What Is a Toltec Survivor

The word Survivor in The Teachings of a Toltec Survivor is not just about me. Yes, I have survived war, exile, two massacres, death squads, shots, magical attacks, tuberculosis, and the bubonic plague. But that’s not really why the term appears in the title. It is not because I am still alive; because, while my beloved death can be evaded today, she will one day succeed. Death is the most relentless of hunters.

These teachings are of a Toltec survivor because the Tolteca in me has survived, though the world has tried to bury him with lies and cover him in the illusion of self-involved problems. The Teachings have also survived. They have survived genocide and the night of forgetfulness.

It has been five hundred years since the light of this continent, this American continent, was covered by the European invasion. The conquest and colonization tried to eliminate the cultures, the language, the religions, the way of life; and more than anything, the identity of the inhabitants of this American continent.

For over five hundred years, what we were has been obscured, covered and forgot. And yet, through this long night of five hundred years, I’ve survived. If you are reading this, that same ineffable and unexplainable something may also survive in you.

Check out my book here: The Teachings of a Toltec Survivor

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Electrocuted and immensely alive.

I was once electrocuted as a teenager.

It’s hard to tell what got me to that space. I was in the 8th grade, impatient to be of service to the revolution. If I only I were in another school, I could have joined one of the youth groups dedicated to organize teenagers to promote the cause, and to provide conscientization tools. If I had gone to a less privileged school, I could have been interacting more with the revolutionary youth. I could have been in rallies and meetings. I could have been on street demonstrations, and eventually help with the barricades, with the taking of radio stations, with the publishing of clandestine newspapers. I could have been helping the revolution, until it was time for me, too, to take up arms and help change the brutal regime of death and injustice.

But the Externado de San Jose had no such groups. What we had was an advanced academic program, mixed with the Jesuit mandate to create citizens with a social conscience and a spirit of service to others. We had the dedicated priests who tried hard to teach that Catholic theology was synonymous with social justice. We also had many teachers who were university students and, therefore, quite in touch with the times, with the revolutionary fervor and the need to produce a new human being who lived by rules different than the repressive and oppressive exploitation that history had given us. Of course, we also had very smart students, many of whom were from the richest families of El Salvador, families that were exactly what the repressive and oppressive exploitation salvadorean history had given us.

There were no youth groups in the Externado. No organized resistance. That was for the poor schools, the Instituto, the public schools, and the National University (the U, we called it). What I had in the Externado that connected me to the revolution were the books, the papers, and the discussions with other students and teachers. I had managed to write a play and organize a mural; it was a periodical with political cartoons, editorials, news, and social analysis that was not distributed, but rather pinned inside a glass frame on the wall of one of the hallways of our old building. Students and teachers could read it, stoping on their way to class or office hours. I got two friends to help, and collected articles and opinion pieces from other interested students. I wrote the editorial piece and drew the cartoon. We called it El Pulgarcito, after the story of a Thumbelina sized boy, the size of a thumb (pulgar). It was also the nickname of my country, the smallest of the continent, and one of the most insignificant in the world.

I was impatient for more, though. I wanted to participate and help in the larger process happening outside. There was a revolutionary movement touching every aspect of life: peasants, workers, students, teachers, priests, women, youth, farmers, and artists were all organizing. The movement was social, devotional, political, and armed as well. The people were insurrecting at all levels, and from all sectors there was a clamor for change and social justice. I wanted in. I wanted to serve. So, I talked to my father. He was connected and involved. I told him I had something to ask, that it was serious. We went to the back patio of the house, under the terrace. He sat with me and listened attentively, nodded pensively when I told him I wanted to join the movement. He asked me to wait a little, that he was going to connect me with the right people.

I was too impatient, though. Life was flowing strong and fast, and I didn’t want to stay in place while it all happened outside. I didn’t want to stay frozen in privilege while the land was being covered with revolutionary currents.

I went by myself to the National University. I’d heard that many revolutionary organizations met there in secret. I had explored the grounds before, at a time when the campus had been closed by the military, and the rooms and projects had been all abandoned to entropy and jungle. Now, it was teeming with activity. Men and women walking all over, with books and stethoscopes, beards and glasses. I walked guided by instinct. In that ocean of university students and professors, I saw my older brother walking towards me. We saw each other at the same time. Each surprised to see the other, because he didn’t go that university either. He was a senior in high school, but here he was with two friends I’ve never seen. We greeted each other, almost imperceptibly. “What are you doing here?”, he asked. “Just passing through, visiting friends,” I said. “What are you doing here?”, I asked. “Same,” he responded. “Just passing through.” Neither pushed the matter any further. We both knew. We silently agreed to pretend.

If found what I was looking for. It was a shack behind a mound of earth covered with overgrowth. There were four doors to the long shack, each one leading to a different student organization. They were not university groups. They were part of the high school and junior high student organizations. They met here, hidden from the authorities and spies in their own schools. This was a central hub where a youth organization could coordinate activities across many different schools. I didn’t hesitate, I knew where to go. It was not the largest and most popular MERS. I was instantly attracted to the student branch of the PRTC. There was no reason I could give for this. It was a knowing that came from having seen my life a few times in the past. I simply had seen myself walking through this door before. So, when the door was there in front of my, I walked in.

At the same time, in what seems like a different world, I was also following a mystical path. It was the 8th grade and my soul wanted a lot more than masses and confessions. I needed to experience in my own flesh that spirit and awakening others were content to read about. I wasn’t satisfied with the promise of heaven, nor was I scared of hell. Traditional religions no longer had an appeal to me, and the material world was not enough. I went on my own, to study and practice. In the 8th grade, I was studying western esotericism, hypnosis, parapsychology, and magick.

The spiritual fires were fanned within me. I couldn’t just remain placid and settled in the occurrences of life. I couldn’t follow the reasonable program: be a good student of a good school, choose a profession, get a family, make a living, follow a religion, and train good children to be good citizens.

I yearned for liberation, both in the historical world outside and in the innermost sanctum of the soul. The revolutionary fires were fanned outside and inside. Liberation and evolution were stirring the depths of my soul.

The many worlds I had to inhabit were for the most part kept from colliding, but one day they all seemed to lead to this specific moment, when the chamber where I was became solid, when I didn’t know how I had been caught in this current of time. I wasn’t sure what lead to this, but I was here now, being electrocuted. There was a minute instant, when the current begun to flow through me that I remembered having taking a misstep. I remembered this moment, right when the current is about to flow and trap me there, when I know I was free and flowing but now I am falling into an oh-so-solid reality of matter and life. I knew that this moment before the electro-magnetic current overflows my nervous system, was the exact same moment I experienced before I was born, before my essential self was fused with my human nervous system and life as an individual begun in this planet, in this particular historical moment in this particular country. I had been here before, and here I was again, and again. Sometimes I was experiencing this before reincarnating, sometimes with my hands extended as the Man in the Cross while high voltage is passed through by someone or something behind me I cannot see, attempting here to freeze hope, stop the flow of life, stunt liberty, and crush the seeds of love. But there was nothing I could do now to avoid being trapped in this current of bioelectricity, nothing to do to escape. The only option now was to ride out these currents of light and life.

When electricity begins to flow through the waters of my brain, everything else freezes. Every nerve in this body was created to conduct electricity, to conduct subtle currents of magnetic and psychic energy, to carry information from one part of the body to another.

This nervous system that was created with very subtle wires––with very small and delicate rivers of energy and light, was designed to carry through it the most beautiful impressions of light, depth, sound, touch; the loving caress of the Beloved; the brutal gentleness of the sunset; the wind coming down from the volcano; the smell of spring in a tropical land.

This nervous system, designed to carry beauty and pain is, in this moment of electrocution, only able to carry high voltage, freezing everything in place, not allowing a single thought to be transmitted to the body; not admitting even the movement of lips and tongue to ask for help. There is just the freezing energy, and the movement––the swaying back and forth of a body that is being cooked alive, immensely alive.

 

 

 

The “no” of my father

I remember a dark sunset in July of 1975, when we were returning to San Salvador with my dad. Just a few hours before, a massacre had taken place when the government of El Salvador opened fire against a non-violent student demonstration. More that 100 university students died that day. In the pickup truck were my father, a 17-years-old girl my father was driving to her family, and I, who was then a 10-years-old boy entering that age in which one learns how to be a man. Upon reaching the capital city, my father did not see the soldier gesturing for him to stop.

Fatal error! We didn’t see the soldier, due to the dusk or distraction–who knows? The fact is that we went beyond the point where we had to stop, and a group of soldiers formed a barrier to receive us, just like death itself when she tells us that from this point we won’t go forth.

My dad stopped the car. The soldier, who had been ignored, would now pour his thirst of self-importance and hunger for power on that driver who had ignored him. He yelled and berated my dad, saying he had broken the law and that for not obeying authority now he could die. My father, calmed and well mannered, apologized. He explained that he did not see him, that his intention had not been to offend. I remember the soldier with his yelling and the cruelty in his smile. Another soldier moved to my side of the pickup truck we rode on, with his shot gun aimed at my right temple. Other soldiers moved among the shadows, walking near and far. The girl next to me, cold and pallid, fearing rape and death.

That demon, dressed as a soldier, seizing his opportunity for profit and cruelty, told my father to walk towards that shadowy area behind us, beyond the bus stop.  I kept glancing back to the shadows behind the bus stop, ominous with an evil that laughed at hope. And back the attention would go to the nuzzle of the gun on my right. I saw a couple more soldiers walking, bored and uninterested. We all knew the script. It was impossible to live in El Salvador in the seventies without knowing what was to follow. My father would obey, the soldiers would take his shirt, his shoes, his dignity, and his life. The girl would pay with her innocence and perhaps her life. In my mind reigned confusion and fear, rage and the stink of death.

I’m not sure how it came to pass that such sequence of inevitable destiny was interrupted. Perhaps it was when I heard the voice of my father saying “no.” Or perhaps it was when I saw the soldier looking at him with incredulity, asking him what he had said, if he was crazy, if he wanted to die. The soldier told him he’d have one more chance to save himself, to move, to be reasonable, to obey. My dad said “no;” and disregarding the threats and blows he was taking on the stomach from the soldier, to make my dad reconsider, to make him be normal and act within reason, my father continued to say his firm and gentle “no.”

Movete, hijueputa!” Uttered with the same authority the authorities all over the world are taught to command. “No,” was all my father said, with the resolute gentleness of one who has decided that if all is to end today, it will end like this, without violence inside, without surrendering to fear, without loss of dignity or stature.  Over and over, this happened. Each time, the soldier got more aggressive, hitting my dad hard on the stomach, making him bend over to catch his air. “Now, are you going to obey?”

“No.”

Other soldiers approached to see that strange thing, that man who without weapons said “no” to authority, to abuse, to a destiny preordained by others. The terror evaporated from my mind when I saw this. Inconceivable. The simple word of my father baffled the authority, confounded death, and the soldier became pale. I saw in his eyes an old fear, a recognition, an unspoken understanding that told him that it was impossible to make a man of will fold over. He saw himself small and afraid. He told my dad to go on, not to do it again, that this was his lucky day. With this show of magnanimity, he saved face.

Impressed in me forever now were my father’s eyes, calm and firm, and that “no” that made the world stop. The “no” to fear, to authoritarianism, to dogma, and to the lie.

My father got in the truck and drove away, rubbing his bruised belly. The girl and me next to him, still in shock but breathing again the air of the hot tropical night. A light smile appeared on my father. “My grandma hits harder,” he said.

Of gases, fire balls, and heavenly hearts.

The night before, I had come back from the fair with a bright blue ballon. The helium inside, I was told, was lighter than air and that made the balloon always want to elevate itself. I wondered how far it would go, if I wasn’t holding it down. I was thinking of finding out the next day, to let it go to heaven and see if it would find a resting place, or if it would keep going forever until it reached the stars.

Early in the morning, the routine noises of the house started as planned. First, my aunt Juanita got up to prepare breakfast. I heard all the familiar noises that come from her room and the kitchen, as it happens every morning. Normally, I woke up first, but I’d stay in bed looking at the ceiling and the sun beams that made dust particles dance to the noises outside. Usually, when my aunt got up to prepare breakfast, my little brother, Carlitos, would wake up and follow her into the kitchen. She would sit him on the counter from where, groggily sucking his thumb and twirling his hair with his other hand, he would watch her prepare the food in our old gas oven. That day, however, he stayed in bed for some reason. Later, he would tell me that someone told him to stay in bed sleeping longer. He thought it had been me, or perhaps some woman; the identity of the voice wasn’t clear, but he followed the advice and stayed in bed with my other brothers, my mom, and me.

I was looking at my ballon, now a little deflated. It was no longer resting on the ceiling. It was hanging low, now. What had happened to the gas inside? Why didn’t it make the balloon go up to the sky anymore? What made it happy to just float in the middle of the room? No, it didn’t seem happy. It seemed to just had given up; a blue balloon unable to go up to meet the greater blue sphere of the sky. It was not happy, it was resigned. Maybe I should have done it yesterday, let it go when I got the idea. But I liked feeling the pull from it. It was the first helium balloon I had ever seen in person. Before this, I had only seen them in cartoons. Now, I had one in my hand, in real life. It was really blue and it really floated. I had now a piece of fantasy in my hands, a fantasy I had assumed was only possible in television. This small sphere of blue in my hands had a gentle and steady pull to the sky. It wanted to fly up, just like I wanted to glide up to the heart of the sky. To be precise, it was not the flying that my balloon and I wanted. It was the being home, where the heart of me and the heart of sky are one and the same. Secretly, I wanted to see this little piece of heaven make it there. But I also wanted to feel that magical, gentle pull on my hand a while longer. It made me feel like I was floating a little. Its aspiration met mine, and if a television fantasy was now in my hands, perhaps the secret fantasy of my heart could also become real with this ballon.

This morning, however, it was just a blue ballon floating midway between the floor and the ceiling, and my thoughts contemplating the nature of hellium and gases. My mom woke up, asking me if I smelled gas. I couldn’t smell it, but I told her that perhaps it was the gas that had escaped from the balloon. I was seeing in my mind’s eye the subtle currents of gas fostering through tiny, tiny pores in the ballon. If the gas was lighter than air, then it was perhaps thinner and could pass through microscopic holes the air could not fit through.

Before I could speak this thought to my mother, a loud explosion shook the brick walls of the house. My mother ran out, I followed her. I saw Carlitos sitting up as I ran past him after my mom. Outside the master bedroom, a living room and a family room ended in a door to the right. This door led to the kitchen, which was a small enclosed room to the left, the bathroom in front of the door, and the patio and servant’s room to the right. This door to the back of the house was open now. Pedrito, an older second cousin staying with us was coming out to investigate the explosion. My mother was running towards the back door, screaming “Juanita! Juanita!” And from the frame of the door that led to the back of the house where the kitchen was was emerging a huge ball of fire, with the figure of a woman inside, shrieking and holding her arms out in a torturous plead for help and the end of unimaginable suffering.

My mother was aiming to embrace her, to smother the fire with her own body. Pedrito was moving to intercept my mother, to keep her from getting enflamed too. In a frozen moment of time, all three were heading towards each other. My aunt tripped, saving the other two from her fate when the flames started to subside after she fell and rolled.

Someone had left the kitchen’s gas tank open, and the brick walls of the tiny kitchen room had been holding the gas inside, waiting for a match to strike. I didn’t know then that these were different gases, I only thought that the gas was taking my balloon to the sky and my aunt to a fiery death.

She didn’t die, however. My aunt was a single mom with two daughters. Ever since she was a little girl, her face had some kind of damage that made her mouth be on one side, and not centered like for most people. As a young woman, she saw in this a deformity that would forever impede her finding a partner. She told me once, long after this fire, that she went once to see a brujo, to ask for magic to release her of this deformity. Doctors couldn’t do anything at the time, and the brujo from Usulutan said he had the power to do that, but if he did, my aunt would never be happy. He said that it was better to stay with her face as it was. My aunt reluctantly agreed.

This day, however, and many more to follow were far from any happiness she hoped for her life. The recovery was more painful than anything I could imagine. She had burnt 85% of her skin. When I visited her, she would tell me of the treatment. They had to hang her body on straps, and several times a day a nurse would come in to scrub her body from the burnt and dead skin, until it was all raw flesh. Then, an antiseptic cream would be applied that brought the burning sensation all over, only slower and steadier this time. She would scream each time, of course, because there was nothing else she could do.

The images of that morning are unforgettable, of course. And the lessons of gasses that take blue spheres to heaven or small sparks to fiery explosions are still being assimilated. But the most decisive and everlasting impression was the whisper in my brother’s ear of an intelligence that guides our destiny, and the ferreous tenacity of spirit of my aunt, who showed the mettle of one who endures all and everything. To aspire to the heart of heaven is a good thing, but to make of that aspiration one that survives everything and continues to seek to the heights is indispensable. It is the proper act of a spirit that will never deflate to lie resigned in mediocrity, but will continue to seek––with arms extended through the fiery storm––the proper place of the soul in the silent center of the heart.

My tia Juanita endured. Survived everything. She is now in her 80’s, beautiful and alert, full of curiosity, laughter and kindness. Unknown to most people that know her, she is part of a group of healers in her church dedicated to this service, and her gift of healing is powerful, as is the light that radiates from her beautiful and happy face.

Mama Spider

It is said somewhere that the mother spider, when the hunting has not gone well even after building the perfect tapestry of a thick, sturdy, heavy and sticky cobweb, she still manages to feed her children. They wait, somewhere unseen and protected. She walks towards the center. She lays down. She wraps herself up with her own string. Once she is completely covered, the way she would bind a fly, she taps on her web. She taps a signal designed to tell the children that there is game. The tinny little children come running. They need to feed this night or they won’t survive. They come to the mother and they begin to devour her, not knowing it is their mother. Thinking it is just an insect, just another nurturing bundle, they open her up. They go inside her belly and eat her from the inside out, devouring her completely.

Her sacrifice allows the children to grow into adulthood, to live one more night so they can go and hunt. So they can go and have other little children who would devour their mother.

Mama spider. Mama spider.

Weaving and forming. Teaching and feeding.

Out of your bowels we ate.

Out of your spirit we grew;

to hunt one more day,

and tomorrow.

So was the spirit of my mother, even when I did not see her.

From the depth of her corpse, I grew and came out.

The ladies of fate always seemed to be weaving a strange web around my mother: strange happenings, magical, astonishing and weird. A teacher in a school for poor children, she took it upon herself to help a child who reminded her of my younger brother. She didn’t know why she felt compelled to take him under her wing, to buy him a pair of shoes, to bring groceries to his mother. It was pure compassion, or motherly love springing from unknown currents in her soul. She wanted to take care of him and protect him. She brought this little boy to play with us. We took an instant liking to him. I took him outside to play soccer, to meet my friends, to talk, to be one of us. With his confused eyes full of wonderment and restrained joy, this boy joined us for a moment in our lives. A few months later he disappeared from our lives. He became a ghost, a shadow, a memory––like so many people in El Salvador, never knowing why, where, or when they went.

Years later, my father was in exile. Death squads came after him, and he managed to escape. One day, my mother was coming out of the school for rich kids where she was also teaching (she always worked at a rich school for the money, and at a poor school for the government pension). She was about to get into her car, when two cars with tinted windows blocked her in front and behind, and men with dark glasses came to her with even darker motives. They told her, “Ma’am, you’re coming with us.”

Those simple words filled her spine with a chill. She knew what was coming next. She knew. She could almost experience the ride in the back of their car. She could almost feel the boots on her face. She could predict the raping and the flame. She knew the cutting of the nipples. She knew the breaking of the teeth. She knew of the brutal interrogation of “Where is he?,” “What else do you know?,” and “Where are the others?” She knew the longing for death. She knew it was all coming to an end. She knew what followed. That time line was flowing right in front of her, and she was just about to be carried away in its current.

Her body paralyzed, she couldn’t move. It was just the coldness of certain death for her. She couldn’t move, she couldn’t react.

She only could say, “Me?”

“Yes ma’am, you’re coming with us now.”

Once again she repeated, “Me?” and the “Come with us” was the only answer, with a hand grabbing her by one arm, leading her to a sequence of events that were long ago written, and nothing at this moment––nothing, no one––could come to her rescue.

She was in that space where we found ourselves so many times in that jungle, when reality had become so hard, so heavy, that no escape is possible. No light, no hope, no brilliance seemed to exist, just the pulling into heavy hardness. This was the harshness of reality. And here she was, knowing that all she could do now was to follow this thread.

At this moment, at this exact moment, the driver of the car in front comes out. Dark glasses. From some remote whisper of awareness, she felt she recognized him. One day, a year or two before this, she went to the house of the little boy she had taken under her nurturing love–because he looked like my brother perhaps, or compelled by unknown oceanic depths. She had come to see the mother of the little boy that day, a year or two ago. She brought the child’s mother some food, shoes, shirts, love and compassion. When she was leaving, the father was approaching the house. The father of the illegitimate boy, in a suit and dark glasses said to her “Ma’am, I know what you’ve been doing for my son and I want to thank you for everything. For the love you’ve given him.” It was a brief encounter. She left. He went. And here he was now, again, same dark glasses and suit, driving a car for men of money and death, looking at the woman that was about to die under torture. There he was, telling the other men: “That’s not her. We’ve got the wrong one. Lets go.”

They left, and the specter of death vanished, and the lightness of being filled the flesh of my mother; tears coming out, of pain and joy; but more than anything, tears for having recognized the silver and red threads of the tapestry being woven by fortune.

And, as she tells the tale, the magic of the Kindly Ladies becomes entrenched in our consciousness, and our words. And so the mother spider weaves a thread. A chance meeting one day, a voice heard another day… moving… changing… Creating a knot here, a thread there. And so it went, this tapestry of light. My mother, always silent; always absent; always inside her cocoon of happenings; always surrounding us as we devoured her. Always giving. Always threading. Whispering. Silent. But providing the legs and the thread and the moving.

 

http://thetelling.libsyn.com/the-kindly-ladies-mama-spiders-invisible-story