2:00 p.m.

We bump along the white dirt road towards Toni-Na, into a sun that's dissolving night's valley mist. Past campesinos with machetes, straw hats, rubber boots–while army platoon sweeps over nearby pasture hill on maneuver. Get stopt at a little roadblock but passports look good, no problem, on we go. Cowboys chasing strays out of gullies, emerald fields with fibrous agave and little wildflowers, mist trailing midway the mountains. Huts on the hillsides. They used to keep the valley bottoms free for crops. Then came the Spaniards, now it's all cattle–that old Indo-European mystique. Arabian horses, the best–came into Spain with the Moors. Conquistadors brought them to Mexico, and the jungle slowly dies back. Under camouflage net a tank with cannon leveled at the road. Trenches. Sandbags.

          flat ranchland
        whose is it

        colorful unknown birds

      paths EZLN warriors took
        the night NAFTA went into effect

        this is the road

          to Ocosingo

As the car swings through fenced entry to Toni-Na, past Rancho Guadalupe's fortified cattleman gates, a dusty armored truck full of heavily outfitted soldiers rumbles towards us. Pull up by a little bungalow, and turn our foursquare mind towards the ruins.

Folk who built these were rivals of Palenque? One Lord of Palenque at least got sacrificed here under a bloody pink sun. Glyphs on the walls are said to celebrate the event. Rikki & Jonathan lace their high leather boots against "four nostril," lethal snake of the jungle. Barefoot children stand watching, then trail off to play. Anne & I head for the ruins. We pass across a miserable little swamp on wooden walkway–cow carcass off there bloated halfway in murky water–and on to the massive hill of stone that's Toni-Na. One more imperial fortress. Its famous frieze an outsize dancing Death figure

human head swings from one skeletal hand.

Andrew Schelling | Palenque Dream
Contents | Mudlark No. 9