Souvenirs

Back in February 1979, I was on vacation in Mexico, where I spent four nights in Guadalajara. That was a truly a memorable time to be there. I was glad I'd made my reservations back in October. If I hadn't, I definitely would never have gotten a hotel room, and I'd have missed out on one of the most truly memorable events of my life.

The new El Gran Caciquesimo (Supreme High Priest) of the Aztecs had received his Investiture about one month earlier. He'd been going around the Country, performing sacrifices in all the major Cities. He'd arrived in Guadalajara the same day as me. While I was there, he would actually be immolating devout Aztec maidens under the midday sun. That truly would be one memorable event.

The immolations were scheduled to take place on the day following my arrival. Beyond that, the immolations and the mariachis wouldn't be the only entertainment in town. That week, the American Jazz Musician Dave Brubeck was also performing at the Opera House in the evening.

While I have nothing against Dave Brubeck, I hadn't just come all the way to Mexico, to listen to an American Jazz performance. That week, in the evenings, while the local people along with El Gran Caciquesimo were attending the concerts in the Opera House, we Turistas Americanos went to listen to the mariachis at El Patio Tapatio.

El Patio Tapatio is a small open plaza with tables set out under large, straw umbrellas. Mariachi groups stroll among the tables, performing tunes to entertain the customers. Different groups play different melodies at the same time, filling the air with melodious confusion.

My first evening there, I was seated at one table, having a glass of Corona Cerveza, along with a plate of burritos with rice and refried beans. At the table next to mine, three stylishly dressed, local Guadalajaran girls in their late teens, sat chatting amiably, while also drinking Corona Cervezas. They had black hair, dark skin and full figures.

One of the girls noticed the Berlitz Spanish/English Dictionary on the table beside my snack plate. She smiled at me and spoke in a friendly tone.

"Good night." She said, "Are you American?"

"Yes." I smiled back. "My name is Frank."

"Hola Frank. My name is Yolanda. She is Pilar, and she is Juanita. We'd like to practice talk English with you."

"Thank you." I said, "Would you all like to join me?"

They came over and sat around my table, bringing their glasses of cerveza with them.

Yolanda asked, "So how do you like Mexico so far, Frank?"

"Oh," I said, "it's beautiful. Hay muy hermosa."

"'Bonita'." All three girls spoke in unison, correcting my Spanish. Then they giggled.

I repeated the word, "'Bonita'."

They giggled again.

Now Pilar spoke, "Have you come to attend the Sacrifices tomorrow?"

"Well, I hadn't intended to. I'm here on vacation, as un turisto. I had no idea that any sacrifices would be taking place, here in Guadalajara, until I got on the aiplane this morning."

She asked with a pleading voice, "Well are you going to attend?"

I spoke honestly, "I'm really not sure."

"Oh please do!" She spoke with intensity, while Yolanda and Juanita nodded with smiling eagerness.

"Oh sure." I said, "If it's that important to you, why not? It ought to be very interesting."

"Good. I'd like you to be there to watch. Tomorrow at midday, I will be going to el Paraiso."

When she said that, I was totally caught off guard.

"You're going to Paradise? Are you one of the maidens who're gonna be sacrificed?"

"Si." She grinned and nodded along with the other two.

That was when one of the mariachi bands came up to the table.

The Leader said, "Pardoneme senor. Would you and the senoritas like us to play a cancion for you?"

I looked at the girls. They nodded.

"What song would you like to hear?"

I wasn't sure. I was still too startled to think of anything to say.

I forced myself to say something. "I'm not sure what the titles of any mariachi songs are."

Now Juanita said, "'La Bikina'."

The other two agreed, "'La Bikina'."

I went along with them and repeated, 'La Bikina'."

Then the men in the broad sombreros and colorful outfits surrounded us. They began strumming their guitars; playing their trumpets and trombones, while loudly serenading us in a cheerful tone. The girls and I sat there tapping our feet on the ground, and our fingers on the table, in time to the lively beat.

As the performance went on, I felt a girl's hand on top of mine. Pilar had reached across the table, and was gripping my fingers, while smiling sweetly. I smiled back.

Then the serenade ended. We and everyone at the tables in El Patio Tapatio applauded. Then I paid the Band Leader. He and his Group went on to the other tables. The girls and I went back our cervezas.

Pilar again reached out, and gripped the fingers of my left hand in hers.

"Frank." She said, "I want to make foqi with you tonight."

"What!" I hadn't expected her to come right out and say it!

"Foqifoqi. You nice looking man, and I want you to give me foqifoqi tonight."

Now she, Yolanda and Juanita all grinned at me lustily.

I looked around cautiously. Then I lowered my voice. "You're not asking for dinero, are you?"

Now Yolanda told me, "Oh, don't get the wrong idea. We are not putas. We are good girls. I am a good girl, so is Juanita and so is Pilar."

"Then what...?"

Pilar told me, "I am a good girl. Tomorrow at midday, I will be sacrificed. Tomorrow night I will be a dead girl; so tonight I want to make foqifoqi with a nice looking man."

"Oh I see."

Yolanda said, "Juanita and I are good girls, who will someday get married and have children. Pilar is a good girl too, but she will not be able to do those things; so the best she can do is make foqi tonight."

Pilar gave me a seductive smile, "Would you like to make foqi with me tonight Frank?"

I told them, "I thought that sacrificial maidens were supposed to be virgins."

Juanita chuckled. "If that was so, all the gods would be starving."

Then all three of them laughed again.

That's when I agreed to Pilar's request. She and I got up from the table; so did Yolanda and Juanita. I paid the bill, then Pilar and I departed from the bright lights and lively music of La Patio Tapatio, and went along a dimly lit street. The other two girls walked along beside us.

I asked Yolanda, "What are you two doing? You're not planning to join in, are you?"

All three of them laughed.

Then Yolanda told me, "It's not what you think. You see, Juanita and I are Pilar's duenas."

"Chaperones?"

"Yes. She is chosen to be sacrificed, and we have been appointed to escort her, and see to it that she doesn't...how do you call it?"

Juanita told me, "We are supposed to see to it that she doesn't 'chicken out and run away'."

Pilar sighed, and rolled her eyes in annoyance. "I do not like the implication. It means that people think that I would actually do something so disgraceful. If I did, I'd end up in jail."

Juanita told her, "Nobody thinks that way about you Pilar. It's just part of the tradicion. Every sacrificial maiden is escorted by duenas."

Pilar looked at me, and spoke with indignation, "Anybody who would act so disgracefully, would never be chosen for sacrifice in the first place. Anyone who did would end up in jail."

Yolanda said, "Sorry amiga, we know you are a good girl, but that is the tradicion, and it must be observed."

We walked three blocks along a quiet, dark and narrow street. Then we stopped at a small hotel, where the girls had already rented a room.

Pilar and I went to the hotel room, stepped inside and locked the door. Yolanda and Juanita waited outside, while Pilar and I made foqifoqi for about an hour. Then we left the hotel room, and left the hotel. When we went outside, me and the three girls stood on the sidewalk beside the entrance.

Pilar told her friends, "Frank makes muy bueno foqifoqi. If you want to be bad girls, he's good."

I said, "Gracias. I think."

Then all three of them laughed.

Juanita asked me, "Are you coming to the Sacrifices tomorrow?"

"I don't think so."

Pilar sounded disappointed. "Why not? When they have the Comida Sacrificio tomorrow evening, I'd like you to be one of the people who eat me."

I told her, "But after what just went on with us, I like you too much. I not only don't want to watch something bad happening to you, I don't want to take any part in it myself."

"But it is not a bad thing. I will be going to el Paraiso. There is no better thing than that."

"Oh I understand your beliefs, but I just don't want to see your body getting ripped open, and your beating heart ripped out. I also don't want to watch you being cooked and eaten by anybody either. I'd rather remember you as you are tonight."

She smiled, "Oh Frank. That is a very sweet thing to say. When I get to el Paraiso, I will tell the gods that I would like them to do good things for you."

She came over, and gave me a chaste kiss on the cheek.

Then all three Aztec good girls said "Buenas noches", turned around and walked off together into the night.

The following day I decided to totally avoid going anywhere in sight of the Temple, where the sacrifices would be performed. I instead took a guided tour going outside Guadalajara, to the village of Tequila.

The Tour included a visit to the Herradura Tequila Distillery, where we watched the entire process of the beverages' manufacture. This included watching the hearts of maguey cactus being ripped apart, and the sap, which would be distilled into Tequila, pouring out.

The time was around midday, and I wondered if the same thing was happening to Pilar, at the same time. I couldn't get that out of my mind, so I was unable to enjoy the tour.

We returned to Guadalajara a little after 1:30 in the afternoon. I wanted to avoid the Plaza the sacrifices had taken place, but I was hungry, and the Plaza was directly between my hotel and the restaurante where I wanted to go for lunch.

I decided that I might as well get it over with. I'd just walk across the Plaza without stopping.

So I went outdoors under the hot, early afternoon sun, and my path took me along the sidewalk that goes directly past the ten foot high stone temple, where the sacrifices had been performed at midday.

As past by, I saw the sacrificed maiden lying on her back atop the stone of sacrifice, dressed in only a very short skirt and sandals. A deep gash had been ripped open between her bare breasts, from where her beating heart had been torn out. Her entire body was soaked in blood. It covered her torso, upper legs, arms, face and most of her hair. The portion of her hair, that wasn't thick with blood, was blonde.

Blonde?

I looked more closely at her. Her face was not Pilar's.

I recognized her. I'd met her the day before, on the plane from Mexico City. I think she'd said her name was Janice. She'd told me that she was an American Convert to the Aztec Religion. She had come here on a pilgrimage, and was "...delighted" that she'd be attending sacrifices conducted by the New Gran Caciquesimo himself.

I wondered just how overjoyed she'd been, when she'd found herself participating in the festivities this way.

I walked on further, and realized that if Janice was sacrificed, what had happened with Pilar?

I remembered asking the girls, whether sacrificial maidens were supposed to be virgins. In spite of their laughing assurances, I hoped that Pilar wasn't in any kind of trouble for our foqifoqi. If she was, I wondered if I would be too.

If I was, just how much trouble would it be?

Then I remembered that Yolanda and Juanita had been her duenas, and they'd encouraged us; so how much trouble could there possibly be?

On the other hand; What if that wasn't the reason? What if she actually had chickened out and run away? If she had, that would be a very serious felony. Would I be implicated in some way? Would I have to face questioning by La Policia?

I spent the rest of my stay in Guadalajara, wondering if La Policia would arrest me, and send me to a local carcel, for who know's how long. I did not enjoy the rest of my stay in Guadalajara.

On the final night before my departure to my next destination, I had my suitcase packed, when there was a knock on the door.

I thought, No trouble! Please no trouble!

I went to the door and opened it. Yolanda and Juanita were both standing there, smiling.

"Hola Frank." Yolanda said, "We have something to give you, from Pilar."

"Pilar?" There was distress in my voice. "Then she wasn't sacrificed?"

The both looked puzzled.

Juanita said, "Oh she was. Sacrificed, cooked and eaten."

Yolanda reached in her handbag, and took out a woman's shrunken head, about the size of a baseball. I looked at its miniaturized features.

"It's Pilar?"

"Yes. She wanted you to have her cabezita (little head), for buena suerte."

"Thank you." I told her, "I truly appreciate this, but I don't know if I'd be allowed to bring any cabezitas through American Customs."

"No problem."

She reached in her handbag again and took out a small manila envelope.

"This contains a document for you to show to any Customs official. This certifies that the cabezita is a sacred object, intended for use in religious observances, and he will allow you to keep it."

About a week later, I returned to the U.S. Yolanda had been right. When I went through Customs at Kennedy Airport, I showed the document, and was allowed to keep Pilar's cabezita.

That was 30 years ago. I still have Pilar's cabezita among my souvenirs. She hasn't aged. I remember her saying that she'd ask the Aztec Gods to do good things for me, so whenever I look at her cabezita, I feel good about it.

I also have a Kodakcolor snapshot, that I took of Janice's blood soaked corpse, with my Instamatic Camera. I wonder if she's been putting in a good word for me with the Aztec gods too.