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Statute-tory Rape? Who done the deed?

1 December 2004

The Emperor Cuauhtémoc was one tough kid. He was only 18 when, after a well-aimed rock ended Uncle Monctezoma’s inglorious, disasterous reign and Uncle Cuitláhuac died a month later of smallpox, he took on the hopeless task of defending the Aztec Empire. Cortés’ Falluja-style plan was simple — destroy Tenotitchlan block by block, and drive the survivors back. Cuauhtémoc and the remaining Aztecs had no choice but to surrender at Tlatlelolco, 13 August 1521.

As the monument reads: “This was neither a tragedy nor a triumph, but the painful birth of the Mexican people”. Whatever young Cuauhtémoc thought about the birth-pangs of Mexico, he kept to himself. And he kept his mouth shut when Pedro d’Alvardo, who’d already looted everything of value in the City (he even stole the gold parrot toys out of the zoo) questioned him about what might have happened to any gold treasures that were somehow overlooked. If there was any gold left, it was buried under the rubble, which was carted out to the city dump… which is now my neighborhood. It’s here somewhere, but I don’t know any more than Cuauhtémoc. Who wasn’t talking — Alvardo, the stinker, gave him a hot-foot.

Young Cuauhtémoc never even whimpered, which took all the fun out of sadism. Even when he limped off he never said a word. When Cortés “invited” the ex-emperor to join the hunt for the “rebel” Cristobel Olid (much as Cortés went AWOL from Cuba to invade Mexico, Olid went AWOL from Mexico to invade Honduras), it was with the understanding that Cuauhtémoc must have known something about fighting the Castillians. If he did, he wasn’t about to rat on Olid. He wouldn’t talk — so Cortés hanged him, 28 February 1525.

The Last Emperor still isn’t talking. The Monument to Cuahtémoc, built in the 1880s, has been the middle of a traffic circle where Reforma crosses Insurgentes since the 30s. It was risky, but worth it, if you were into Greco-Aztec 19th Century Revival to try crossing 8 lanes of always moving traffic. The infamous toe-toasting is modeled on Jacques-Louis David’s Death of Socrates , though the buff young Greek body with an Aztec face looks more like he’s doing body-builder poses than being tortured — but then Socrates doesn’t exactly look like a 73-year old philosopher either.

Worth the risk, but for the Aztec’s risks were simple things like smallpox and Spaniards and having your heart torn out by your enemies. They never had to deal with rutas and crazed Volkswagen drivers, mega-manifestiones and traffic cops. So… the traffic circle is being turned into a regular stop-light with turning lanes and silent Emperor is moving to the corner — at least he finally conquors one enemy of the Azteca. He’s taking over the Parque Austria, which was partial repayment for the damages done by that incompetent usurper, Maximiliano von Hapsburg, who claimed to be Emperor of Mexico.

This is one of the largest statues in the Americas, so moving it is no easy task. It took four cranes a whole weekend to take the Bronze Emperor off his base and nearly a week to move the pedestal. Before he’s plucked back on 11 December, he’s been undergoing a cleansing (something all good Aztecs liked) and checked over for damages. He’s not going to talk, but some time during the 1910 Revolution, or the 1912 counter-Revolution, or the 1914 counter-counter Revolution, or the 1915-21 counter-counter-counter Revolutions, or the 1968 uprisings… or a wild Saturday night sometime between 1880 and now, somebody winged him. He’s not going to talk, but —

SOMEBODY SHOT HIM IN THE ASS

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