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El Indio by Gregorio Lopez y Fuentes
a synopsis, with 11 illustrations by Diego Rivera



Chapter IX -- Fiesta (photo illustration)

Lopez y Fuentes details the ritual and practices behind the performance of El Volador, an ancient religious ceremony wherein four men hang upside down, descending the length of a tall pole as they rotate around it, even as a fifth, unsecured by any safety line, dances and plays the flute on a tiny platform at the top of the pole. The crippled ex-guide participates in the ritual of setting up the pole, but this fiesta brings tragedy for him, as it is the occasion for his former fiance to marry the 'healthy' suitor. Reinforcing the tragedy is the death of one of the Voladores ['fliers'] and the consequent brawl that breaks out among our rancheria hosts and their visitors to the fiesta from neighboring rancherias. Machetes become weapons. At daybreak three corpses, with frightfully mangled arms, were found.
Chapter X -- Fear

The father of the healthy young man, who married the girl in chapter IX, has journeyed to seek the help of a shaman. He believes that his family has been cursed by the father of the crippled boy. As evidence, he produces small hex figures pierced with thorns. The witch agrees to come to the rancheria and overcome the evil wishes.

Rivera's image here depicts the rituals the shaman performs: the lighting of candles, cutting three paper dolls and sticking them with thorns, burying the dolls, and finally, climbing to the top of the hill for the final ceremony.

It was a solitary peak open to all the winds, isolated from other hills that might obstuct the words addressed to the deified forces of nature. At the top, the witch-man quickly took out the things he needed: one of the brightest stars was about to reach its zenith.

He gave the earth food and drink. The aguardiente was sprinkled like dew, and the eatables were laid reverently on a rock. He stationed the two men to the east, and the three candles consecrated to the enemies to the west; for the first, light, sun, and life; for the others, night, the grave of the sun, and death.