Sometimes at night in our small village the abuelos would come but not abuelos like you think, not parents of my parents sweet bearing gifts and unconditional love, but terrifying figures in masks and strange outfits on horseback, breathing loudly and calling for the children to present themselves. Cariños, my father would say, go outside. And we would, my two brothers and one sister and me the oldest would line up outside of our small wooden house. They appeared from the darkness like creatures of the dark their horses stamping and beating their way forward in the night. My father was always there but he was not there for this. I could hear my mother inside whispering that she did not like it but he shushed her and we were left alone for inspection. You, the first abuelo said when they had gathered around us children, with a voice that sounded like our neighbor Jacobo but that could not be Jacobo because it came from behind such a terrifying mask, such a large body seated atop a brown horse I did not know. How have you been behaving? Do you respect your parents? And yes we said of course we said. That is not what I heard, the masked figure responded. A brown burlap sack with eyes punched out, no mouth, a single horn poking up from the top that could have been a stick but seemed too devilish for a stick. There were four of them in total, or six, it was hard to tell in the darkness. They were swinging lanterns, the light was crazy and scattered, broken shadows upon trees. One appeared from behind and told me to put my hands out. He hit them hard with a rod some kind of metal I cried at that, as much at the pain as at the injustice for I had done nothing, and my sister who was the youngest of us all began crying as well. She was not used to seeing me afraid. What was that for? I whimpered, hiding my bruised hands in my skirt. I was thirteen years old. What have I done? If you have not yet done something I am sure you will the one who hit me said, a fatal logic that reminded me of the morada and the holy blood and body, of the sacrifice He had made for us all. Because we are all guilty. But who hits you? I wanted to ask. Yes you can hit a child but who will hit you? And how will hitting get us into heaven? And my mother inside was crying now because she could hear how frightened I was and I remember thinking I will leave this place. I remember thinking this is not how Christ would love, this is a twisted and perverse expression of that beauty and when I walked into the cathedral in Santa Fe three years later and saw His face, not twisted and aggrieved as it was in the morada but beatific, full of love and kindness and with room for me and any other brother or sister or man or woman I knew that I had been right. Hold out your hands, the abuelo said to my sister Rosalia, who was six years old. The long black robe he wore had caught when he dismounted and I could see his ankle in the ghoulish lantern light, I could see that he wore an anklet of cactus on his left leg just like our neighbor Don Rodrigo and I knew he was a man, I was a child no longer, and I kicked him and pushed my foot into the cactus let it bite into his ankle and he howled and I grabbed my sister’s hand yelled at my brothers we ran into the house we closed the door. They banged on it loud terrible bangs that sounded too loud for a fist to make and I told my father that I would leave Abiquiu if he made us go outside that I would do it one day if not today, that this was not an empty threat that this was no way to treat the innocent and he thought I meant me, that I was arrogant and assumed this about myself but I meant Rosalia. Look at her, I said, look at her, she was so small. But he would not look. He opened the door for those men to take us back outside. My mother hid her face and cried but no one would say no, none of the adults, and I knew then with all my being that children can be wiser, that terror is not righteous, that this place was not for me.
10.1 / January & February 2015
10.1 / January & February 2015