty years to collect what later would become the viceregal National gallery of that Central American country, drowning in violence and blood.
Despite the obstacles, Surlan got around a hundred paintings and drawings. In this collection it´s said, that the works of the Mexicans José de Ibarra and Balrasar de Echave Ibía could be found; some sketches of Jerónimo Cosida, Aragonese of the XVI century and the three-faced Trinity of Gregorio Vásquez Arcen y Cevallos —different to the one that can be seen in Bogotá—, just few photographs remain. Breaking the harmony of the collection, Spinoza could even brag of having two oil paintings of Salarrué: a singular black Christ and the only known portrait of San Uranco de la Selva.
It must be said, it arrived the day when the instructed groups surrendered the weapons in favour of the government. In that nation, there was a tense tranquillity. Many people, and between them some exiles, came back to their home fearing no consequences. Surlan Spinoza, that was during his adventures sometimes followed by the state, managed to get the donation of some land next to the main square of Suchitoto. A very beautiful farm, where some influence of the Pípil architecture could be seen in the windows. In the middle of the garden, called “El Cielo” stood a five hundred years old ceiba, where the old natives offered hearts of children to Itzqueye, the other Quetzal-feathered Serpent, the ancient Lloradora de Sangre. When the Pipil native that helped Spinoza move the paintings saw the ceiba standing there arrogantly he scanned it and dared to pronounce the ancient name of Itzqueye. This sincere confession made the academic Spinoza proud.
Around half a year later, Surlan was already settled in the property. Both being sensible to the importance of that collection, The President of the Republic and the Secretary of Culture promised to open the museum in the evening. Some sectors of the Church did not agree at the beginning. A big part of those works, they claimed, were stolen and they belong to the stormed temples. Of course, their complaints were not heard and they did not insist on their claims for a long time: it was a thing of sharing the profits with them to make them happy. Anyways, the population did not care at all about the existence or importance of the museum. The few intellectuals that bragged off of being Socialists applauded the confiscation of the goods of the Church. It was the perfect situation to celebrate that historical moment. The academic Spinoza could finally rest a bit.
At the height of the night, despite the heavy clouds, the moon penetrated the veil for an instant and that brief light vanished the shadows that were in the jungle, in the waves of the lake, in the mountain chain, where the howling storm was announced by flashes of lightning.
Few moments after the moonlight shone were banished by the storm.
The Pípiles of the suburbs had the intuition of the storm. It was late for them too. The disaster came furiously to Suchitoto a few moments before the dawn. The streets became rivers and in their streams were branches, furniture, pigs, and some children. The strikes of the wind threw poles and tore off the roofs of the houses.
Surlan was just watched trough his window: two of his servants tried to remove the water that started to invade the garden. An ambulance could be heard in the surroundings, screaming like a hyena in front of the property. Perhaps someone in the vicinity died. Why doesn’t it go away?, Surlan thought. His glance was fixated to the patio. He covered his eyes, opened his mouth and heard a crack that seemed to him a tiger-alike roar of the tecúan. He cleaned the tarnished glass to confirm his suspicion and yes, there was Izqueye shaking. Its branches were spinning above the cellar where the paintings were waiting to be exposed. The air became denser and the five hundred years old ceiba, despite the skulls protecting it from the misfortune, cracked its trunk and fell over the cellar. It was a fortune that there was an ambulance in the surroundings helping a neighbour, otherwise Surlan would have died of his wounds. The collection was almost completely lost. Los Cosida perforated by the nails of the trunk, La Virgen de Echave dripping water as an ocean of tears, and that three-faced Trinity in the end had not even one body, face, nothing. The same occurred with the other painting; maybe some of them could be saved after a laborious task of restauration.
It has been said in the text before that the collection was almost completely lots: unbelievably two minuscule paintings de Salarrué, The black Christ and Saint Uraco remained sitting on their easels, untouched.
Juan de Dios Maya Avila (Tepotzotlán, 1980) Graduated from the Autonomous Metropolitan University of Mexico. He has collaborated in various national and international magazines, newspapers and literary anthologies. Member of the editorial board of the magazine El Burak, he was also part of the editorial board of the book supplement Hoja por Hoja. He was a fellow of the Foundation for Mexican Letters in the periods 2006-2007 and 2007-2008. He won the 2012 Andrés Henestrosa International Short Story, Myth and Legend Contest with the work La Venganza de los Aztecas (mitos y profesías), which was published by the Ministry of Culture of Oaxaca and which in 2018 was partially translated by Texas A&M International University. Fellow of the Fund for Culture and the Arts in the period 2015-2016. In 2018, the publisher Resistencia published the book of erotic stories Soboma y Gonorra. He published the anthology Érase un dios jorobado (Peripheral Editions, 2019). At the end of 2019 he won the Edmundo Valadés Latin American Short Story Contest with the story Díptico disléxico. In 2020 he publishes the book of chronicles El Horobado de Tepotzotlán (Literatelia, 2020). He is the head of the Canaimera column in the Guatemalan magazine El Camaléon.