Largely forgotten amidst the grandiose narrative of the destruction and plunder of the Aztec Empire by Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortez in the early 16th century are the stories of those invading Spaniards who, upon first encountering the religion of the Aztec people, grew enamored of the indigenous peoples’ pantheon of gods and goddesses, and enthusiastically converted to the Aztecs’ religion. Today, savvy tourists can still seek out the Mexican storefront churches and street-corner shrines where the ancient rites of the polytheistic Aztec religion are observed, albeit infrequently, according to the Aztec calendar. It is said that Huitzilopochtli, the Left-Handed Hummingbird God of War and Sacrifice, lives modestly and plainly in a small apartment in Mazatlan, where he is sometimes visited by his old friend Quetzalcoatl, The Feathered Serpent. The once revered deities are said to enjoy watching American baseball on pirated Direct TV, bowls of nuts and sweaty cans of Tecate on a TV tray between them.
If not for the fact that I sleep poorly most nights, I would have remained blissfully unaware of these facts. On certain clear nights in the early spring, the shadows beneath the elms on my estate rotate on fixed axes across the lawn until they bear no congruent relation to any sources of light (the moon, a single halogen streetlamp) in the vicinity. When the moon reaches its apex, a single cab, its roof light extinguished, rolls slowly up to the curb and the shadows depart, en masse, for a night out on the town. Much later, in a still hour before dawn, the same cab returns and the shadows resume their stations at the bases of the trees, correctly aligned.