Cibola 112

This entry is part 111 of 119 in the series Cibola


Marcos de la Sierra (a.k.a. El Donado)

The land lives within me
like a nest of nails.
I know what they want from me,
these hypocrites: to renounce
the world, the flesh,
all creatures,
all Indian thoughts.
                                I know
as much about God as they do,
possibly more: which is to say,
nothing. A night wind,
an obsidian mirror
that fogs with your dying breath.
No prayers, no ticking glass beads
can you take . . . even
the crucified Christ
gets left behind. Why linger
in the doorway, clinging
to the empty frame?

I was born with a caul–
singled out for service to Tlaloc,
rain-god & gourmand.
Cortez came just in time.

The friars say I was given to the church
through a misunderstanding:
it seems my parents were among
the first few thousand converts,
heeded the exhortation to plunder
their former idols.
It seems they were hoping
to save their own skins
from the pox.

Imitatio Cristi indeed–a lamb of God
ready for the spit
before I even reached the age of reason.
Now turned scapegoat, put out
to find forage in the desert.
Free to harangue
every whirlwind.

(To be continued.)

El Donado – “The Donated One”: In the early years of the Conquest, Indian children were donated to – or kidnapped by – a religious order and raised as servants and oblates. Many among the idealistic first wave of Franciscans, Dominicans and Jesuits dreamed of creating a Christian utopia in the New World, and assumed that the Vatican would soon grant permission for full native admission to the priesthood and religious orders. This never happened. The sincerity of Native American Christians remained suspect for hundreds of years – and in fact is still distrusted by conservative Catholics for whom any hint of syncretism or deviation from Western European cultural norms is tantamount to heresy.

This Indian Marcos is an invented character who first appeared by name in Cibola 80, and was mentioned in a couple of the “Marcos” sections. I picture him as a non-Nahuatl native of what is now central Mexico, perhaps an Otomí­.

A night wind, an obsidian mirror: Traditional pre-Christian images for the divine.

Tlaloc: God of the earth or underworld, which native Mesoamerican peoples picture as an all-devouring monster or serpent (but also as the main afterlife destination, the place we visit in dreams, and to some extent a mirror of the aboveground world).

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