Don Aurelio and Doña Jacinta live right across the street from us, with their four boys: Reynaldo, Wilbert, Enrique, and Cindy. Cindy’s name is really Aureliano, but when he was a young child he earned the toothless nickname of “sin dientes” (without teeth), or “Sin Di”. Reynaldo is married with three young girls and has built his wife her own stick kitchen, with plans to build a blockhouse for them all to live in right there on the property. So right now on the property, there are two na's, two kitchens, a partially finished blockhouse and another one to be started, and an old and leaning structure that now stores corn. Plus a few small chicken and turkey houses, extensive garden areas with all sorts of fruits growing, and a pig shed. There's still also an entire back area to the terrano (yard) where they all live that’s mostly jungle, that Aurelio has decided to split it up between his four boys to do with as they want. Side by side 10 by 30 meter parcels … a great gift for the growing boys that will come in handy until they may eventually each find somewhere else of their own to live someday with their families if they want. Not a giant loss for Aurelio though, because he has another terrano a few blocks over.
Well, … Aurelio just had a feeling, a strange gnawing inside; that perhaps the terrano (land) perhaps wasn’t vandalized, but cursed. And ever since he began giving thought to using the terrano and perhaps developing it, he has been struggling with odd pains in his stomach, and aches in his back. So, like most of the villagers who finally feel they need to obtain some advanced medical help and to explain the unknown, Aurelio went to go to see a curadero (witch doctor). And did he ever get some advise.
Aurelio told Rob and I that he and his wife Jacinta had to bring five kilos of masa with them for their visit with the curadero, and two live chickens, ... one grown, and one still a chick. Jacinta had to make a special meal once they arrived, that incorporated the use of the masa, and the meat of the older chicken that was killed and ended up as an underground oven-cooked, banana-leaf wrapped delicacy known as cha-cha-kwa. Aurelio eventually dispersed the cooked food items along side of and amongst a series of burning candles on the ground, and then waited for the curadero to do his thing.
The setting was exactly at midday and outside in a small jungle clearing, and Aurelio was asked to have a seat on the ground. The curadero then chanted and prayed, and swatted the air with handfuls of weeds he'd pulled from the earth. The candles flickered, and Aurelio dare not. The chanting in Maya was at times soft and at times loud, but went on for over an hour until the curadero appeared with the chick. It seemed, that according to the curadero, aires malos (bad air) was the cause for Aurelio's pains and bad luck. And the trick then, was to extract and transfer Aurelio’s discomfort and ill fortune from his body into that of the chick’s. Aurelio said that suddenly, the curadero began pecking at his head with the beak of the chick that he held tight in his hand. The accompanying vocalizations by the curadero were intense and almost painful themselves. Then, with an eventual second peaking of activity and ritual, the curadero began whacking Aurelio's head very hard with that of the chick, until the young bird died and was limp in his hand. Aurelio was then forced to next lie back in the dirt, at which time he then received a deep and focused massage by the strong hands of the curadero, who said it was for stimulation and relaxation purposes.
Well, with the harmonic and peaceful ending to a long session of natural healing, the curadero then told Aurelio all about Aurelio’s land that the curadero had never been to or seen before for himself. He described its size, plant types found there, and the fact that animals had died there. Then he asked Aurelio if he'd ever seen the cross. It took Aurelio a while to figure out what the curadero might have meant by “cross”, but finally recalled that there was indeed an old, small wooden crooked cross just stuck in the ground at one corner of the property. A cross Aurelio never knew to have a meaning or purpose, and had always just left alone.
The curadero told Aurelio that his prolonged sickness and pains, and that the reason his goats died, was simply because the owner of his property was dissatisfied. Ya see, according to ancient Mayan belief, all ground is ultimately the domain of Mayan beings of extreme and advanced form and being, that live in all dimensions and all times at once, and are known as Alux (a-loosh). Throughout history since the days of Chichen Itza, as ground was inhabited and used by Mayan elders for life and crop, a respect for its true owners had to always be acknowledged and gifted. For example, there are always small ceremonies by the villagers of Tinum in the form of offerings to their milpas (farming lands) with the first yields of the harvest of each year, and/or each growing cycle. The idea, is to please your own personal Alux, who you never ever really see or even hear much from, but is the undisputed master of the property you've come to claim however you have. It's sort of a given formality that's just part of life in the villages of the Yucatan. Everyone just does it, and doesn't think much about it, but highly respects it's cosmic function. They all know, that if your Alux is content with you, and you do what you should for it, it will protect your land, and even help take care of you. But if your Alux feels you owe it something for some reason, … well, it can actually become an enemy of yours and curse your land, and even cast bad spells over you.
Rob and I were quite intrigued by this point, late in the night of the day when all of this had taken place. Aurelio and Jacinta had come directly to our house to share their adventure with us as soon as they had returned to town. Aurelio further explained, that he'd of course done timely offerings for all of his lands this year like every year. He did them where his family lives, and also out in his milpa, … and for sure, had given to the land with that cross.
The curadero told Aurelio that a person, who had claim to Aurelio’s land long before he acquired it, was the one who placed the cross on it. But that that person had neglected to "give" any more to the Alux, who ever since, has been a bit upset, and patiently awaiting its due. Aurelio came upon the land, as something that was just passed down in the family for years, after several long ago relatives and other squatters had died off. And perhaps, all had forgotten to pay proper respects to the empty jungle lot, and its neglected owner. Aurelio said that his Alux had by now, become “very hungry” for acknowledgement.
So, how do you deal with an upset Alux, that's given you pain and discomfort to deal with as a way of telling you that he's not happy? And that also kills the animals you put on its land as another obvious signal, and that will only get meaner and destructive towards you, if you don't do something to calm and pacify him soon. Well, you throw a party!
Aurelio had already arranged with the curadero to be the host of the offering that would finally make peace with a disconcerted Alux. He'd already instructed Aurelio and Jacinta to have enough food for a massive feast, … at least four chickens, a couple of turkeys, perhaps some pork, and not a gram less than 20 kilos (44 lbs) of masa. I had to comment, that I thought 20 kilos of masa seemed quite a bit for just one Alux, and Aurelio agreed with a giant laugh. But he said that the equivalent of five kilos of masa was needed for each corner of the property in the form of cha-cha-kwas, that Jacinta would cook in a large underground oven. The amount of food that would result from that much masa and all that meat, would be enough for a very good sized fiesta at anyone's house, and could feed between 25 and 30 people or more.
Aurelio said, that their plan for the entire prepared meal, was to unwrap each and every cha-cha-kwa from its banana leaf, and place them all at each of the four corners of his property. The curadero seemed to believe, that along with his accompanying ceremony of chanting and prayer, that the amount of food would be good enough to put a silly little smile of the face of that Alux. And that Aurelio's bodily anguishes would cease and animals could roam on the land without peril. I wondered what would become of all that food, because no one thought the Alux would suddenly rise in flesh and blood from a fallen twig as a strange looking creature, and eat and eat and eat, like the ghosts in Ghostbusters. Aurelio wouldn't say what he thought might happen, if it would all disappear somehow. But he was certain that the curadero would want it all left out there overnight, … that none of it would be brought back to the house for anyone to eat. After all, it was all for the Alux.