According to tradition the quetzal’s red breast color was caused from taking part in the struggle between Spanish conqueror Pedro de Alvarado and the great Mayan Chief Tecún Umán.
cont. from page 74
BLOOD OF THE DEAD
tanding there I wondered whether old Rosendo had any idea of the role the quetzal had played in the history of his people. According to tradition, the quetzal took part in the struggle between Spanish conqueror Pedro de Alvarado and the great Mayan Chief Tecún Umán. After Alvarado’s mercenaries had slain 30,000 Maya on the battlefield near Xelajú (Quetzaltenango) innumerable quetzals flew down to earth and settled on the bodies of the warriors. All through the night, keeping deathwatch, the quetzals covered the bodies of the slaughtered Indians. 92 » revuemag.com
At dawn the birds flew into the sky again, but different than before: Their breasts had soaked up the blood of the dead, and since that day the quetzal has been red underneath. Later that morning I was writing up some notes and I decided to try and sketch what the quetzal’s display flight had looked like, knowing that getting good photographs of it would be next to impossible. As I looked at my drawing it dawned on me that the figure of the quetzal, flying straight up into the sky with tail feathers rippling behind, looked oddly reminiscent of the Greek caduceus: two serpents intertwined about a staff and topped ...continued on page 96
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