To tell stories in our lands of the Americas, reality and dreams, reason, and imagination, history and fable, and life and death are interwoven to form a wonderful, magical, happy, conceptual, and at times, cultural weaving.
And it turns out that for Carpentier the marvellous in Hispanic America was found everywhere: just around every corner, in nature, in chaos, in the picturesque nature of its cities, villages, and its people, and also in their history.
Don Chucho, as Manuel Jesus Vázquez García was fondly known, gives faith to this. Within him there is an abundance of this wonder that is so much a part of us. A writer, nature lover, and gardener, he wrote The Narration of our Ancestors.
Moon Eclipse, the first of the thirteen stories in this volume, tells us:
“Oh my God, today is the moon eclipse! Children, go get the old bucket, the conch shell, the old bottle, and one of you, go by the dry tree and grab the katun (stone mortar) and bang it. Ah! And you, Chocolin, go tell the neighbors….”
“You, tie up the dog, because if you don’t do it, it will turn into a monster and it will eat you,” said an anxious Dona Trifina to her grandchildren.
The grandmother observed the shadows that were covering the moon and she yelled desperately to sound the whip and she insisted that they not stop making noises.
From the distance gunshots could be heard, conch shell horns blowing, and the sound of old cans….all with the healthy intention of saving the moon.
For our Maya ancestors, the moon and sun eclipses represented happenings of great importance that had repercussions on all the agricultural activities. And they believed that when an eclipse occurred, the sun or moon was eating an animal. This was why you could hear gunshots, fireworks, cherry bombs, and the sounds of cans.
After the Moon Eclipse, other customs march through the pages of The Narration of Our Ancestors. Included is the “jeets meek”, a traditional Maya ceremony that could be equated to baptism in Yucatán. This tradition that continues to present day, consists of straddling/carrying the baby on one’s hip. The object is to open the baby’s understanding.
For a baby boy, this ceremony is done at four months because the number four represents the four cardinal points of the fields that will be cultivated. Girls do the ceremony at three months, as three represents the stones on the hearth in the kitchen.
During the baptism ceremony, the godfather or godmother – depending on whether it is a boy or girl baby – holds the godchild and shows it a series of utensils that will be important in their adult lives and gives recommendations for the use of each.
The ceremony ends when the parents of the child offer a gift to the godparent as a sign of thanks. On the other hand, the godparents give a gift to the godchild and invite the parents to a small feast made up of corn dough gordita balls filled with ground pumpkin seeds and a drink made of new corn – atole.
It is thought that the ceremony opens the hip bones of the boys, thus helping them to learn to walk soon and firmly. This is why, when a father sees that his son is slow at walking, he reprimands him and says, “Your godfather didn’t do the jeets meek ceremony correctly.”
Text by: Yurina Fernandez Noa
Email: [email protected]
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