THE HEART OF PETEN

Someone has asked me to write a bit about me. About how I am inspired to write my books. About how I prepare to speak in public, to give motivational talks, or even give Sunday school classes on lessons on a specific topic. It took me a little time to decide to do it and I decided to start talking about the first book I ever wrote. I hope I have not exceeded in the length of what you wanted because this publication is a bit long, but I would like you to read it in full and enjoy it.

During my youth, I was living in a place called Pueblo Nuevo Suchitepéquez, a small town inhabited mostly by indigenous people, who were almost all Mayan descendants. I was a very outgoing child, totally different from who I am now. Despite my young age I already knew how to make bread; because I liked to spend long hours in the bakery that was behind the house where I use to live. I used to love it, making bread and especially taking care of it as it was baking, since its smell was fascinating to me; to such a degree that I could spend long hours there without feeling tired. I also enjoyed the long walks I took through the streets of the town, every time my sister, my guardian, who at the time I lived with, left to attend the school that was in another town near where we lived.

One of my favorite places to visit was where the lady who made tamalitos, small balls of corn dough wrapped in banana leaves, sold them so that everyone could buy them to accompany dinner or breakfast. She was a stocky woman, with long black braids, which she adorned with colorful ribbons of various yellows, reds, greens and blue. Her face was round and with a broad smile that was full of confidence. She would always gain attention from the bright colors of her people’s traditional clothes; she never told me her real name, however she always answered me “Call me Maria!”

I was a seemingly beautiful child in Maria’s eyes; she always said to me: “You are a white boy doll taken from a television screen”, at that time people still used black and white television sets. Maria offered to teach me, the Mayan language she spoke. I listened to her, fascinated, every afternoon after I escaped to learn from her. Maria was a very sweet and patient woman. One day while she was teaching me her language, she told me: “This is our secret. If, your sister finds out you came here and that I teach you our language, it will be very bad for me. She does not want me close to you, neither does she want me to teach you our language. She also told me that you are forbidden to make friends with the townspeople; Your sister does not love us; But you are a very intelligent child and if you come here, I will keep teaching you.

Maria told me many stories about of people who traveled to a very distant place, where a gigantic Mayan city full of secrets and treasures was hidden; they extracted that treasures from the land and then sold them in secret to white men, who came from other countries to take those treasures out of Guatemala.

I have always been very curious, that has not changed in me yet, and because of that natural curiosity, I was in love with fascinating and dangerous places, hidden in Peten’s aguanima; and she always told me that she did not agree with what the men of the town did, that they traveled to steal the treasures of those cities to sell them, because María considered that they belonged to her people and to Guatemala.

One day Maria served me a tamalito on a small plate of hard plastic, very common among the people of my country. That day someone came to visit Maria, a tough-looking man, tall, compared to most of the men of the town, and of a dark complexion. Maria introduced me to him and said: -This is Macario, the Mayan Shaman of the town.

Macario came up to me and put his fingers inside my hair in a gentle manner. Then he said, “I wanted to touch your hair, it’s looks as soft as newborn chicken.” He asked me my name and said: – Would you like to learn to dance for the rain? You have a gift that the God of heaven has placed on your head; and I feel that when I touched your head.  You are very special! I know it, because there have been many occasions that I have seen you jump over the rocks of the river, even when its waters are turbulent making its stones slippery. I have also observed how you touch the feathers of birds, without them flying frightened away from you.  Nobody must know that I’m going to teach you how to dance; while Mary teaches you our language with words, I will teach you our body language dancing to the God of heaven.

I listened attentively, while my tamalito cooled. Then I turned to look at Maria and she made direct contact to my eyes. She approached me, bowed to my height to tell me: “Do not be afraid. Macario will never hurt you. Also, I will always be close to you; while you learn to dance with the Maya Shaman.

Maria put a large piece of fresh cheese on my little plate and with the hunger I had I accepted immediately. From then on, my afternoons of escape from home; were divided into two different classes. One inside María’s house to learn her language, of which I do not remember anymore. Another out in the countryside near the river through the coffee plantations or cardamom trees, dancing.

I still remember that I faithfully copied the movements of the dance, following literally as a shadow the steps of Macario. Always dancing without a shirt and without shoes. Until after many days, when I had memorized all the movements of the dance; Macario took me to a desolate place. Maria kept her promise and never left me. The site had many trees, but in the center, there was a space covered in very green grass. The trees that surrounded it formed a circle. There were also many white flowers planted at the foot of the trees, forming a perfect circle. Macario told me to take off my shirt, shoes and socks. Afterwards, he sat down to the side to begin playing an instrument very similar to a drum, but large in size. Maria started playing a flute, then she said: – Dance! For the rain to water our fields. – Dance! So that the harvests are abundant this year. – Dance! So, the God of heaven can give us his abundance. I was very scared, but the music started to wrap around my body, I calmed down. And without thinking, I started dancing following the circle of white flowers. I do not remember the steps of the dance, much less the movements that I made, but I remember how a strange heat invaded my body and sometimes I felt that it burned me. I also remember that I almost closed my eyes in the middle of the dance. And when I finished dancing; truth or coincidence the sky always was dark. It was not long before it started to rain very hard, in the whole town.

Macario and María always became happy. Both told me that I had found blessings in the eyes of the God of heaven; that’s why He sent the rain as a gift for the whole town. Many times, they promised to take me to the heart of the Petén, to meet the lost cities, hidden by time within the magnificent land. They told me they were sure that if I went to Petén, the doors of the aguanima would open to let me see their secrets. Maria said to me: -You must wait to grow so you can come with us.  We must wait till you turn on eighteen years old to travel to Petén. There is a door near a pyramid, which looks like a cave, but inside it is the largest city of aguanima.

All this happened always hidden from my sister and every time Maria asked me to, I danced so that the rain came to town.

One day Macario arrived at Maria’s house in the afternoon, then He asked me: – Would you like to dance a little? You do not have to take off your shoes or your shirt. Here, there are gentlemen who come from another country and want to see you dance. I did not want to do it because I was in my language learning class, but they convinced me. The foreigners, now I know they were Americans, took many pictures of me. That day it was very unlucky to dance inside Maria’s house, because my sister came back early from school and already had spent some time looking for me around town. My sister found me right when I was dancing. She took me by my hair and dragged me out of Maria’s house dropping everything that was in front of me, that day I knew what it was to fly without wings, being pulled tightly by the hair. My sister was furious and told me that I was the village clown making a fool of myself dancing like a drunk in front of everyone. When we arrived at the house I got a beating so tremendous, it made me not want to return to Maria’s house anymore.

Shortly after that happened, we moved to another town called Santo Tomas Union. Where I completely forgot the dance to the God of heaven and the Mayan language I was learning.

My sister enrolled me at school to keep me busy. And one afternoon when I returned from classes I found Macario outside my house. He approached me and, touching my forehead, said to me: “All the gifts that the God of heaven gave you; I take them. You will not need them. I will take them for me, until the time comes when you return to our town, it was then I felt the strangest feeling of something leaving my body. I never returned. I never saw Macario or Maria again. Over time I wrote a book based on what Maria told me and titled it “THE JADE MASK”. I am currently making a new edition of the book to re-publish it, seeing as I wrote the book when I was between 12 and 14 years old. And I’m surprised as I watch the world discover the hidden cities in the heart of Petén. Then I wonder if all the stories that Maria told me were the truth or simple fantasy? Because who wouldn’t like to discover the secrets of Peten’s aguanima?

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