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The history of the lion and the mirror


Mexico, 1998

Above and below: masks and silence

Stories of the Little Horse of the Sea

Communique from Subcommander Marcos
Chiapas, Mexico

Translated from the Spanish by Irlandesa for Nuevo Amanecer Press.
Original communique published in Mexico in La Jornada.

Stories of the Little Horse of the Sea

IMPORTANT NOTICE, THAT IS, URGENT WARNING, OR HOWEVER YOU SAY IT: The section, Stories of the Little Horse of the Sea arbitrarily interrupts this veeery serious political analysis and, just like that, leaves us sea-sick like the tide which makes the sea dizzy ['mareados como la marea que marea a la mar']. In the way of medicine, the seahorse tells us a story (what else could it do!).

Old Antonio tells that when he was young his father Don Antonio taught him how to kill the lion without a firearm. Old Antonio tells that when he was young Antonio and his father was the old Antonio he told him the story that he now tells me out loud so that the sea will learn my lips. Old Antonio tells it to me just like this, but I call it

The history of the lion and the mirror

"The lion first skins its victim, afterwards he drinks the blood, eating the heart, and leaves the rest for the vultures. There is nothing that can go against the strength of the lion. There is not an animal which can confront him, nor a man who does not run away from him. Only a force which is equally brutal, bloodthirsty and powerful can defeat the lion."

The then old Antonio of the then young Antonio rolled his cigarette and, pretending to pay attention to the logs which were converging in the bright star of the flames from the bonfire, looked out of the corner of his eye at the young Antonio. He didn't wait long, because the young Antonio asked him:

- And what is this force great enough to defeat the lion?

The old Antonio of then handed the young Antonio of then, a mirror.

- Me? asked the then young Antonio, looking at himself in the round mirror.

The old Antonio of then smiled with good humor (that is what the young Antonio of then says) and took the mirror from him.

- "By showing you the mirror I meant that the strength which could defeat the lion was the same as the lion. Only the lion himself can defeat the lion."

- Ah! - said the then young Antonio, who said that in order to say something.

The then old Antonio understood that the then young Antonio had not understood anything and he continued telling the history.

"When we understand that only the lion can defeat the lion we begin to think how to make the lion confront himself. The oldest of the old of the community said that you have to know the lion and name a boy in order to know him."

- You? interrupted the then young Antonio.

The then old Antonio agreed through his silence and, after rearranging the logs on the fire, he continued:

"They took the boy up to the top of a ceiba tree and at the foot of it they left a tied-up calf. They went away. The boy was supposed to watch what the lion did with the calf, to wait for him to go away and then to return to his community and tell them what he had seen. And so he did, the lion arrived and killed and skinned the calf, and afterwards he drank his blood, eating his heart and he left when the buzzards were circling waiting for their turn.

"The boy went to his community and told what he had seen, the oldest of the old thought for a while and said: 'Let the death which the matador gives be his death,' and they gave the boy a mirror, some nails to shoe with and a calf.

"Tomorrow is the night of justice, said the old ones and they returned to their thoughts.

"The boy did not understand. He went to his hut and he stayed there for a good while watching the game. There he was and his father arrived and he asked him what was happening; the boy told him everything. The boy's father stayed silently next to him and, after a while, he spoke. The boy smiled while he listened to his father.

"The next day, when the afternoon had already made the gold, and the grey of the night had let itself fall over the treetops, the boy left the community and walked on foot to the ceiba tree carrying the calf. When he arrived at the foot of the mother tree, he killed the calf and took out its heart. Then he broke the mirror into many litle pieces and stuck them into the heart with the same blood, then he opened the heart and put the nails inside. He put the heart back in the calf's chest and with stakes made a frame to keep it standing on its feet. As if it were alive. The boy went up to the top of the tree and waited there. Above, while the night let itself fall from the trees to the ground, he remembered his father's words:

"The same death with which the matador will die."

"Now the night was below all the time when the lion arrived. The animal came close and, with one leap, attacked the calf and skinned it. When he licked the heart, the lion became suspicious because the blood was dry, but the broken mirror hurt his tongue and made it bleed. And so the lion thought that the blood from his mouth was from the calf's heart and, excited, he chewed up the entire heart. The nails made it bleed more, but the lion continued to think that the blood he had in his mouth was the calf's. Chewing and chewing, the lion wounded himself more and more and bled more and chewed more and more.

"The lion was like that until it bled to death.

"The boy returned with the lion's claws as a collar and he showed it to the oldest of the old of the community.

"They smiled and told him: 'It is not the claws that you should keep as a trophy of the victory, but the mirror.'

That is how old Antonio tells that the lion was killed.

But, besides the mirror, old Antonio always carries his old shotgun of chispa.

"It's in case the lion doesn't know history," he tells me smiling and winking an eye. From the side and here, the sea added: "In case the lion or the Orive."

And speaking of former Maoists and former radicals and former left, today brand-new advisors to the criminals of the right (who start out talking like cockatoos and now, in order to hide themselves, imitate the ostrich), old Antonio has his own version of that one about the revolutionary and the masses and the comparison with the fish in the water, and also the counterinsurgency strategy of "taking the water away from the fish" that the embarrassed government advisors are recommending today:

The fish in the water

Old Antonio tells a history that the oldest of the old of his community told him. He tells the history that there was once a very beautiful fish that lived in the river. He tells that the lion saw the fish and he had a craving to eat it. The lion went to the river but he saw that he could not swim in the river and attack the fish. The lion asked for advice from the opossum and he told him: "It is very simple, the fish cannot live without water. The only thing you have to do is to drink the water from the river and that way the fish will stay without moving and then you can attack it and eat it." The lion was pleased with the opossum's advice and he paid him with a position in his kingdom.

The lion went to the edge of the river and began to drink the liquid.

He died bursting from the water.

The opossum remained unemployed.

Tan tan.

NEW IMPORTANT NOTICE, BUT NOW NOT SO URGENT WARNING: the interruption by the little horse of the sea has ended, but not so the queasy nausea ['mareado mareo']. Perhaps its persistence is due to that which is shown and spoken of in...


Forward to Part VII. The seventh mask and the seventh silence

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