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from the October 2005 issue

Origins of the Indians in the New World

Note: This poem was originally written in Zapoteco. It was first published in Valencia, Spain, in 1607. Fray Gregorio had heard the story from Zapotecs. The work is a fragment. The name 1-deer, referring to two gods, is probably a calendrical. Mesoamerican thinking is dualistic; gods generally have both male and female forms.

In the time, in the day
of darkness and gloom,
before the coming of days or years,
the world being in darkness,
when all was in chaos or confusion,
the earth was covered with water,
there was only mud and slime
on the face of the earth.
In that time...
there appeared, there was visible
a god who was named 1-Deer,
and was also known as Lion Serpent,
and a very beautiful goddess who was named 1-Deer
and was also known as Tiger Serpent.
These two were said to have been the first
of all the other gods...
After those two gods appeared
and were visible in the world
in human form,
stories were told of these people,
who with their omnipotence, their wisdom,
made and established a great stone
on which they built sumptuous palaces,
made with glorious craftsmanship
which were their seat, their dwelling on earth.
And atop the highest part
of the house, the residence of these gods,
there was a copper hatchet,
the edge facing up,
toward the sky.
This stone and palaces
were on a very high hill,
next to the village of Apoala...
This rock was called the
"the place of the sky,"
where there were many centuries
of rest and happiness,
as in a place both pleasant and delightful,
in this time
of a world in darkness.

There were then these gods,
father and mother of all the gods,
in their palaces.
They had two sons, very handsome,
prudent and wise in all the arts.
The first was called
Wind of Nine Serpents,
which was the name taken on the day he was born.
The second was named
Wind of Nine Caves,
which was also the name of the day of his birth.
These two boys
were raised in great luxury.
The older one, when he sought recreation,
turned into an eagle,
one who went flying at great heights.
The second transformed himself into a small animal,
in the form of a serpent with wings,
that flew in the air with such agility and grace,
that entered into the rocks and walls
and made himself invisible...

Published in Origen de los indios del Nuevo Mundo, by Fray Gregorio García, Fondo de Cultura Econónomica, 1981, México, pp. 327-328.

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