Here’s to the bloody gods, the demanding gods, the gods that were forgotten only to be resurrected.
One of these: Tlaloc.
Reading Juan Villoro’s book Horizontal Vertigo, his ode to his hometown of Mexico City, he recounts the tale of the statue of the Aztec deity called Tlaloc. The statue, which sits in the city’s Chapultepec Park, was not commissioned but was unearthed in the late 1800s in a nearby state by engineers digging an irrigation canal. Experts of some sort deemed this half completed statue to be a representation of Tlaloc, the Aztec god of rain and fertility.
I will take their word for it (although Villoro disputes that this is indeed Tlaloc).
In 1963 the hulking statue (23 feet high) was brought to Mexico City and planted in the middle of a man-made lake in the park. Arriving during the dry season, Tlaloc brought with him rain, the heaviest rain the city had seen in some time. but Tlaloc didn’t demand his usual price for rain: blood. The ancient Aztecs didn’t just offer their prayers to Tlaloc, they offered the blood of their children–human sacrifice in exchange for the waters of life.
Knowing this grisly history adds to what I see when I look at Tlaloc. And what do I see with my untrained eye? I see a god stunted. He is broken. No eyes to see. No arms to embrace with. No legs to run with. His mouth, two rows of holes, are passive and useless.
On one hand I see a monster, a brutal thing that could crush the earth and any who would dare defy him. I picture the blood of children pouring down his face and dripping down the holes into his hungry mouth.
But I also see a thing lost to time. A broken god. A useless deity. Maybe his subjects tired of feeding him their children. They slaughtered his priests. They scaled his heights and hacked his eyes out to blind him and smashed his limbs to hobble him. Then they toppled him from his altar and buried him deep within the earth.
This recovered god is just a fraction of what he once was. He won’t get the blood he craves. Instead he sits in a park for tourists to gawk at.
He’s a once mighty god, humbled.
(image credit: JAONTIVERIS/CC BY-SA 4.0)