The Chronicle of Michoacan

Article excerpt

The Chronicle of Michoacan

THE great stories of history tell us about beginnings: the creation of the earth, its first inhabitants, and the coming of the gods and of the beings they created.

The Chronicle of Michoacan is one of the few texts--the books of the Chilam Balan of the Mayas of Yucutan and the Popol Vuh of the Quiche Mayas are others--which tell us about these beginnings. Thanks to the Western system of writing, it catches the verbal magic of the fabled past of the people of Michoacan when, after centuries of wandering amid tribal warfare, there came the first signs of the destiny of a nation which played a vital part in the civilizations of Central America.

Stricken in its vitals, with its temples in ruins, its gods overthrown and, worst of all, the one incarnation of the god Curicaueri, the Cazonci Tangaxoan Tzintzicha, fallen and enslaved by the Conquistador Nu no de Guzman, the Porhepecha Kingdom was unable to put up a fight. The men of this warlike people were struck motionless by a holy dread, and fighting was out of the question.

The Indians sent these new gods offerings by way of greeting. But they were soon to realize that these terrifying messengers from the other world had not come to bring the answer to their prayers and receive their offerings; they had come to fulfil the doom-laden sayings of the oracles.

The news of the destruction of the opposing empire of Tenochtitlan brought no solace to the Cazonci; it perturbed him even more. "Who are you?' he asked Montano, the first Spaniard to set foot on his territory. "Where are you from? What are you seeking? For we have never heard tell of men such as you, nor seen such men. …