A story from Mexico’s Lacandon Jungle, and why I’m hesitant to share it.

Photo: Jamid Dwyer
Photo: Jamid Dwyer

“My grandfather Chan K’in Viejo said that it was prettier before, when there were no lights, no roads, only the sounds of birds. Now there are roads and the trucks scare the animals away.

My grandfather said that there used to be a King of the Selva. His name was Yu Mic Ash. It used to be that you had to ask permission to cut trees. Before you had to ask permission to hunt animals. You had to ask on your knees. There were many trees at that time and the king was happy.

Once, a person who did not know about the king, cut down some of his trees and instantly got sick, because the trees are the King’s sons. The King cried for his children. But after a while, there were more people and no-one asked permission from the King of Selva.”

I once read that every language is translatable. I’m not so sure. Once the Lacandon language gets churned into White Man’s tongue, the words can look a little stark and childlike under the strip lights of a Romance language so dedicated to the overblown, the flowery. That’s a shame. The message of this story is so important, so much more frightening than anything else I’ve read in a long time.

Story re-printed from the excellent Na Bolom museum in San Cristobal, Mexico.

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