The tepee is much better to live in: always clean, warm in the winter, cool in the summer, easy to move... Indians and animals know better how to live than white man; nobody can be in good health if he does not have all the time: fresh air, sunshine and good water.

Flying Hawk 1852 – 1931

Chief of the Lakota

Statement before his death

After breakfast, Robert used the fact that Willie was late to finish unpacking. He smiled when he saw the brown felt hat that Amber had bought for him. She would get a kick out of knowing what Diana had told him last night about the General. He was not so amused when he found the revolver. If it hadn’t been for Willie getting him through customs so easily, he might be sitting in some jail right now. He put it away and decided he would find a way to get rid of it before the trip back home. Amber would be grounded for a month, with no allowance. She had to learn that life is not a Humphrey Bogart movie.

When Willie showed up, Robert questioned him about Diana’s statement. Willie explained that General Torres is the commander for the Guardia Nacional in charge of counterinsurgency operations. He helps the University by providing security for the teams on digs in the mountains. With the amount of uniforms he’d seen since arriving, it all made sense. He knew Latin America could be a dangerous place.

At the office, after working on the translations all morning, Robert was about to go get some lunch when he had a visitor. A tall gentleman, dressed in a European cut suit of grey wool, entered without knocking.

“Dr. Clairbourne? Doctor Ortero said I would find you here. Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Tomas Quintero. I am Minister or Culture and Director for the Museo Nacional. I would like to speak with you about your work here.”

“Senor Quintero, I was just about to get something to eat. Will you join me? Or perhaps you would like to stay here? I can get something later.”

“No. I would be delighted to join you. In fact, I know a delightful little restaurant. Then we can go to the museum for a moment. I would like you to see it.”

“Fine, let me just put these away.”

Quintero looked at the codex and sighed, “They are beautiful, no?”

Robert stopped and looked at him. “Have you gotten a chance to look at them closely?”

“Only once. I am hoping that there will be ample time to study them closer. After you have finished the translations, of course.”

A chauffeured Mercedes took them to a restaurant that served a menu of traditional Peruvian dishes. Expensive, tastefully decorated, with authentic cuisine. [note: describe food] Robert was pleased, he liked Latin cooking. After they had ordered, Senor Quintero looked at Robert closely and asked, “What do you think of our country, Senor?”

After a moment of thought, Robert answered, “I think it is beautiful. I don’t only mean visually, which is obvious. The Andes are magnificent. The Spanish colonial architecture is superb. The Pre-Columbian ruins, mind-boggling. And the people, the people are warm and friendly.”

The food came and was delicious. As they ate, Robert spoke of the other visits he had made to Peru. The dig he assisted at Chavin de Huantar while still in school. The class field trip he brought down from the United States while teaching at Columbia University, his first real job in the profession. His honeymoon that lasted four months. He and Ilene had loved their way through six South American countries. There were many fond memories.

When the strong and flavorful coffee arrived, Senor Quintero offered a good Cuban cigar. Robert relaxed in the company of this elegant, graceful, and intelligent man. “The thing I love most is the mystery. Peru is like a piece of a puzzle. A giant puzzle that we don’t have all the pieces to. I’m not even sure that we know what the ultimate significance of the final picture is. Or that we ever will know. It fascinates me to try and put the pieces together. Sometimes it’s a bit frustrating. It’s a race. A race against developers that build over potential areas. Against farmers that cultivate the land for an ever increasing population. Most of all against the looters that pillage the archaeological dig sites for selfish collectors in the developed nations. They do a lot of damage chopping up architectural masterpieces into small, sellable pieces, to be smuggled out of the country, often before professionals can even examine them.”

In the car, Senor Quintero told Robert, “Sometimes I feel like a policeman. I spend as much time trying to figure out ways to keep artifacts from being stolen from the sites and smuggled out of Peru as I do in my other duties. The puzzle that you speak of is extremely important. There are so many things to be learned from these civilizations. Things that will ultimately teach us about ourselves.”

[describe sites on the way to the museum, what the outside of the museum and surrounding buildings look like, some history or whatever about arriving there, etc.]

At the museum, they toured the displays of artifacts from every aspect of Pre-Columbian life. Robert recognized one of thee brownish, dark-fired, stirrup-mounted jars that had been found while he was working at Chavin de Huantar. The display of gold items was almost as beautiful as that in the Gold Museum in Bogota, Columbia.

In front of the glimmering showcase, Senor Quintero turned to Robert, no longer the smiling bon vivant. “All you say of Peru is true. I have no disagreement on the issues you have raised. There is another perspective that must be considered, though, that of the people, the very nation itself. I asked you what you thought of my country and you answered as a scientist would. It was a good answer, but I beg of you for just a moment to see another truth.”

The glimmer of light from one of the emeralds in a gold sacrificial dagger caught Robert’s eye and he stared at it. This moment was obviously the reason for Quintero’s visit. He knew that he had been manipulated toward it all afternoon, but Robert didn’t mind. IF this thoughtful man took this much time from his schedule to try and persuade him of something, the least he could do was listen. “I pride myself on being open-minded and trying to see all sides of a situation. Please, go on.”

Gesturing toward the lavish display of jewels and precious metals, Senor Quintero spoke as if his mind was somewhere else. “This is what started it all. I sometimes find it amusing, when I realize how little things change. Did you know that the Incas called gold and silver ‘the sweat of the sun’ and ‘the tears of the moon’?” His eyes refocused, as if coming back to this reality, and he continued, “Let’s go to my office, it is right upstairs. We can continue our discussion and I have some fine Spanish brandy, very old.”

The secretary, a middle-aged old woman, reminded the minister that he had several appointments, and a student that had been waiting in the outer office was asking to see him. Senor Quintero told his secretary to remake his dates and to include the young man on tomorrow’s calendar. He then asked not to be disturbed and showed Robert into a wood-paneled room with leather furniture.

One wall was completely covered by a bookcase with leather bound volumes that certainly included many first editions. Robert loved old books, all kinds. Leaded crystal snifters with honey colored liquid and fresh cigars set the scene for these two intricate minds and articulate voices to meet.

Instead of sitting behind his impressive mahogany desk, Senor Quintero got comfortable in the high-backed chair adjacent to Robert. “Peru is an old nation. We have an ancient history. There have been finds of sites that are some of the oldest in the Americas, as I’m sure you know. The cultures this land has produced, in many ways, were the greatest the world has seen. I do not want to bore you with facts I’m sure you are already aware of, but I understand that your expertise is in the Mayan culture of Central America. They, too, were a great people; we share many similarities. The great flowering of Peru, under the Inca, was unlike anything known before. Only in the last few years have we even begun to understand the loss that Pizzaro caused in the year fifteen thirty-two.

“Their empire was only beginning, great as it was, when the first European plague ravished this land and, by killing the great emperor, started the civil war that eventually opened the way for Spanish fortune hunters to rape and pillage. The temples were looted. The intelligentsia, murdered. The wealth melted to bullion and taken to Europe.

“In place of the glory that once was, there was now an alien religion, a foreign language, masters of a different race, and a country that could not feed itself. I do not propose to turn back the march of history. Many nations have suffered a similar fate. In fact, all that could not oppose the might of modern arms and numbers. I do think it is my duty to try and stop the process that continues to this very day.

“Look at my country. The Indians whose land it once was are left only scraps that no one else wants. A government that has only the health of its own pockets to be concerned for. In the countryside, the Sendero Luminoso, a group that seems to offer only violence as an alternative. I do not condone their methods, but their fight is not a new one. It only represents the continuing struggle of the majority to gain some control over their own destiny. To have some dignity and hope. I sometimes wonder if violence isn’t necessary.

“I would like to take you to the new towns in the suburbs of Lima and show you what these people, my people, are capable of with no resources to speak of.

“If hat industriousness could be channeled, if a national pride could be instilled to join all the sectors, we could again be a great nation.

“The project you are working on is very important to my country. It is vital that this wealth and knowledge remain here and be used to rebuild the nation.

“I like you Mister Clairbourne, but I must tell you that I shall do everything in my power to insure that this part of our heritage is not taken from its rightful owners. I ask you frankly and honestly, and I shall accept your answer as a gentleman. Do you intend to be party to this act of pillage? Are you planning to steal the treasure?”

“Senor Quintero, I will answer you in the same spirit that you’ve asked me. No. I am not here for any sinister purpose whatsoever. I am exactly the person I appear to be. I’m not a spy or terrorist. l I don’t work for any agency of any government. I’m just an archaeologist looking to try and add to the knowledge about Pre-Columbian America.

“We can do a complete translation here. We can bring in other experts to analyze dates and other information. I don’t see any reason why it should leave the country.”

A confused look came over Quintero. “Then you are not helping General Torres to take the treasure out of Peru?”

Now it was Robert who was confused. There was the General’s name again. “Of course not. I don’t eve know a General Torres. I’m here only to do a translation of the codex, on behalf of the Institute in New York. That’s all.”

“Forgive me for giving you the speech, Senor. I misunderstood the purpose of your visit. I... well, let me say, I thought that the translation was only a pretense so that you could find a reason to take the entire find to the United States. My apologies.”

“They aren’t necessary. I’ve enjoyed myself tremendously and learned a lot about the general situation. I’m glad you came to see me, and I would definitely like to take you up on the trip you mentioned. Now, I think that the brandy is starting to get to me a bit. I think I’ll go back to the hotel and call it a day.”

“Of course. I’ll have my driver take you back. If there is any way I can be of service while you are in Peru, please do not hesitate to call my office. Marguerita always knows where I can be located.”

“Thank you very much.”


That night Robert slept fitfully, dreaming. Itzan stood in an open meadow, the temple of the sun at his back. He beckoned Robert to come closer. In a formal, yet friendly voice, he spoke, “Welcome. We have waited patiently for your arrival.”

Robert was confused and asked, “Where are we? It seems familiar yet it’s somehow different..”

Itzan smiled gently.

“We are just outside Uxmal in the land that has come to be called Yucatan, land of the Maya, place of my youth. It is familiar because you have been here. It is different because it is, as it once was.”

Robert looked around at the temples and buildings. He knew some only as ruins, others were totally new to him.

“Why have you brought me here?”

Itzan’s expression became serious. “So that you may see the one world for yourself, as it was. In so doing, begin to comprehend the crime that has been committed. We have sought you out, Robert Clairbourne, to be our instrument of righteousness. Not to take vengeance, for that would be foolishness. The world is, as it is, full of injustice, misery, and sorrow. There is occasional joy and happiness through the fears but only when a man has the vision of wisdom and courage enough to do the right thing, no matter the cost to himself. We believe you capable of being such a man. This is your vision.”

More confused than ever, Robert asked, “What am I supposed to do?”

The beautiful smile retrned to Itzan’s face. “You will know. Follow your heart. Here is the key.”

Itzan handed Robert the stone doll he had played with as a child; it seemed to appear from nothingness. Robert took it from him and it disappeared.

“She will show you the way.” With these words, Itzan faded and Robert took another look at the beauty that lay before him.

When he woke, he remembered the dream, not as a dream but as a vivid actual experience. Who was the “she” Itzan referred to? Itzan was no longer a symbol to him but a real person, speaking through the veil of the ages.


My lord and protector, as I begin this part of my tale, I beg your indulgence and hope I do not try your patience too closely. Of the many adventures the gods have chosen for me, the following is in many ways the most trying to my soul. Not for its difficulties or trials, but because of the beauty and joy. Having known ecstasy, it has been difficult to continue life with its normal share of brutality and pain. This recollection deals with my own and most personal memories and I doubt its value as history. I write it because it is what happened, and is the tapestry into which one or two pertinent threads are maybe woven.

My father had received word that the priest of one of our many far-flung missionary outposts had died. He had lived to an old age, and his area had begun to stray from the Way. My father decided that he would like my brother and I to be away from the decadence of the capital and in a land where true learning might be appreciated.

We sailed for many days along the coast, at the beginning of the planting time. The weather was perfect for the journey and the tide was with us. The leader of our canoe pointed out the shores of different tribes like the Chichimeca that he described as savages, running completely naked and killing all who would venture too close. Later, we could see a desert and although we needed supplies, our leader would not land saying this is the home of the Yaqui.

After countless long runs, we came to the mouth of a river larger than any I had ever seen. It was so powerful that many miles out to sea, the water was sweet and the color clouded with silt. The leader had made this journey before and was familiar with the currents and sand bars that would have sent most canoes far out to sea.

Along the banks of the river, the villages were almost side by side. It was apparent that this was a heavily populated country, backward as it may be.

[note: description of Natchez]

Having spent so many years in Tenochtitlan, I had gotten used to the luxury and conveniences of the imperial city. Of course, I had traveled with my uncle on many of his trading expeditions, but they were journeys with definite purpose and duration. This was to be different. Part of me resented this exile among semi-civilized people.

I was not prepared for what confronted us when the canoe came to rest at the shore.

[note: describe city]

A long canoe arrived from Bohio (substitute?) with ten men, two women, and children aboard. It seemed to be a merchant [note: use Indian name]. In fact, the leader was a regular visitor to this area. But he did not come for business this time. The cargo was not trade goods but his own personal possessions.

His news was very bad and so incredible it was difficult to believe, but after having met the bearded ones to face, I did not doubt the merit of his tale. I repeat it here in his words as well as I can remember.

The bearded ones first arrived on the short of Cuba (Boho) twelve years ago. I happened to be there from the start. It was obvious that they were dangerous. They had strange new weapons. Thundersticks that spit fire. Metal balls make gruesome wounds in your body, from many times the distance that a good archer can loose an arrow. Their swords are made of metal, not copper or gold, but some new form they call “steel.” It is very hard and will cut a wooden war club in two and break a stone ax.

Their canoes are as large as one of your temples with many wings that catch the wind so that they do not have to row. They wear clothes made of the same material as the swords; an arrow bounces off them.

Worst of all, they ride huge animals all the time. They can command the animals to go wherever they will and at speeds that will leave your fastest runner in its dust.

Their first canoe to arrive was commanded by a somewhat honorable man, but even he could not control his crew. One of our village caciques made pact with him. He wound up going back to their mother country, which they call Espana, in chains, as a slave, never to return.

Soon many more boats arrived bringing women and tradesmen. They built forts. They took many of our people as slaves. Most died, so now they have enslaved the island itself. I cooperated with them in order to keep my canoe and servants. [later, on page 74, you say that he managed to keep his canoe by keeping it in a hidden cove} What they value most is gold and silver; more than life itself.

All of the men who are capable must work in holes, digging out the metals that the bearded ones crave, with no sunshine and very little food. They are dying by the thousands. Any woman of child bearing age is available to their amusement. My own wife was dishonored. One of my daughters was used by many white men on one night and then kept by one. She killed herself. She was fourteen [Mayan date].

Our people tried to organize a defense; it was hopeless. The villages were captured very quickly. The bearded ones built walls around them with huge war houses that have fire machines that throw deadly metal. Some of our men went to the mountains. They were hunted down like animals. Our weapons nearly useless. My eldest son was cut in half by a mounted metal man. Ten thousand were killed in a single battle from fifteen thousand of our most valiant warriors. There were only 350 of the metal men.

By making pacts with certain tribes, they have turned us against each other. Not that warfare was anything new. I am Taino, from the island of Borinquen. We are of the same nation as the Cubanos; Arawak, our people, rule all of the major islands. Everyone knows that the Caribs have always wanted power in our islands. We have been enemies for many tuns. But our war was different. There were few mortal wounds received in a large battle. The main emphasis was on bravery. Skill with your weapon was what was important. That meant winning the other man, not killing him. The point was to prove your bravery and humiliate your enemy.

Against the weapons of the bearded ones, we are helpless. Their warriors stay outside the distance of our best spear thrower using an atlatle and archers. Their fire sticks are as accurate as our best archers from three times the distance. Even their arrows are different. They are small and so is the bow. But with twice the range and enough power to cut through the metal clothes they wear themselves.

Our warriors have captured some of their weapons. We do not understand the firesticks. A few of our braves finally solved the problem of the black powder necessary to make firesticks work. I know nothing of it; most of those having learned are already dead in battle.

Their black-robed priests are very strange. Their gods are even stranger than the strangest gods of the ?. The black robes all carry a symbol like this. Just a cross with a tiny man nailed to it. I have one carved of stone by one of my workers who converted to their faith. It shall be a gift to you for your hospitality and welcome.

The black robes have thrown down all of our gods and forbidden their worship publicly and in private. The temples that were not destroyed were turned into temples of the new gods. This cross put into all the places that had belonged to our gods for all times. They made all the people stand in the plaza and poured water on our heads as they said words in a language that even the interpreters did not understand. I did not understand their words as translated to me. Something about there being only one god in three manifestations: an old man who lives in the clouds, an ordinary wood worker, and a bird or tongue of fire... very confusing.

They then told us that we were heathen savages and have been saved from burning in a black pit after we died. Our gods were only pieces of stone. The cross was god. They also pray to God’s mother. Her image is in all of their temples. They seem to have many lesser gods also, called “santos.” All of their gods seem to have power over the same things as our gods did. They pray to different gods for particular desires and requests, just as we did.

Most of the people still worship the old gods secretly at home. Our priests that were not killed still serve in secret ceremonies. They have started to call the old gods by the names of the new ones when in public.

Their priests do no good for the people as ours did. They only preach submission to the constant prayers of relief. They told us that their god wanted us to be slaves for the bearded one. To work hard always. Do what we are told. And above all, no violence. To kill would mean eternity in the burning pit. Even in defense of our homes and families.

The hungry could not take food from fields that had been his. All of the best maize fields have been taken by the church, others to their caciques as prizes of their deeds in combat against us. Many more arrive all the time. They are building a large village on each island with huge houses made of stone. They cut the forest. Take all of the best land near the streams and have us work it, planting crops for them.

They have brought other animals. Fat creatures that live in filth. And ones that are larger than deer with much more meat. The hunting grounds are destroyed. All of the canoes have been destroyed, so fishing is not possible. I saved mine in a hidden cove and was allowed certain privileges because of my value in gold received in my trade with the Maya of Yucatan, and because they liked to listen to my tales of that land.

Borinquen, my home, is destroyed. As is Cuba and (Qisqueya) Hispanica [note: find Indian name]. Coming across the great water from Cuba, I saw two more winged canoes. They fired on us, but a fog bank hid us. Even travel is not safe.

The merchant was welcomed by the village along with his family and servants. He and my uncle conducted trade. His son took a wife. His daughter married me.

I had often had sex with the temple prostitutes since I was young, and with girls in different lands and different people; one of the advantages of traveling with my uncle. But I had not found a woman among my own Maya or any others to share my life with. While her father spoke, when they first arrived, her eyes were on my face.

We wed as soon as we could. Thinking of that time brings much joy. She was the best woman I have known besides my mother. She was soon with child. I decided not to continue travel upriver with my uncle. I would wait at the village with my new family until he returned. I would then take them back to Uxmal. It would be several years before that time, as the river is endless with many branches. My uncle would return with many trade goods.

The next few years were the happiest of my life. Simple times. The warmth of a good woman, two sons, hunting, rest, looking forward to going back to Yucatan and starting a home of my own.

F I R S T - P R E V I O U S - N E X T

Jose Rosa

Jose Rosa

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