Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Cortez annihilated the Aztec Empire and enthroned himself as the new ruler of what was to be henceforth named New Spain of the Ocean Sea. Faithful to a centuries-long tradition of establishing the victor’s capital upon the ruins of the vanquished he gave instructions for the new imperial capital to be built on the swamplands of Tenochtitlan. The result, the modern megapolis of Mexico City has been slowly sinking under its own weight ever since, a curious testament to Cortez’s ill-informed vision. They say that some day most of the buildings will have become too unsafe to inhabit. Perhaps in the next century Mexico City will become a ghost town abandoned by its populace. As I drink a cup of hot chocolate in a Starbucks in La Zona Rosa I am thinking of Cortez. Throngs of shoppers and passers-by parade in front of my eyes and they look to me like reincarnated Aztecs bidding their time against eternity, or like ghosts going in and out of time. A gay couple canoodles happily at a table nearby oblivious to the underground forces of suction, and more interested in their own. I imagine a Spanish soldier dreaming a nightmare and waking up in the middle of the night, rushing to Cortez, finding the big man sleeping in the company of two young native girls, and crying out to him, let us leave this place now chief, let us go back down to the coast, let us build our city there. I am a coffee drinker really. Chocolate I chose because, originally, it has been a native American drink exported to the so-called Old World. My attempt to an honest tribute is tainted with unfortunate franchise irony. Fat dark clouds seal the last remaining porthole of blueness in the sky and rain begins to fall in abundance. I feel the water entering the underground veins of Mexico City, seeping and uniting with the never-defeated swamp, sapping the foundations, conspiring towards the city’s ultimate demise. Water from the sky, water underneath. Ten thousand years later: a mystery of city abandonment puzzles the visitors from Star Orion. They are descendants of long-forgotten Earth colonists returning to a deserted Earth, a world too hot to be inhabited, too lifeless to be loved. A young cosmonaut wakes up from a dream as the spaceship enters orbit, a nightmare of a serpent god. I get up and without care of getting wet return to my sinking hotel.