Commenting on the suicide of Fascist apologist and right-wing writer Dominique Venner (supposedly as a protest against same-sex marriage) in Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral, the rector apparently mis-spoke in saying it was the first suicide in the church in 850 years. It wasn’t even the first right-wing suicide.
Antoninetta Rivas Mercado, a well known figure in Mexican post-revolutionary intellectual circles (besides her literary salon, she was a founder of independent theatrical troupes and the Mexico City Symphony) was the daughter of architect and sculptor Antonio Rivas Mercado. She was the model for the Angel that sits atop her father’s Monument to Independence. An extremely wealthy man, Antonio’s death in 1927 left Antonetta with the money to argely underwrite her lover, Josè Vasconellos during his presidential campaign in 1928., hich he sought to campaign to move the Revolution to the right.
Having rather spectacularly lost that election, Vascocellos chose to exile himself to Paris, where he would move increasingly towards the fight politically (ending up as the editor of a pro-Nazi newspaper in Mexico city). Antonetta followed him, where she had neither money, nor influence… nor a lover. Spurned by Vasconcellos, she shot herself sitting in a pew in Notre Dame on 11 February 1931.
Rivas had been briefly married to an American citizen, Albert Edward Blair, in 1919, and had a son, whose would marry Katherine Skidmore, who under her married name (Katherine Blair) wrote the fine novelized biography of her tragic mother-in-law, In the Shadow of the Angel (Tuscon, Globe River Images, 2011)
Mexico never has been a dull place.
In 1792, Juan Vicente Guemes, Count of Revillagigedo, Viceroy of New Spain, decreed that a scientific mission should be sent to the northern Pacific coast: not to challenge the Russian whalers and hunters, but to compile an extensive ethnography on the inhabitants of those distant lands and a catalogue of the surrounding flora and fauna. The expedition, officially called the “Expedición de Límites al Norte de California” (Expedition of the Borderlands North of California)would include naturalist Jose Mariano Moziño Suárez de Figueroa, born in Temscaltepec, Mexico, whose writings on the culture of the nuu-cha-nulth would appear in the document known as “Noticias de Nutka” (News from Nootka, currently kept at Yale University’s Beineke Library.
It is believed that the first mention of the controversial creature known as Sasquatch or Bigfoot appears in this 18th century scientific work: Pages thirty-four to thirty-five of “Noticias de Nutka” include remarks by Moziño Suárez concerning an unusual beast given the name “matlog”.
“No sé qué decir de un matlog habitante de la Serranía de quienes todos tienen un temor imponderable. Figúranle un cuerpo muy monstruoso, poblado todo de rígidas cerdas negras, la cabeza semejante a la humana pero con los colmillos más grandes, agudos y fuertes que los del oso, larguísimos los brazos, y los dedos de pies y manos armados de largos y encorvadas uñas. Sus gritos solos, dicen ellos, derriban por tierra a quien los escucha, y que hace mil pedazos al desdichado cuerpo sobre el que descarga alguna manotada. Presumo que la historia del matlog tenga el mismo fundamento que la de la creación del hombre que acabo de referir, o que desde una época antiquísima haya recibido la tribu de que deben estos naturales su origen a algunas noticias de la existencia de Demonios [...]
(“I do not know what to say about a matlog, a resident of the mountains, who fills everyone with unspeakable dread. They describe it as having a monstrous body, covered in all manner of rigid black bristles, with a head similar to a human’s bu with larger, sharper and stronger fangs than a bear’s, very long arms, with its fingers and toes armed with long and curved claws. Its screams alone – they say – can topple anyone who hears them, and it can shatter any unfortunate body into a thousand pieces in a single blow. I presume that the history of the matlog has the same basis as the creation myth of which I have just spoken, or that members of the tribe received word long ago that these entities owe their existence to demons [...]) [translation by SC]
Moziño’s writings languished in oblivion unitl 1913, when they were translated into English by Iris Wilson. This translation would appear in a work by early researchers of the Sasquatch mystery – Don Hunter and René Dahinden – in the prologue to their classic book Sasquatch (NY: Signet Books, 1975).
Ok, Moziño didn’t bring back any evidence, but only was reporting what he heard about the mythical creature. In Alaska… where the locals sometimes, er, stretch the truth (“I can see Russia from my house”) and scary critters like Sarah Palin are just part of the landscape. Not nearly as inexplicable as this story from Notiver (Veracruz, Veracruz) , where photographer Joel Soriano claims to have the proof that a Paso del Toro fisherman, identified only as “Juan”, caught a gargoyle. The media would never make shit up, would they?
Axolotls … ajolotes in Spanish and Nahautl … native only to Like Texcoco, are nearly extinct in the wild, “thanks” to drainage over the last half millenia, competition from introduced species like Tilia, and by being tasty little critters. Widely bred in captivity for scientific research (they have big embryos besides a few odd features like not rejecting transplants from others of their own species, regenerating lost organs and… best of all for them… able to extend puberty indefinitely — unlike humans, axolotl adolescents eat less than adults, which has some advantages; like humans, the teenagers are perpetually horny and can reproduce, creating a win-win for the species even in lean times). And, for an added bonus, they drive “intelligent design” folks nuts… they have both gills and lungs…. sometimes.
A thousand captive bred Axolotls were released back into Lake Xochimilco (about the only part of Lake Texcoco still extant) this week, with another five thousand to be released over the next year.
Via Asian Trekking, at 4:35 am Nepal Time today (which would have been yesterday here), 33 year old Mexican alpinist David Liaño González became the first person ever to climb Mt. Everest from both the Tibet and Nepal side in the same season. On May 11, he reached the summit from Nepal (accompanied by Nepalese Sherpa Samden Bhote), and yesterday, from Tibet, with John Tsang and Pasang Dawa Sherpa arriving ten minutes later.
Apparently, this is a BFD in the alpinist world, but it just goes to show you that no matter how high the border barrier, for a Mexican it’s a challenge, not a deterrent.
Both north and south of us, the late-comers to the hemisphere have been destroying the national heritage for short term gain.
In Belize, the Noh Mul archeological site, although on on private property, as a “pre-Hispanic” site, is protected under Belizean law. It’s not exactly unknown, as Belizian photographer José Luis Zapata notes:
Nohmul, meaning “Great Mound,” is 20 meters above sea level and is situated on a low, limestone ridge east of the Rio Hondo between Orange Walk and Corozal. Nohmul lies among sugarcane fields and is actually the highest landmark in the Orange Walk/ Corozal area. It is about a mile from the Northern Highway between San Pablo and San Jose.
The site was first recorded in1897 by Thomas Gann. In 1908 and 1909, Gann returned to the site to dig what he thought were burial mounds containing polychrome vessels and human effigy figures. Gann continued excavating up to 1936 uncovering tombs and caches which yielded human bones, jade jewelry, shells, polychrome vessels, chultuns, flint and obsidian. Most of these finds were taken to the British Museum. Later on A. H. Anderson and H.J. Cook visited Nohmul to inspect damages to the site. In 1973, 74, and 78, Norman Hammond (then with Cambridge University) mapped the site. Hammond returned in 1982 to do a more intensive Nohmul Project which lasted until 1986.
Despite being a known archeological site of importance, The 2300 year old central temple was bulldozed, and not by accident. Belize is mostly flat, and Although the mounds look like hills covered in plant growth rather than the clean pyramids we associate with Maya architecture, they are very well known as Maya structures. “It’s not like the construction companies innocently think they’re clawing away at a hill only to find a wealth of limestone bricking. It’s the bricks they’re targeting.” Which are used for paving roads… to Mayan sites, supposedly. Actually, for the benefit — no surprise here — a local politician:
The construction company in this case was identified. Archaeologists saw the name of D-Mar Construction on the equipment, a company owned by one Denny Grijalva, a United Democratic Party candidate for representative of his district, Orange Walk Central. Nohmul is in Orange Walk North. Interesting that the party platform includes rebuilding access roads to major tourist sites. It would seem counterproductive to build those roads using the major tourist sites. Then again, following election laws appears to be a sore point for Mr. Gijalva, so what’s a little cultural patrimony destruction?
In an almost parallel incident, the Barbarians to the north of us have also destroyed a “pre-Hispanic” (or, rather pre-Colombian) site, again with the overt connivance of local politicos.
City leaders in Oxford, Ala. have approved the destruction of a 1,500-year-old Native American ceremonial mound and are using the dirt as fill for a new Sam’s Club, a retail warehouse store operated by Wal-Mart. A University of Alabama archaeology report commissioned by the city found that the site was historically significant as the largest of several ancient stone and earthen mounds throughout the Choccolocco Valley. But Oxford Mayor Leon Smith — whose campaign has financial connections to firms involved in the $2.6 million no-bid project — insists the mound is not man-made and was used only to “send smoke signals.”
Leon Smith, like Denny Grivalda, stands to profit personally from the destruction, justifying their personal gain as a public benefit. A road, or a Sam’s Club parking lot perhaps serves some public good, but to what end? No, it’s not a case of “those who don’t know history…” but of refusing to acknowledge that history exists that should grieve us. These elected leaders see themselves as the arbiters of what is, and is not, the heritage of those they represent. In overriding and trodding under (literally) a sense of human continuity they seek to divorce their constituents from their community roots… putting those who elected them one step closer to simply being consumers and vendors of anyplace, anywhere… human sacrifices to the fetish of capital.
Sources: The History Blog: “Mayan temple in Belize bulldozed for road fill”
José Luis Zapata: “Nohmul Maya Temple Destroyed by Bulldozers in Belize”
Southern Studies: “Alabama city destroying ancient Indian mound for Sam’s Club”
Dan Whisenhunt, Anniston (Alabama) Star: “The Silent Partner: Oxford mayor has financial ties to Commercial Development Authority activities”