Re-reading the Códices
The Mixtec Códices, indigenous screenfold books written on deer hide, are Pre-Columbian pictographs that record the history of the Mixtec peoples. There are no words: only brightly coloured scenes containing information about rituals, gods, heroes, and ceremonies. Only a few very precious documents (Zouche-Nuttall, Vindobonensis, Borgia etc) survived the ravages of time and the continued purges of the Spanish priests. The following text, self-explanatory for the main part, verbalizes typical symbols from the códices. Clearly, such symbols, as the poems suggest, are ambiguous and open to radically different interpretations.
“Two breasts: one green, one yellow, symbolic of the hill where the church stands; the church itself bi-colored, strong stone walls, a spire. A large red heart symbolic of the love we bear for you, our masters. Two feet walking the path of enlightenment you opened before us; two hands pointing the way. The feet below the heart; the hands above the heart, like wings; and the heart becomes the body of the new place you have built for us. And in the heart is our sacred symbol: the Earthquake, a sign of leadership and power used only by those of Royal Stature and the Noblest Blood. Attached to the heart is the Numeral One which means Lord of the Earthquake; for you are Number One in our Hearts. Attached to the heart is a speech scroll showing felicitous words of praise; below it is the sacred earthworm, and beneath that the serpent head of wisdom and the flint knife promising strength through sacrifice.
But be wary: for our symbols are double-edged.
The colors of the hill are divided, as the hill is divided, showing strife and division. The church is on top of the hill, for the symbol has conquered the people, and the people are starving, subject, and destroyed. The feet are pointing in opposite directions, for the people are stalled. They have no forward movement, nor will of their own. For they are conquered by the sword and not by love. And the hands are pointing in opposite directions; for the right hand knows not what the left hand is doing. And the hands are reversed showing anguish and distress. The sign of the heart is the sign of the disembodied heart, torn from the heaving chest of the vanquished and thrown to the dogs. The sign of the earthquake is also the sign of movement. And that movement is a bowel movement. And one movement in the middle of the sacrificed heart is the victor excreting on the vanquished and treating them with scorn and contempt. The scroll protrudes from the nether part and says that the victors are speaking words of excrement, that verbal diarrhea issues from their lips. And the serpent has no feathers; it cannot fly. It is as a snake treacherous and bitter, crawling on the ground. The head of the serpent is two tongued and tells of treachery and of deceit. The flint is attached to a heart; it speaks of the heart that is as hard as flint, knowing no mercy.
And at the end that heart will receive no mercy in its turn.”