Supposedly, the Aztec Emperor Moctezuma believed that the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes was a reincarnation of the god Quetzalcoatl and in the year 1519 AD, he handed over the Aztec Empire to the Spaniard. The Emperor recognized his mistake at the last moment and left behind a special curse for any Europeans who came after Cortes, which has come to be known as Montezuma’s Revenge—severe diarrhea that lasts for days and still afflicts travelers in Mexico.
This, of course, is nonsense. History is written by the winners, after all, so we can’t really trust the depiction of Moctezuma as a fool. And Hernan Cortes obviously wasn’t a reincarnation of Quetzalcoatl; the Spanish were interested in plundering the New World’s resources and spreading Christianity. But as Renée (my personal anthropologist) has pointed out, the old gods don’t go away when a new religion is imposed, they go underground.
So I think blaming Moctezuma (or Montezuma, the spellings vary) for this traveler’s affliction is probably incorrect. My guess is that Xipe Totec, the Aztec god of suffering, is actually responsible. It’s as though he said, “You really want to live in my land? I’m going to have to haze you first.” For the last week of our stay, we were actively sacrificing to Xipe Totec. Blood sacrifice is frowned upon in modern times, so he accepts shit instead.
I hope that the sacrifices we both made during the week are our initiation, and that he’ll accept us as new residents when the time comes. (And I hope he also pardons me for my extreme oversimplification of his role in Aztec cosmology, which I really need to learn more about.)
We did manage to get out of our sickbeds a couple of times by the end of the week, so our stay in San Miguel de Allende wasn’t a complete loss. Our fate this trip was to stay only at the top of hills; at least in this place it was possible to walk down to the central square. Possible, but not easy–if the steep and narrow streets had been ski slopes, they would have been marked with experts-only black diamonds. Getting back up to our room called for a taxi, especially in our weakened state.
San Miguel itself is lovely, and I really wish we’d been able to explore it more thoroughly. El Jardin, the central square, is a perfect place for people watching, with perfectly trimmed topiary trees that provide shade for the park benches; food stalls selling ice cream, roasted ears of corn, and tacos; vendors making flower tiaras; and mariachi bands serenading the crowds. The church opposite the Jardin, the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel, is a confection of pink sandstone.
On our last afternoon in San Miguel, we encountered a splendid parade with loud music and half a dozen different groups of costumed dancers. We’re not sure what they were celebrating, but they sure did it with spirit!
Our host helped us arrange a taxi, and another bus ride returned us to Guadalajara, where I was glad that we’d reserved a room at a Holiday Inn Express, minutes from the airport. There was a Denny’s just steps from the lobby, and I have to admit that we appreciated a menu with a U.S. accent. We had a day to spend in Guadalajara before we caught our flight home, so we returned to the Tlaquepaque neighborhood for more exploring and some last minute shopping. (Renée found a perfect leather handbag for about $30!)
The next morning the hotel’s shuttle got us to the airport at 5:00 AM, and we negotiated the boarding process. (We probably should have stopped at the Denny’s before we left the hotel—airports aren’t real good about providing food at that hour, and we both really needed some. Especially Renée. Don’t try to talk to Renée when Subway is the only option for airport food first thing in the morning. Some hot soup on the plane finally revived her.)
Since we landed back home in California, we’ve been telling anyone who would listen how wonderful Mexico is, while we plan our return. I’m just hoping that Xipe Totec will remember that we’ve already passed the suffering part of our initiation when we show up again.