June 26, 2008

Misty morning, the temples and pyramids of Tikal rise out of the fog. Monkeys swing and a toucan flies by, followed by a pair of parrots. Our guide's name is Roxy, and she has been a tour guide since her father, a prominent Guatemalan politician, was exiled to the jungle in the late 70s.

We climb over 200 steps to sit at the top of Temple IV. The jungle is a cacaphony of birds. It is breezy and, for the first time in weeks, cool.

Roxy tells us of learned Mayan King-Priests who held the secret knowledge of mathematics and architecture and astronomy and agriculture, using their mystical skills passed down generation by generation to cultivate the faith of the people. She tells us of the honor of being sacrificed as a messager to the gods. And of the shame in being sacrificed as a demonstration of power. We talk of the Venus War Games and of the 100 year drought and of gods and of rain and kings and priests and commoners. And also, seemngly intermixed, come the stories of the assassination of Roxy's father, of the machine gun fire when the guerillas took Tikal, of the utter brutality of the Guatemalan military as soldiers gunned down hundreds of innocent villagers.

Flint knives or machine guns, head-dresses or camoflauge, pleas to Chuc or to Jesu Christo, territorial wars and power struggles, it is all the same.