Let me speak the telling of Don Florentino...

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I met Don Florentino in the summer of 1993, when I went to Zacatecas, Mexico, to visit my in-laws with my wife.

They belong to an Indian tribe whose name no one remembers. They live in a small town called Zusticacoya, which means "among mountains." It is a town buried among rocky hills, filled with granite quarry—the "stone of the ages".

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People are direct, cautious, and polite. A fully catholic town, who still remembers "one woman who became a Jehovah Witness when she traveled to the north but came back to the Church because no one listened to her," gives the impression of predictability; a devout Catholic town who knows nothing but their colonial traditions. Zusticacoya: arid land in the middle of a desert; a granite rock unchanged in its views and customs.

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Even the outflow of young men and women traveling to "The North" left the town relatively untouched. Sure, more money poured in and every August dozens of families would come back with trucks of the year and children who spoke English and preferred burgers and fries to homemade food. Even the influence from the North do not seem to change the basic outlook in life, death, and the sense that things are one way and there is no use even talking about it.
It was the second time I visited. I was getting ready for bed, settling down to read some James Ellroy novel when my wife, Maria, came into the room with her younger sister. They were nervous. Smell of fear, and their faces seemed like they had just awoken from a nightmare; or like something that had been hidden for a long time had just been reported missing.

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"Atena has been receiving threatening letters", announced my wife. The letters had appeared next to her bedroom door, they threatened her and her family if she did not exactly as told. She was supposed to seduce her first cousin, a much younger boy, "innocent and kind" they both agreed. The letter also mentioned strange happenings around the house which "proved the power" the writer had. There have been sounds of a horse next to the window of her bedroom, writings on the floor, notes appearing inside pots, and strange noises like animals inside the wall.

I new I needed help when the writer declares in one of his letters that he "lives in the center of the Earth, in the land of Unending Fire." I wasn’t familiar with the sorcerers in this part. From the signs left and the hints I could tell they were intended as a message to inspire fear, but I didn’t know how to connect the dots. Even if I could find out who wrote the threats, I wouldn’t know neither what intent nor what power was behind them.

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I tracked Don Florentino through the art of stalking. Every shadow has a light, just like every super-hero has a villain. They define each other. A dark magick society must have in its very territory a shining light, even if it is a single straw standing against the storm. I went to the hills to the West, looking for the sacred plant that would allow me to contact the power spirits of the region. I was hoping to find a connection with the light which would allow me to track the magician who could help me.
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I followed the flight of the Eagle, a direction with no path; flying in the silence of space, parting the air as pure awareness in a thoughtless mind. It flew to the East, hovering over a patch of the sacred smoke plant. I sat there. Wait. Sat for hours past sunset. After boredom and thirst and hunger, after hopelessness and the conviction of being nothing but a silly amateur, a lantern appears dancing over the hill. No way of judging distance. Is that an animal? The eyes of a horse reflecting the full moon? A fire? A lantern as I originally hoped?

"DON FLORENTINO" I yelled and yelled many times. The light begun to move again. I turned on my lantern to tell whoever was there that I wanted to be seen. I thought it impolite to hide. After half an hour or so, a group of five men came closer. They moved cautiously, towards me but not looking at me. I stood up and they stopped. Do you know Don Florentino? I asked. Who wants to know? This was the youngest of the party, rifle in hand but not pointing it. The second he speaks, the oldest and smallest of them turns to the side while cupping his cigarette, hiding it from view.
At that moment, and I only realized this later, I could only see four men. The Indian, smoke in hand, disappears from my consciousness even as I look at him.

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I tell the four I can see that I’m here because brother Eagle has brought me here, at the feet of the Guardian, the patch of sacred plants. The small, wiry Indian with the cigarette under his bushy moustache turns to me and grasped my hand. Mucho gusto, es un honor.
We talked under the full moon. Sitting on a rock; still warmed by the desert sun. The stories we shared, told in half sentences and symbols and gestures! We shared the sacred smoke.The things I learned! Connections were made. Old arrangements remembered. Tribal pacts respected. I left.

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Walking under the moon, I cried …  and the body shook, convulsing under the weight of energies not usually held by my body. My whole system collapsed under the weight of awareness: that I had been in the presence of a different kind of man, a rock, and eagle, a guardian of sacred land.

I had seen a man.


Send any comments, suggestions or questions to jc@viasinistrae.com

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